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.

La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

usa-john-giannini-la-salle-baskebtall.jpg
USA Today Images

La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

RICHMOND, Va. -- Justin Tillman had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead five VCU players in double figures in a 90-52 victory over La Salle on Sunday.

VCU held La Salle to 15 made field goals and forced 16 turnovers.

VCU went on a 19-0 first-half run -- with 11 points from JeQuan Lewis -- for a 38-14 lead and the Rams led 42-16 at halftime after shooting 51.5 percent. Lewis made 5 of 6 shots and had 13 of his 15 points in the first half.

Samir Doughty added 15 points for VCU (15-5, 5-2 Atlantic 10). Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Jordan Burgess scored 10. Tillman was 7 of 10 from the field as the Rams shot 56.5 percent.

Jordan Price and Saul Phiri each scored 11 points for La Salle (11-6, 5-2) and Pookie Powell added 10. It was a season-high for the freshman Phiri but the Explorers were just 15-of-53 shooting (28.3 percent).

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

Well, if anyone hoped the Sixers' performance at game's end against Portland on Friday night -- with Joel Embiid riding the bench, ruled out for the game's remainder with a left knee contusion -- would carry over to an entirely Embiid-less game again Saturdaynight... I guess you're not alone, 'coz I sorta did. Perhaps it shouldn't have been particularly surprising to see that the Sixers were still the same team last night in Atlanta they were the previous Saturday against the Wizards: good enough to hang against an above-average East team, but not nearly good enough to actually win. 

At least they kept this one closer longer. Normally, against the Hawks, once the single-digit lead in the first half balloons into the double-digit lead in the third quarter, it never deflates back, but this time we cut it down to seven a couple times -- just never hitting that one big shot that would've really made things interesting, ultimately losing 110-93. It doesn't help that Nik Stauskas is in the midst of one of his most refrigerated runs as a Sixer, going just 7-30 (3-16 from deep) over Philly's last five games, or that Dario Saric is similarly bricking shots near and wide, a remarkable 2 for 22 over his last couple contests. 

This, sadly, is a primary reason why the Sixers' playoff hopes, while fun to dream about, are still unlikely to be more than a flicker. Over the next few weeks, the Sixers have a trio of back-to-backs coming up, with the back-end games coming against Milwaukee, Sacramento and San Antonio -- none of which Philly, 2-12 without their star center, are probable to win sans JoJo. Even if they can take care of business with Embiid on the court, it'll be tough to make up the ground that the Sons of Sam need to while they have to drop one every three or four games as Joel sits. 

That's fine, though. This season's been super-fun, but we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves: Let's ensure Embiid's health, maybe get Ben Simmons out there too, secure a nice draft pick or two (though the plummeting Kings could be of significant help with that themselves), and focus on making next year even more of a thing. The future remains impossibly bright, even if the present is going to have to be borderline-unwatchable once or twice a week.