Is it time for Klberson to play more for the Union?

Is it time for Klberson to play more for the Union?

By Dave Zeitlin

CHESTER, Pa. – After the third consecutive question about
the Brazilian World Cup winner was fired at him, Philadelphia Union manager
John Hackworth paused and gave a nervous smile.

“This is a lot more Kléberson than
I thought there’d be in this press conference,” he said.

He probably should have seen it coming.

If you follow the Union even casually, you may have noticed
that Hackworth’s midfield selection is at the top of the list in terms of fan
gripes. And for good reason. Through eight games this season, Philly’s midfield
has accounted for zero goals and just three assists. And they’ve routinely
gotten smoked in the possession battle (a stat, it should be noted, that
Hackworth doesn’t think holds much meaning).

Meanwhile, Kléberson has played a grand total of 29 minutes in
the four games he’s been active since coming over on loan in part of the deal
that rid the Union of Freddy Adu’s contract.

Why has the 33-year-old Brazilian who once
played for Manchester United had such a limited role so far, even though he’s
said to be doing well in training?

We asked Hackworth about this Wednesday,
as we’ve had for much of the past month. And he answered in pretty much the
same way he has for the past month, saying that Kléberson still needs to time
to “get acclimated” and that they didn’t want to play him too much in last
Saturday’s game because he’s not used to playing on turf and that he’s still not
yet prepared to play a full 90 minutes.

You’d think the team’s Designated Player
(read: the guy who makes the most money) could be able to handle all the new
stuff being thrown at him in MLS – but, sure, those are all semi-logical
strategic reasons for holding him back initially.

The problem, it seems, that most Union fans have is that Kléberson – and, to a lesser extent Sebastien Le Toux and Gabe Farfan – seems
to be below Keon Daniel and Danny Cruz on the depth chart. And, it’s probably
fair to say, those are not two of the most popular players on the team. (For
the record, I think Cruz is a solid MLS player and I think the venom he gets
from fans is unwarranted a lot of the times.)

Naturally, both Daniel and Cruz came up during
Wednesday’s press conference. And Hackworth defended his choices for routinely
starting the two midfielders. He called Daniel “one of our best players this
year” and someone who has “superior technique to anyone on our team.” And he said
Cruz has been “one of our most effective players in possession" and “one of our
most creative players in getting entries into the final third of the field,
especially in the penalty area.”

While it’s true that Daniel has a smooth
touch and Cruz can use his speed and hustle to stretch a defense like few
players can, it’s hard to argue that a more creative midfield would probably include Kléberson
and both Farfan brothers playing in front of Brian Carroll and feeding in
passes to the fun-to-watch striker tandem of Conor Casey and Jack McInerney.

Will that ever happen? Will Gabe Farfan get back into the
midfield rotation and play alongside his brother Mike? Will Hackworth unleash Kléberson and see what he can do in MLS?

Or will be asking the same questions a month for now?

Dave Zeitlin covers the
Union for and Email him at and follow him on
Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.

NFL Notes: Giants release kicker Josh Brown

NFL Notes: Giants release kicker Josh Brown

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have released placekicker Josh Brown after police documents revealed Brown had admitted to repeatedly abusing his former wife while they were married.

The release came Tuesday shortly after the player issued a statement insisting that he never hit his wife during a six year period when he admits spousal abuse.

Giants President John Mara says the team was "misguided" in how it handled its relationship with Brown. He says the team hopes Brown will dedicate himself to rehabilitation and becoming a better person and father.

Brown was previously suspended for the opening game of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy after the NFL investigated his arrest in May 2015 for spousal abuse against his now ex-wife, Molly. Brown was not charged by local authorities in the case in Washington state.

DOLPHINS: RB Foster abruptly retires
MIAMI -- Four-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster says he can no longer take the punishment an NFL running back endures, so he is retiring midway through an injury-plagued season with the Miami Dolphins.

Foster, 30, tried to come back from a torn Achilles tendon, but was slowed this season by groin and hamstring injuries. He announced his retirement Monday on the website Undefeated as the Dolphins began their bye week.

The team confirmed the decision, effective immediately.

