Know the Dynamo: Playoff Opposition Report - Q&A With a Dynamo Blogger

Know the Dynamo: Playoff Opposition Report - Q&A With a Dynamo Blogger

The Union will play their first ever playoff game on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. against the Houston Dynamo. In anticipation of the game I reached out to Zach Woosley, Managing Editor of Dynamo Theory, for some insight into the Union's playoff opponent. We touched on a number of topics, including a Dynamo scouting report, an out of market view of the Union team and organization, and a series prediction. Many thanks to Zach for his time.

For those Union fans who have not seen a whole lot of the Dynamo this season, what's their biggest strength? Their biggest weakness? What sort of tempo do they want to play?

Zach Woosley, Dynamo Theory: The Dynamo's biggest strength is experience. Despite the roster turnover in the offseason, there are still plenty of veterans on this team that have been through cup runs and understand what it takes to win in the playoffs, the question becomes is that experience enough to overcome the fact that this team tends to make glaring defensive mistakes. In some games, Tally Hall or luck has saved them from those mistakes, but in others they've had no such luck and paid the price. As for tempo, expect a grinding, physical style of play. The Dynamo won't push, speed isn't their game. Instead, they'll try to hold possession and pick their spots, especially on the road in the first leg.

The Dynamo are unbeaten over their last six games? What's been the key to their recent success?

Offensive consistency. The Dynamo have struggled to get goals most of the year but down the stretch they've been scoring more and in most cases, scoring first. It's a huge advantage for Houston when they can get on the scoreboard and then dictate the game rather than trying to chase it. In addition, the defense has been better in the final six games, limiting the mistakes that have plagued them most of the year. A settled back line has a lot to do with that I'm sure.

The Union are 2-0-2 all-time against the Dynamo. What makes you think Houston can break through over these next two games?

Because it's the playoffs and if we've learned one thing about the postseason in MLS, it's that trends rarely hold and the unexpected always happens. This Dynamo team is peaking at the right time as well and I've always stressed that the key to winning an MLS Cup is to be playing your best soccer in October, which Houston is doing. That said, this will be a tough series and no one is over looking the Union at all. Having the second leg at home helps as well since the Dynamo have played immensely better all season at Robertson on the smaller, cramped for space pitch.

It's always interesting to hear the thoughts and opinions of someone outside your home market. What are your thoughts on the Union (the team and the franchise)?

The Union are one of the bright spot franchises in the league. Seattle and Portland get a lot of praise, and rightly so, but the things being done in Philly by both the team and the Sons of Ben are impressive. More impressive is the fact that as a second-year team in the league, the Union not only made the playoffs but nearly won the Eastern Conference. Between the stadium, the fan support and the commitment from the FO to putting forth a quality product, there's a lot to like about the Union.

Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis has had an unbelievable season (he led all of MLS with 16 assists). Why should he be named MLS MVP? Also, what's he have to do to get Jurgen Klinsmann to call him into a USMNT camp?

Brad Davis is the MVP. Period. It's not a shot against any of the other great players this season in MLS but there is zero doubt in my mind that if you remove Davis from the Dynamo, they do not make the playoffs. He started every game, had a career year with 16 assist and was involved is a ridiculous percentage of the Dynamo's goals and goal scoring opportunities. He may not be the flashiest player, but there is no question he was the single most valuable player to his team this season. As for a USMNT call-up, it's absurd he hasn't gotten a sniff in recent years. He's consistently one of the best American wide midfielders and deserves a chance to prove it at the international level.

Give us a few players, other than Davis, who we should keep an eye on over these two games.

Carlo Costly. The big powerful Honduran forward finally scored against the Galaxy in the season finale. We've been waiting for that goal and with the weight of that off his shoulders, look out. A confident and fired up Costly could reak havoc in the playoffs. Also keep an eye on Tally Hall, when he's on his game (which he often is), he can completely shut down a team and drive them crazy at the same time with some amazing saves. Finally, Adam Moffat. Don't leave our defensive midfielder on the ball in space from 35-45 yards away from your goal, his long range shot is powerful and ridiculously accurate...just ask Portland and LA.

How do you see this two-game set playing out? Give us a winner and the final aggregate scoreline.

