Looking Forward with a Look Back Its Go Time for Hackworths Union

Looking Forward with a Look Back Its Go Time for Hackworths Union

Apparently it’s become a thing to download your
Twitter archive, just to see how stupid you sounded when you first created
your account.

My first few tweets were boring replies to the likes
of Grant Wahl and Bill Simmons. My first “real” tweet was,
not surprisingly, Union-related.

March 25, 2010: @smoore1117: Counting down to @Union2010 season opener
tonight! Got the jersey on and ready to go. See you at Dark Horse! 

See?
Sounds stupid, right?

Anyway,
I scrolled up to see my thoughts on January 31, 2012, when Peter Nowak
traded Sebastien Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps. I went Twitter-crazy
that day, but here’s a few that stuck out:

- “It is very possible that Le
Toux has shown his best already. It could be a "sell high"
scenario that works out great for us.”

- “It definitely sucks. But the
team has to take emotion out of decisions. especially in a league where
money is inherently tight.”

- “Not saying I like it, or that
I have blind faith. But we only look at it with emotion. Team has to
use everything but."

- “If you think Le Toux just
gave you the 2 best years he has, then u sell high & get a huge
return on a guy you got for nothing. Still sucks.” 

This
does more than prove that I am that guy who uses “u” in tweets.
It proves that I, like many Union people, bought into “in Nowak we
trust.” Every time he made a move that seemed strange, I’d see that
tweet fill my timeline. “In Nowak we trust.”

One
year, one manager and 18 horrendous losses later, I feel like the guy
who made that first tweet before the Union’s first-ever game in 2010.
Excited for the season opener, but with absolutely, positively no idea
what I’ll see when I get there. 

So,
using my newly unearthed Twitter Archive, I give you the 2013 Philadelphhia
Union.

October 27, 2012: “Can't wait to read this week's "Final Whistle
with Hack". I'm hoping it's just a long list of players we're cutting” 

OK,
so we didn’t cut him, per se, but the player who shall not be named
will not be at PPL Park on Saturday. As you know, I was somewhat of
a fan, but I’m glad we’ve moved on. Many would say he doesn’t
need to be replaced, since he didn’t bring much to the table. But
someone has to orchestrate the midfield.

Often
that point guard falls to a strong holding midfielder. Brian Carroll
is a great anchor in the center, but by no means is he a playmaker.
Amobi Okugo could be that guy near the back, if Hack does what I hope
he will and move him into the midfield, but not just yet. 

So,
in more words than were necessary: It’s Roger Torres time.

I
haven’t been as impressed with Torres as many in this town, but he
hasn’t had much time to prove himself. That needs to change. No Union
player has more creativity and individual skill than Torres, and it’s
time to see him do something he has never done: 

Go
90 minutes.

That’s
right, the kid is 22 years old and full of energy, and he has NEVER
played 90 minutes for the Union. Much of that was Nowak’s unexplained
skepticism and obsession with overcoaching in the final minutes, and
some had to do with nagging injuries. 

But
according to Hackworth, whose “expectations are pretty high about
what he is capable of,” according to an MLSsoccer.com article,
Torres is injury-free and ready to play. Much like the rest of the roster,
it’s put up or shut up time. Put him in the starting 11, give him
targets up front, and take your hands off the wheel.



November 4, 2011: “Neither Farfan came to play tonight. Just like
everyone else.” 

I’m
still very skeptical about Gabriel Farfan at left back. He never seemed
comfortable and was often bailed out by Carlos Valdes and Okugo last
year. Valdes is gone, Okugo is (hopefully) moving to the midfield, and
it will likely take Jeff Parke and Bakary Soumare (or Okugo) some time
to figure things out in the middle of defense.

The
Union tried to draft for the position – sort of – in forward
Don Anding, who Hackworth says can play in the back. But it appears
to be Farfan’s job to lose. 

A
little farther upfield sits the other Farfan, Michael, whom many see
as the new midfield anchor and playmaker. Ask any Farfan fans about
him, and they’ll mention the sublime
chip goal against Real Madrid
. Call me skeptical,
but I’m not sold. Maybe with actual targets up front, things will
change. But Farfan often got a free pass for many of the same mistakes
made by he-who-shall-not-be-named. 

