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.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).