Down Two Men, Union Hold on for 1-0 Win on Freddy Adu Backheel Goal

Down Two Men, Union Hold on for 1-0 Win on Freddy Adu Backheel Goal

They held on by the skin of their teeth, having to play the final ten minutes or so at a two-man disadvantage due to red cards, but the Philadelphia Union found a way to pull out their first road win of the season by defeating Chivas USA 1-0 on Saturday night. 
Freddy Adu scored the lone goal, a nifty backheel after some hard work by Michael Farfan. 

Video of Adu's goal and all hell breaking loose, below. 

The lone scoring exchange of the night came late in the first half when Freddy Adu deposited some loose change right in front of the net with a nifty little backheel. Leading up to Adu, Michael Farfan flat out broke down his defender, then passed it in front of the net, where Adu found the ball at his feet after a deflection. With no other option but to go for the blind backheel, Adu flipped it in off the far post. 

Marfan's been strong with the ball lately, one of the rare bright spots offensively. 

Led by Carlos Valdes wearing Danny Califf's captain's armband, the defense helped Zac MacMath keep a clean sheet yet again, battling former Unioner Alejandro Moreno all night. Chivas made some dangerous crosses, but the Union weathered each of them. Juan Pablo Angel came on in the 63rd minute and was on the receiving end of a few services, narrowly missing on his first headed attempt. Call-up Raymon Gaddis had a second consecutive strong showing for the Union. Valdes played angrily but effectively. 

MacMath has now backstopped 332 straight shutout minutes. 

An increasingly contentious match that saw a parade of yellow cards devolved as the second half wore on. Keon Daniel was issued a red in the 75th minute, and Gabriel Farfan earned a red of his own in the 85th minute for a studs-up tackle. There was a bit of a scrum after Farfan was sent  off as you can see in the photo above. Tempers were flaring with plenty of shouting and pushing, but I don't believe any punches were thrown.

The U have their first winning streak of the season, and they finally scored from the run of play. Maybe the fireworks at the end can help to gel a team that has seen significant turnover and not a lot of success. Doop it up.

Next week's home matchup against San Jose gets a little tougher without Daniel and Garfan, both of whom have been standouts among the starting XI in the last two games. 

>>AP Story

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”