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.

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

NEW YORK -- LeBron James scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also surpassed 20, and the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the New York Knicks 126-94 on Wednesday night.

James had nothing to say Wednesday morning about Knicks President Phil Jackson and not much more about his decision to not stay with the team in a Donald Trump-branded hotel, but he and the Cavs made a loud statement at Madison Square Garden.

It was their second straight win after a three-game skid, and they did it easily in handing the Knicks their worst loss of the season. Irving led Cleveland with 28 points and Love scored 21, 16 in the first quarter.

Brandon Jennings scored 16 points for the Knicks, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and lost for the just the third time in 10 games. He started for Derrick Rose, who missed his first game of the season with lower back pain.

Tristan Thompson grabbed 20 rebounds for the Cavs. They played without guard J.R. Smith, who returned to Cleveland for additional testing after hyperextending his left knee Monday in Toronto (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo drops triple-double in Bucks’ win
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107 on Wednesday night.

Antetokounmpo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double -- second-most in franchise history -- and is the only NBA player averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals this season.

Jabari Parker added 27 points for Milwaukee, which rebounded from a one-point home loss to San Antonio on Monday to win for the fifth time in six games.

The Bucks entered holding opponents to a NBA-best .311 shooting percentage from 3-point range, but Portland drill a season-high 17 of them.

Damian Lillard made five of them and scored a team-high 30 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

C.J. McCollum added 23 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Blazers continued a nine-game stretch of playing eight times on the road (see full recap).

Streaking Rockets roll over Lakers
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon made a career-high eight 3-points and scored 26 points to help the Houston Rockets cruise to a 134-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

James Harden added 25 points in three quarters for the Rockets. They scored a season high and extended their winning streak to a season-best four games.

The Rockets were up by 12 in the third quarter, then had a 22-6 run to make it 96-68 and put the game out of reach with about 3 minutes left in the quarter. Houston made four 3-pointers and got a nifty one-handed dunk from Clint Capela in that run to pad the lead.

Gordon already had four 3-pointers seven minutes into the first quarter after making each of his first four attempts. It was his seventh straight game with at least four 3-pointers, which is a franchise record.

Houston's winning streak is its longest since taking five straight in January.

Lou Williams led the Lakers with 24 points. They have lost four in a row, their longest skid of the season (see full recap).