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.

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

uspresswire-psu-lamar-stevens.jpg
USA Today Images

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.

Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.

"It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys," George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. "We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good."

Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.

Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.

"We looked young tonight for whatever reason," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder."

Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.

The big picture
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.

Guards on the glass
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.

But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.

"We have some pretty good rebounding guards," Paulsen said. "So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards."

Veteran responsibility
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.

Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.

"A lot of it just starts with me right here," Banks said. "I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."

Up next
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.

Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.

Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

usa-obi-enechionyia.jpg
USA Today Images

Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

BOX SCORE

With one second on the shot clock, George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh let a three-point shot fly from the corner right in front of his bench.

Cavanaugh’s shot hit the bottom of the net to give the Colonials a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds left. Moments later, Temple redshirt senior swingman Daniel Dingle’s open look at a game-tying shot hit off the back of the rim, and George Washington handed the Owls a 66-63 loss on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Temple (6-3) came into the game on a five-game winning streak but looked sluggish from the start. The Owls scored just five points in the game’s first six minutes, 34 seconds.

Temple went into halftime down, 31-25, and trailed George Washington (6-4) by as many as 15 points in the second half. Senior guard Josh Brown hit two threes late in the second half to bring Temple within six. Dingle hit two more to tie the game at 61-61 with 2:44 left. 

Two Cavanaugh free throws followed by a jumper from Temple sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. then tied the game at 63-63 with 39.1 seconds left.

The Owls played the game’s final moments without junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who fouled out with 3:41 left.

Enechionyia cooling off
Enechionyia was held in check for the second game in a row. He scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds but made only one basket in the second half.

The junior went 5 of 17 for 12 points against Penn on Saturday. He scored 20-plus points in five of Temple’s first seven games.

Inside the box score
• Colonials guard Jordan Roland came into the game averaging 4.3 points per game. Roland scored 14 points on Wednesday.

• Brown, who played his first game of the season last Wednesday against St. Joe’s, played a season-high 24 minutes. He played a combined 25 minutes in his first two contests.

• George Washington outrebounded Temple, 37-23. The Colonials had 18 turnovers compared to nine for Temple.

Up next
Temple plays DePaul in the Miami Hoophall Invitational on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.