Defending Champs In Town As Union Host Rapids

Defending Champs In Town As Union Host Rapids

The defending MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids face the Union tonight at PPL Park as part of Fox Soccer Night in America (7:30PM/Fox Soccer). The Rapids sit in fifth place in the West, with 31 points from 23 games. The Union, with 31 points, are tied with Columbus at the top of the Eastern Conference table (the Union have two games in hand on Columbus).

It's been 12 days since the Union last played a league match -- a 3-0 dismantling of New England. Sure, the friendlies against Everton and Real Madrid were entertaining, but with the MLS All-Star Game in the rearview mirror it's back to the business of winning MLS games.

The Rapids, who have only dropped one of their last six games, most recently tied New England 2-2 and took apart New York 4-1. Colorado has picked up four points in their last two games despite losing leading scorer Conor Casey for the season with a ruptured achilles. Casey suffered the injury July 16th on the turf in Seattle.

Sanna Nyassi, who is not much of a goal scorer and was ikely was going through an out of body experience at the time, picked up the goal scoring slack with a hat trick in the win over the Red Bulls. Caleb Folan, Omar Cummings, and local product Jeff Larentowicz will also pose danger for the Union back line.

One of the players who will be tasked with shutting down the Rapids offense is Gabriel Farfan. Farfan stepped into the left back void created when Jordan Harvey was shipped to Vancouver.

While I was extremely critical of the move I've come to really appreciate the subtlety of G. Farfan's game. It's plain to see that he possesses a high soccer IQ. He anticipates plays and reads the game incredibly well. He also provides more technical ability to build an attack out of the back.

I would never knock Harvey's effort or willingness to run all day. However, Gabriel Farfan is more suited to the sort of tight passing, work your way out of trouble, combination play Peter Nowak seems to want from his outside backs.

Now, knowing how these things work out watch Farfan have a miserable game.

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Williams, Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan, Mapp, Nakazawa, Carroll, Daniel (only because he's a bit more responsible defensively than Torres), Le Toux, and Ruiz.

Final Score Prediction: Union stay unbeaten at home with a 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See Red: I am coming awfully close to retiring this award. They've been way too disciplined. At this point I am just randomly picking names. I'll say Ruiz sees red after mixing it up with Pablo Mastroeni.

Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

Justin Verlander mowed down the Phillies last night in a 3-1 Tigers victory, but the Phils have a chance to strike back this afternoon against a struggling pitcher who hasn't had much career success against them.

Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers and oppose Aaron Nola in today's series finale (1:10 p.m. on CSN). To say Sanchez hasn't had a great start to his season would be an understatement. He's 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA and opponents are batting .270 against him.

In his career against the Phillies, Sanchez is just 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Granted, most of those numbers came in the early part of his career with the Florida Marlins, when he regularly faced powerful Phillies lineups. As one might expect, Ryan Howard, who is again in the lineup today as the designated hitter and batting fifth, has seen Sanchez plenty of times. His 42 at-bats against Sanchez are tied for third-most against the 32-year-old righty. Howard's done OK against Sanchez — 9 for 31 (.290 average) with two homers and four RBI. Maybe some familiarity will finally lead to a breakout game for Howard. But, if his massive slump is any indication, maybe not.

For as poor as Sanchez's start to the season has been, Aaron Nola's first six weeks of 2016 have been at the other end of the spectrum.

Today's Phillies starter is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. But he's been better than those numbers show.

His .900 WHIP is third in the NL, as is his 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 6.45 hits allowed per nine innings is fourth in the NL, as is his 1.65 walks per nine innings. His 64 strikeouts rank eighth in the NL. Imagine if he got more than the 2.89 runs of support he's been getting in his starts.

As for the rest of the Phillies' lineup today, the only changes see Andres Blanco getting the start for Cesar Hernandez, batting seventh and Cameron Rupp behind the plate, batting sixth.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Cameron Rupp C
7. Andres Blanco 2B
8. Tyler Goeddell LF
9. Peter Bourjos 1B

Tigers
1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. Victor Martinez 1B
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Steven Moya LF
7. James McCann C
8. Mike Aviles 2B
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

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Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

The Phillies once again couldn't find much offense and fell to the Tigers in Detroit last night by a final of 3-1.

But at least the pitching showed something.

There was a fun moment between Jeremy Hellickson and Miguel Cabrera after Hellickson threw quite a nice pitch that fooled Miggy.

Here's how Jim Salisbury described the fun battle:

Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
 
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
 
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
 
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.

And here's the thumbs up:

Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

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Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

Eagles rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will report to training camp on Monday, July 25. 

The rest of the veterans will report on July 27, with the first full-team practice of training camp taking place on Thursday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m., the team announced Wednesday. 

The majority of training camp practices this summer under Doug Pederson will take place at the NovaCare Complex, beginning at 8:15 a.m., which is earlier than the team practiced during camp under former head coach Chip Kelly. The early practices hark back to training camps under Andy Reid at Lehigh, although now the team will have its walkthroughs in the afternoon. 

The Eagles will have two practices open to fans at Lincoln Financial Field: Sunday, July 31 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Both open practices are free and don't require tickets. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The Eagles will have several off days throughout camp: Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 12. And camp ends on Aug. 16, with the preseason opener vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs in the middle, on Aug. 11.