"There comes a time in every athlete's career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page," Foster wrote. "I've reached that point. It's hard to write those words because this game has been everything to me ... my therapy, my joy, my solace and my enemy."

Foster signed a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Dolphins in July after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Houston Texans. He holds the Texans' franchise record with 6,472 yards rushing.

This season he rushed for 55 yards on 22 carries, and he had 5 yards on three carries Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"My father always said, `You'll know when it's time to walk away,'" he wrote. "It has never been more clear than right now. I'm walking away with peace. I know it's not commonplace to do it midseason, but my body just can't take the punishment this game asks for any longer."

Foster was one of several Miami players this season to kneel during the pregame national anthem to protest social inequality. His playing time was curtailed with the emergence of Jay Ajayi, who tied an NFL record by surpassing 200 yards rushing in consecutive games (see full story).

JAGUARS: DT Miller out for year with torn Achillies
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without defensive tackle Roy Miller for the rest of the season because of a torn right Achilles tendon.

The Jaguars (2-4) made the announcement Tuesday, two days after Miller left the game against Oakland and did not return.

A disruptive run-stopper whose 10 tackles this season don't show how important he is to Jacksonville's defense, Miller will be placed on injured reserve and undergo surgery later in the week.

Abry Jones is expected to replace Miller in the starting lineup when the Jaguars play at Tennessee (3-4) on Thursday night.

Miller has 244 tackles, eight sacks and a forced fumble in eight seasons. He has missed just six games in his previous seven years. 

Safety Malcolm Jenkins ready to man the slot with Ron Brooks out

Safety Malcolm Jenkins ready to man the slot with Ron Brooks out

With slot cornerback Ron Brooks out for the year, the Eagles have a big hole in their secondary.

And safety Malcolm Jenkins is happy to fill it.

Jenkins, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl safety, said he hopes to replace Brooks as the Eagles’ slot corner. Brooks went on injured reserve Monday after rupturing his quad during the win over the Vikings Sunday.

Jenkins spoke Monday evening on CSN's Quick Slants from his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation fundraiser at Union Trust.

“I played 60 percent of my snaps last year in the slot so it's a position that I'm very, very comfortable with and that I prefer as opposed to playing deep,” Jenkins said. “So I'm comfortable in that role.”

With Brooks out, the Eagles are thin at cornerback, with only Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and rookies Jalen Mills and recently activated C.J. Smith.

Carroll can play in the slot, but Doug Pederson indicated Monday that he’s leaning toward using Jenkins to cover the opposing slot receiver, like he did Sunday, after Brooks got hurt.

“Yeah, I would think that it would be very similar to what we've seen with Jalen on the outside and then Malcolm coming down inside and playing the nickel spot, and Jaylen Watkins being back there a little bit.

“And with Leo being healthy now, (it) gives you a little more depth. But we've got to continue to look at getting C.J. some more reps probably during the week to have a full complement of secondary help.”

Mills is a rookie seventh-round pick, and Smith is an undrafted rookie who spent the first seven weeks of the season on the practice squad.

McKelvin has missed three games this year but appears healthy now. Mills started Sunday but McKelvin played the bulk of the snaps.

Sunday will present a huge challenge for whoever mans the spot since Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley is so dangerous. He’s the Cowboys’ leading receiver with 33 catches for 390 yards and three touchdowns.

Beasley caught nine passes for a career-high 112 yards against the Eagles in the second meeting last year. He’s one of six receivers in the league this year with at least 50 yards in six games.

Jenkins said there are a number of ways the Eagles can defend the slot this weekend in Dallas.

“Now that we’ve got Leodis McKelvin back, it's another option,” he said. “We could put Jalen Mills in there. Just basically depends on matchups and what we want to do.

“I think the coaching staff right now is weighing those options and we'll see [Tuesday] or Wednesday what that package is really gonna look like.”

Brooks played 228 snaps in the Eagles’ first five games, or about 46 per game. That was fourth-most in the secondary before he got hurt.

“It's a tough loss,” Jenkins said. “But we've got so many guys that are interchangeable on our defense that it won't affect anything that we're doing.”