First Place on the Line as Union Visit Kansas City

First Place on the Line as Union Visit Kansas City

First place in the Eastern Conference is on the line tonight as the Union face Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (8:30PM/Fox Soccer). A lot has happened since these two teams played to a 0-0 draw at PPL Park back on June 22nd.
 
The Union went two months without a win, finally picking up three points thanks to a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kansas City is 7-3-6 since that June 22nd match in Chester. In that time they’ve gone from last place in the conference to second – just a point behind conference-leader Columbus (KC has played one more game than the Union).

 
How have they done it? Well, they’ve gone 7-2-5 at home since opening LIVESTRONG Park on June 9th. They are tied with the LA Galaxy for third in the MLS in goals scored with 43 (Seattle is first with 46, New York is second with 44). They boast one of the most balanced offensive attacks in all of MLS.

Kei Kamara and Designated Player Omar Bravo each have 8 goals. Teal Bunbury has 7, Graham Zusi has five, and C.J. Sapon has four. For comparison sake, consider that Carlos Ruiz, who left the Union on a transfer back in mid-July, is still the Union’s second leading scorer with 6 goals (Sebastien Le Toux leads the way with 7).

Shutting down the Kansas City attack will be all the more difficult considering starting keeper Faryd Mondragon remains sidelined with a broken finger, and right back Sheanon Williams will miss the game because of a concussion.

Perhaps Peter Nowak will feature the Farfan brothers on the outside? Could newcomer Morgan Langley slide back there from his more natural midfield position? Do we see newcomer Joe Tait? I suppose another option is to move Carlos Valdes outside and start Stefani Miglioranzi in the middle alongside Danny Califf. Just pray that Miglioranzi does not end up as the right back.

The fact of the matter is, at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if
Nowak plucked someone out of the crowd and plugged him in at right back.
At this point I know enough that I have no idea what he’s going to do
with his lineup on a game to game basis. I mean, he gave 16 year old
homegrown player Zack Pfeffer his first ever start in Saturday’s
showdown with first place Columbus.

One somewhat odd late development is the news that Freddy Adu is not in K.C. with the team, and will not play tonight. There was no indication leading up to the game that Adu would be unavailable. That was before he tweeted the following:

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@FreddyAdu11
Freddy
Adu
Good luck to the union tonight against kansas city. Wish i could be
there with them. #Doop
Sep
23
via webFavoriteRetweetReply

 
Again, it's unclear why Adu is not with the team. I am sure Nowak will be cooperative and fully forthcoming when the beat writers ask him why Adu did not make the trip .

Whatever he ends up doing, one thing you can be certain of is that Nowak is definitely not scared. Consider - seven of the eleven starters against Columbus were 23 years old or younger. What manager does that in a must-win game, in the midst of a two month winless streak, against the conference leader? Peter Nowak, that’s who.

Lineup I'd like to see tonight: Zac MacMath, Michael Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabe Farfan, Brian Carroll, Pfeffer, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga

Final Score Prediction: An Eastern Conference team has yet to win a game at LIVESTRONG Park. I don’t think that changes tonight. I see Kansas City winning this one 2-1.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely To See Red: I have no idea, but let’s hope it’s not MacMath, who will be backed-up by the recently signed Chase Harrison. Harrison was playing for USL-Pro affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders. With Mondragon injured, and Thorne Holder out with a concussion the Union needed to sign a backup keeper for this match.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!”

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”