There’s a lot of ground to cover this week, so let’s get right to it.
Sebastien Le Toux talks with MLS Reserves and touches on a number of topics including his departure from Philly, the fact he’s since hired an agent, his reception in Vancouver, and his feelings on Philly and Union fans.
Speaking of the Union, we’re less than a week away from the local XI opening its third season on the road in Portland. Here’s a quick primer on the Timbers, who begin their second season in MLS.
The Union will bring its third ever homegrown player with them to Portland. Cristhian Hernandez, who scored the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Everton back in July, has signed with the club. Hernandez, who attended St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey, is a Mexican citizen, and thus will occupy an international roster spot. The 18-year old Hernandez joins Jimmy McLaughlin and Zach Pfeffer as homegrown players on the Union roster.
Here’s a really cool piece by the New York Times about chanting and singing at soccer matches in Europe.
The Champions League Round of 16 resumes with two matches this afternoon. Arsenal hosts A.C. Milan at The Emirates. The Gunners dropped the first leg at the San Siro 4-0. Zenit travels to Portugal to face Benfica. Zenit captured the first-leg with a 3-2 win in St. Petersburg. There are two games tomorrow. Apoel and Lyon (Lyon holds a 1-0 lead) and Barcelona, leading Leverkusen 3-1, return to the Camp Nou looking to close out the German club and book their ticket to the quarterfinals.
I may toss my hat in the ring for the vacant Chelsea job. Per The Guardian, the bookmakers have named Barca’s Pep Guardiola, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez as the favorites to be the next person to be fired by Roman Abramovich. Neither Spurs boss Harry Redknapp nor Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers want the gig.
Bolton and US International midfielder Stu Holden, who has battled back from injury after injury, is rehabbing in Wilmington, Delaware. ESPN’s Leander Schaerlaeckens spent time with Disco Stu and finds him chomping at the bit to return. I think all fans of the USMNT are eager to see Holden return.
Former Union color analyst Kyle Martino has been tapped by NBC as its lead MLS analyst. He’ll join Arlo White as the lead MLS announcing duo. Martino will be stationed on the field, between the two benches, in much the same way Pierre McGuire is for the NHL on NBC.
It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98.
The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it.
Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up.
A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.
Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.
The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.
“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."
Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries.
He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.