Houston Visits PPL Park as Union Look to Reclaim First Place

Houston Visits PPL Park as Union Look to Reclaim First Place

The Union, who were fortunate to get out of Chicago with a point
on Wednesday night, return home to PPL Park where they'll face the Houston
Dynamo (8PM/ABC).

With the point on Wednesday the Union, with 32 points from
21 games, remain in second place in the Eastern Conference - two points behind
Columbus, but with two games in hand. Houston sits fifth in the Eastern
Conference table, with 27 points from 22 games.

Sheanon Williams, who missed the Chicago game due to a red
card suspension, will likely return to his familiar right back spot. Michael
Farfan filled in adequately, but as assistant coach John Hackworth pointed out
in this excellent
interview with Adam Cann from The Philly Soccer Page
, the Union struggled with
Chicago’s pace and pressure and had difficulty building out of the back without
Williams.

Williams will rejoin back four mate Carlos Valdes, whose
permanent rights were acquired by the Union from his Colombian club team Independiente Santa Fe. Valdes has been a rock in the middle of the
back line. The decision to lock up his rights could not have been a difficult
one. He’s just 26 years old, and has adjusted to the MLS in a hurry.

The other Carlos – that’d be Ruiz – was officially
transferred to Mexican club Veracruz. Speaking of transfers, Peter Nowak and
the Union front office have just eight days left in the transfer window to
bring in some reinforcements. Inquirer
columnist Marc Narducci
, citing a team source, claims that the Union is
working on acquiring a young international striker.

To date, speculation has centered on 21 year
old Costa Rican international Josue Martinez. However, the price for Martinez,
who plays for Saprissa in Costa Rica, may be too rich for the Union. As
The Brotherly Game points out
his transfer fee is rumored to be as high as
$2 million.

The Dynamo has already dipped into the
transfer market, acquiring Honduran international Carlos Costly. Costly, who is
an incredibly physical and skilled forward, also sports what may be the worst
hair in all of CONCACAF
.

Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear has some
seriously physical options to choose from along his front line. He’s got
Costly, Brian Ching, Cam Weaver, and when healthy rookie Will Bruin. Ching, who
checks in at 6’1”, is the shortest of the bunch.

Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis is the key midfield cog
responsible for providing service to the Dynamo’s stable of forwards. Davis leads
MLS with 10 assists and has also chipped in three goals. Sheanon Williams will
likely be charged with the task of shutting down Davis’ tireless and dangerous
runs down the left flank. Union keeper Faryd Mondragon must also be wary of
Davis’ technical ability in dead ball situations.

On the flipside, the Union looked absolutely punchless in
the offensive third on Wednesday night. Veljko Paunovic bailed the Union out with
a tremendous strike from 25+ yards away
. Beyond that the Union did not have
a whole lot of chances. Their best scoring opportunity, which came in stoppage
time, didn’t even result in a shot on goal. Danny Mwanga was alone in the box
with the ball on his left foot, but curiously opted to play a ball across the
six yard box to an oncoming Brian Carroll. Mwanga needs to know the situation
there and shoot the ball. Ohhhhhhhh, Danny Mwanga….shoot the ball!

A number of you have astutely pointed out that Nowak needs
to inject some more creativity into the center of his midfield. Carroll
provides fantastic defensive cover, but ideally he should be paired with a
string pulling midfielder who controls tempo and pace. Roger Torres may
ultimately develop into that player, but right now he’s too inconsistent. I don’t
know if there’s a guy on the roster capable of filling this much-needed role.
Perhaps there’s someone available through the transfer window who can be that
guy?

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Williams,
Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan, Mapp, Carroll, Torres (while inconsistent he remains
their most creative midfield option), Daniel, Le Toux, and Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction: I remain doubtful that the Union will be able to get things going
offensively. I think we’re looking at another 1-1 draw.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See
Red: Valdes celebrates his permanent transfer by having to deal with the
massive Dynamo frontline. I’ll say he picks up two yellows for persistent
fouling.

Photo Credits: Kyle
Terada-US PRESSWIRE, Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs continue to dominate the Phillies with extra-base hits and terrific starting pitching.
 
They beat the Phils for the second day in a row Saturday. The final score at Wrigley Field was 4-1. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks went the distance for the win. The Phils scored in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout.
 
The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 18 times and one or fewer 11 times. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game.
 
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 33 wins, have stroked nine extra-base hits in the first two games of the series and four of them have been homers. The Phils have just three extra-base hits, all doubles. One was a misplay by the Cubs’ outfield.
 
The Phillies are 1-4 on this six-game road trip, which started in Detroit.
 
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games and are now just three games over .500 at 26-23.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff was not nearly as efficient as he was in his previous start when he threw just 85 pitches in seven innings in a 5-0 win over Atlanta. This time, Eickhoff threw a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases and four runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
Eickhoff was tagged for three extra-bases hits in the first inning, a home run and two doubles. For the season, Eickhoff is 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA.
 
Hendricks held the Phillies to five hits, three of which were singles. He was not overpowering, but his command was exceptional. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven while throwing just 104 pitches.
 
Jon Lester held the Phillies to one earned run in 6⅓ innings Friday.
 
Bullpen report
The Cubs didn’t need one. Andrew Bailey and Elvis Araujo pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just five hits. Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup and went 0 for 3 to drop to .154.
 
The Cubs, who hit three home runs Friday, got their power game going early as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo homer against Eickhoff. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both doubled in the inning as the Cubs went up 2-0 in the first. Heyward doubled home a run in the second inning.
 
Up next
The Phillies and Cubs close out the series Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75) pitches for the Phillies against right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.83).
 
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a 10-game homestand that will see Washington, Milwaukee and the Cubs comes to town.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

Officers were called early Saturday and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway, Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. Dejean-Jones was taken to a hospital where he died.

A person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Black said. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was from Los Angeles and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life (and) who had such a promising future ahead of him," the Pelicans said in a statement.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."