Doopocalypse Now: Union Look to Put Out Fire

Doopocalypse Now: Union Look to Put Out Fire


The Union (4-3-2), who still sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, host the Chicago Fire (1-3-5), a team Peter Nowak helped lead to an MLS Cup as a player, this evening at PPL Park (8PM/Comcast SportsNet).

Chicago has not won a game since March 26, which helps to explain why they are currently the eighth place team in the East. Amazingly, they've played four consecutive ties. An even scoreline tonight against the Union would tie a single season MLS record for consecutive draws.

The U have had a rough go of it lately, going winless over their last three games (loss at Portland, tie at home against the Galaxy, and last week's 2-0 loss at FC Dallas). True, the loss at Dallas was their third game in ten days, but for the first time all season they were way too loose in the back.

Uncharacteristically, the marking was poor. Sheanon Williams either
completely lost sight of Brek Shea, or felt he had to provide some cover
to the middle of the box on the first Dallas goal. It was one of the
few times all season where the Union were caught scrambling in the back.
It looked like the type of goal they gave up all too often in 2010.

Then, for the first time all season, they conceded a second goal when Fabian Castillo (who set up the first Dallas goal) slipped between two Union players and headed home the knockout punch past Faryd Mondragon. Tonight they'll have to focus the bulk of their attention on Marco Pappa and Diego Chaves, who are tied for the team lead in goals with four apiece.

On the flip-side, the Union offense looked downright dangerous the first 25-30 minutes of the game. Justin Mapp was playing out of his mind early on, running at and past people, beating his man to the endline, cutting towards the middle a la Arjen Robben (For the record: no I am not comparing Mapp and Robben. I am simply saying Mapp made a few cutting runs towards the middle of the box in much the same patented way Robben does).

Even Brian Carroll got forward. Perhaps they were so caught up in their discovery of actual positive play that the end result was an uncharacteristically lax defensive effort.

Despite looking so threatening early on, the Union were unable to actually put a ball past Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman. Even their lineup coming out of halftime, Carlos Ruiz, Jack McInerney, Roger Torres, Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux (by far the most attacking lineup I've ever seen Nowak trot out) was unable to solve Hartman.

It's somewhat interesting that right now the Phillies and Union have to play similar styles in order to win games. They have to be clean defensively and just grind out the offense in the hopes that they can somehow scratch across a run/goal. It's not the prettiest thing to watch, but to date both teams have found a way to get results. If either team could get their offense and defense to click at the same time it'd be scary.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams, Daniel, Torres, Carroll, Le Toux, Mwanga, McInerney (yes, I am still beating the Jack Mac drum).

Final Score Prediction: Offensively Chicago just isn't all that threatening. Unfortunately, the same can be said about the Union. However, playing at home will make all the difference as the Union win it 1-0.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Brian Carroll. I have zero basis for that prediction. Honestly. None whatsoever. Just go with it.

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until October 6 if not October 8, the final exhibition game. 

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

The way Carson Wentz is playing, we may have to make this a regular feature.

Generally, when an Eagles quarterback plays lights out, we pull out the [Insert Name Here] By the Numbers.

We did it for Nick Foles after his seven-touchdown game against the Raiders, we did it for Sam Bradford a couple times late last year, we did it for Michael Vick a couple times during his hot 2010 season.

With Wentz? This might have to happen every week.

He's been that good.

So here is this week's Carson Wentz By the Numbers. Don't be surprised if you see it again very soon.

• Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game in which he completed 74 percent of his passes with 300 yards, two or more touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also only the fourth Eagle to have such a game. Randall Cunningham did it against the Giants in 1988, Donovan did it four times (in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007) and Nick Foles did it against the Raiders with his historic seven-TD game in 2013.

• Wentz is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more passes with no interceptions in each of his first three career games.

• Wentz’s 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles was the longest touchdown pass by an Eagles rookie since John Reaves' 77-yarder to Harold Carmichael against the Giants at Yankee Stadium in 1972.

• Wentz is only the second quarterback in NFL history to be 3-0 three games into his rookie year. The other one is former Eagle and current Cowboy Mark Sanchez, who opened his career in 2009 with wins over the Texans, Patriots and Titans. Sanchez then lost six of his next seven starts.

• Wentz is the fourth quarterback to win his first three NFL starts (not necessarily as rookies). That list includes Wentz, Sanchez, 35-year-old Dieter Brock of the Rams in 1985 (who had played a decade in the CFL) and Marc Bulger of the Rams in 2002 (in his third NFL season).

• Among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes in their career, Wentz now has the second-highest passer rating in NFL history at 103.8. He trails only Aaron Rodgers’ 104.0 figure. The only other quarterback over 100 is Russell Wilson, at 101.1.

• Wentz’s 125.9 passer rating Sunday against the Steelers is highest ever by an Eagles rookie. The previous high was A.J. Feeley’s 114.0 mark against Tampa in 2001. But Feeley didn’t start that game. So the previous high by a rookie Eagles starter was John Reaves’ 105.7 rating against the Browns in 1972.

• Wentz has already tied Mike Boryla’s franchise record for most wins by a rookie quarterback. Boryla won three games in 1974. Since then, Eagles rookie quarterbacks were a combined 5-21.  

• Wentz’s 102 pass attempts without an interception are the most in NFL history by a rookie in his first three games. Second-most are Dak Prescott’s current streak of 99 attempts. The record before Wentz and Prescott came along was 86 by Chad Hutchinson of the Cowboys in 2002.

• It was widely reported that Wentz had broken the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to begin a career at 102. But he actually has the second-longest streak. Tom Brady began his career with 147 attempts without an interception before getting picked off by safety Eric Brown of the Broncos in his seventh career game.  

• Wentz's 103.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history by a quarterback three games into his rookie year. His trails only Greg Cook of the Bengals (111.9 in 1969) and Marcus Mariota of the Titans (110.3 last year). Robert Griffin III (103.5 with the Redskins in 2012) and Jacky Lee (102.5 with the Oilers in 1960) are the only other quarterbacks over 100 after Week 3 of their rookie season (based on a minimum of 50 attempts).

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