I think the first leg will be ugly and physical, the Dynamo will be happy to leave PPL Park with a draw and try to wrap things up at home. I expect them to sit back and look for chances to exploit the Union defense, but they won't be overly aggressive and risk leaving an opening at the back that can be exploited. If they can accomplish that, the second leg will be all about the Dynamo utilizing their home field advantage and trying to score early to put all the pressure on the Union. Call me crazy, but I think the Dynamo win the tie 3-1.

Thanks to Zach for dropping some Dynamo knowledge on us. Vist his site here.

Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

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Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

Brian Dawkins, one of the most beloved Eagles off all time and a guy who clearly still hits the gym, was in Philadelphia on Thursday and was spotted at the NovaCare Complex to watch the team practice.

As you can see, Dawkins still has biceps as big as your waist. The team sharing a simple photo of Dawkins got fans all in a tizzy.

Was it a coincidence that Weapon X appeared just days before "X-Men: Apocalypse" is set to hit theaters? Only he knows.

For his part, Dawkins acknowledged that it's better to stay in shape than become a fat old man.

 

Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

In the final installment of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Today, we begin with R.J. Umberger.

R.J. Umberger
2015-16 stats: 39 GP, 2 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.6 mm cap hit

Dougherty: At the end-of-the-season media availability, Umberger said he expects to be bought out. And he will, unless general manager Ron Hextall can work some magic. He’s a goner.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Umberger expects to be bought out. It seems imminent at this point. Either way, the Flyers need to move on from Umberger.

Verdict: GO

Paone: To his credit, Umberger was a total pro as he went through his immense struggles this season. But to say the writing is on the wall for Umberger in Philadelphia is an understatement. It's like he sees a skywriter spelling it out in the clouds above him everywhere he goes. He even said himself that he expects the final year of his contract to be bought out sooner rather than later. His premonition will come true and the Flyers will take the $1.6 million cap hit that comes with it for next season.

Verdict: GO

Chris VandeVelde
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 2 G, 12 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $712,500 cap hit

Dougherty: VandeVelde is a Dave Hakstol disciple. He played for him at North Dakota and he played for him here. He was a cog on the fourth line, playing with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan White all season long. But while VandeVelde kills penalties, he doesn’t do anything else. He has no offensive ability and, simply stated, is an AHL player playing in the NHL. The Flyers want to add scoring and to do that, someone has to go. And VandeVelde should be that guy.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Debating a fourth-liner’s status shouldn’t be one of the harder decisions, but it is in this case. That’s because Dave Hakstol adored his final unit of VandeVelde, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. However, the Flyers need better depth and VandeVelde is super cheap, so sending him to the AHL to clear a roster spot wouldn’t be a stomach-churning move. With a tiny cap hit, even an offseason trade is conceivable.

Verdict: GO

Paone: This is a tougher call than one would think for a role player of VandeVelde's ilk. On one hand, he, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare formed one of the most effective fourth lines in the entire league this season and an effective fourth line can be such a valuable weapon in today's NHL. There's chemistry there that you shouldn't want to mess with. On the other hand, VandeVelde is probably the most expendable and interchangeable of that trio. And with the Flyers needing as many roster spots as they can create, another younger and more effective player may be able to fit in there (Scott Laughton to start, possibly). That's why I lean toward saying VandeVelde won't be with the big club to start the season, despite his longstanding ties to Dave Hakstol. Roster spots are becoming more and more valuable in Philadelphia.

Verdict: GO

Jakub Voracek
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 44 A; Contract: Signed through 2023-24, $8.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: This is a no-brainer. He signed an eight-year contract extension last summer, and that kicks in July 1. He had confidence issues this season and battled injury, but there’s nothing of concern there. He should be healthy and back to his productive self next season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Obviously, this isn’t really a question. What is, though, are Voracek’s health and rebound.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: It's no secret the Flyers' star winger struggled with both production and injury this season, a year removed from his spectacular 81-point campaign that earned him a massive eight-year, $66 million extension. That extension just so happens to kick in this year, by the way. You're crazy if you don't think a motivated Voracek will be back in orange and black next season.

Verdict: STAY

Jordan Weal
2015-16 stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Weal was basically a throw-in in the Vinny Lecavalier trade. Los Angeles didn’t want him because there was no room for him on its NHL roster, but the Kings would have lost him for nothing had they placed him on waivers. He came to Philly and didn’t do anything to impress. He’s a restricted free agent. He’ll probably get qualified, but shouldn’t. Let him go.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Ron Hextall knows a lot about Weal. The 24-year-old was often the first player on the ice for extra work before practice. I think there was more than one reason why Weal was included in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings. I say he’s back at a minimum rate but will head to the minors.

Verdict: GO

Paone: What exactly is Weal capable of at the NHL level? That's a really good question and one we don't have an answer to considering his lack of playing time with in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia this season. His injury after becoming a Flyer did him no favors, either. As I mentioned above when talking about VandeVelde, roster spots in Philadelphia are becoming more and more precious as the influx of talented prospects begins. Weal is really going to have to prove himself during camp to earn one of those spots. But, for right now, starting the season with the big club is a hazy picture for him.

Verdict: GO

Ryan White
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 5 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: White is everything the Flyers thought Zac Rinaldo would be. He brings energy, he’s physical and he can even score. He displayed the ability to play on the power play, which is a plus with a player in a fourth-line role. White should be back at least for another season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: White epitomizes what you want. He cares more about the Flyers than money. He’s a terrific teammate willing to do anything. And he’s understanding more and more how to score ugly. A perfect fourth-liner for the Flyers who will be re-signed.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: You want to talk about an almost-perfect fit? That's what White has been with the Flyers over the last season and a half. In 107 games as a Flyer, White has recorded 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points. In his first five seasons in the league with Montreal, the 28-year-old forward had just five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 117 games. Even in a mostly fourth-line role, he's made an impact to the point he's earned Hakstol's trust enough to be the net-front presence on the Flyers' second power-play unit. He's a UFA who'll be due a bit of a raise, but White just meshes way too well to not bring back. He knows it, too, saying in his end-of-season media availability that money is necessarily the determining factor in negotiations with the Flyers. He'll be back in his familiar roles next season.

Verdict: STAY

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

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USA Today Sports

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

It's been a while since we checked in with everyone's favorite former Phillie, Chase Utley. And let's be honest: it's not good to go too long without a little Chase in our lives.

Utley was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last summer and it took the Philly faithful a while to get used to seeing Chase wear Dodger blue. That said, I think there were plenty of Phillies fans who oddly found themselves rooting for Utley in last year's postseason, specifically against the New York Mets.

It's Utley's return to New York this weekend that brings him back up on our radar, thanks in large part to a nice article in the L.A. Times by Andy McCullough about Chase returning CitiField where he will play the familiar role of villain, this time for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg last October.

Phillies fans may still get nostalgic about Chase, but Utley himself is no nostaglia act for the Dodgers. After signing a one-year deal to return to L.A. this season, he's leading the Dodgers with a .379 on-base-percentage hitting out of the leadoff spot and is absolutely loved in his clubhouse. The latter is certainly no surprise.

Phillies fans likely remember Roy Halladay writing an ode to Chase last summer which ended with the former ace suggesting people tell their kids to model their play after Utley. Chase hasn't even been in L.A. the equivalent of a full season, but he's having the same sort of influence there.

“Even people who give him credit don’t realize how much he brings to this team,” third-base coach Chris Woodward said.

Utley inspires hyperbole all around. Clayton Kershaw suggested if he had a son, he would instruct his child to study Utley to learn how to play baseball. Utley, he explained, “is always doing the right thing.” Bench coach Bob Geren, a member of the Mets coaching staff last October, offered Utley his version of the ultimate compliment.

“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”

There's also some fun -- and not at all surprising -- tidbits of how Utley pretty much bends the rules as far as possible to get every single edge he can while playing.

Utley hunts for the tiniest edge. One day last week, he struck out on a pitch that bounced away from the catcher. Utley dropped his bat in between the catcher and the baseball, so the catcher had to make a more difficult play while stepping over the lumber.

“I’m in the dugout like, ‘Did you see that?’” Geren said. “It’s the littlest thing. But that’s who he is.”

Miss you and your dirt, Chase.

>>After The Slide, Chase Utley returns to New York prepared to face the vitriol of Mets fans [L.A. Times]