I’m
still not sure Farfan isn’t better served playing outside than in
the middle. But if Hackworth goes with the 4-3-3 he seems to be working
on, maybe Farfan will find his place alongside Le Toux and Conor Casey
(or Jack McInerney). 

September 30, 2012: “Also, I'm sure MacMath is staying, and that's
fine. But I'm not as high on him as I used to be.”

At
the end of this season, there needs to be six-to-nine points in the
standings that can be credited solely to Zac MacMath. Team can’t keep
the ball? Make a few big saves. Defense hangs you out to dry? Make the
stop no one expects. Get outshot 15-3? Secure the 0-0 draw. 

He
doesn’t need to be the locker room leader Faryd Mondragon was, but
MacMath needs to take charge in the back. He has the athleticism, let’s
see if he has the makeup to lead a team out of the doldrums.


April
3, 2011: “Keon Daniel is all over the ball. Looks more comfortable
on the ball than anyone we have right now.”

Keon
Daniel may be the wildcard this year when it comes to trying to predict
the regular lineup. I think Danny Cruz is the Saturday starter on the
right side of midfield, but Daniel is a much different player who could
occupy the same position. Daniel is a creative wing midfielder, while
Cruz gets by on his effort and tenacity. 

If
Daniel proves to be a spark off the bench who can contribute in the
final third, Cruiz might be supplanted. But if the defense can’t hold
things down and needs the help, Daniel might not be a luxury Hackworth
can afford.

January 22, 2013: “If they get anything for Adu & want to spend
DP $, it should be on a veteran in MF. Too many young guys playing at
once.” 

The
biggest off-field question is this: If the team has a glaring need after 8-to-10 games (and I’m sure it will), will the money it’s currently
wasting on Unnamed Midfielder stop Hackworth and Co. from pulling the
trigger?

It might prevent a move for Messi or Ronaldo, most
likely, but there’s always Joey Barton.


December 6, 2012: “Love the "Le Toux doesn't
fit in our system" tweets. What system? The one that doesn't score
goals and doesn't win games?”

If trading away Le Toux was bizarre, the Twitter reaction
to his return was downright insane. On the day Hackworth fixed one of
Nowak’s biggest mistakes, there were plenty of tweets about Le Toux
“not being as good as he was,” or “not fitting into our system.”

Listen, do I think Le Toux is Messi or Benzema? Absolutely
not. But he’s better than anything we used last season in the same
position, and sincerely, genuinely never wanted to leave. Call me naïve,
but I think that’s just as important as individual skill.

Le Toux is not only old enough and mature enough to
become a leader of a young team, but he seems to have a relationship
with Hackworth that allows the Frenchman to speak his mind if he feels
he could be used in a better way.

He’s not a savior, but his return marks a big step
forward for the franchise, both on and off the field.

* * *

I’ll
be back on Saturday with a few Predictions Sure to Fail, as well as
a glance at Sporting Kansas City, a tough test out of the gate for the
Union. 

In
the meantime, it’s officially March. And the season opens tomorrow.
Get your beanbag tosses dusted off.

We’re
plenty excited, a little more skeptical and a lot less forgiving. 

Your
move, John Hackworth.

Follow
Steve on Twitter @smoore1117.


Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- The Latest on a fatal traffic crash in Arizona involving a Dallas Cowboys bus (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

Four people were killed when a Dallas Cowboys bus collided with a van in Arizona.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr says all the fatalities in the Sunday crash were passengers in the van.

Mehr didn't say what led to the crash on U.S. Highway 93 in western Arizona.

Dallas Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple says the bus had no players, only staff members on board. They suffered "bumps and bruises."

According to the Department of Public Safety, the collision occurred about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman.

The bus was en route to Las Vegas for an afternoon fan event where organizers say the team's mascot was expected to appear.

------

6:30 p.m.

A spokesman for the Dallas Cowboys says passengers on a team-owned bus escaped serious injury in a collision with another vehicle that killed at least one person in Arizona.

Team spokesman Rich Dalrymple says people on the bus suffered only "bumps and bruises" in the Sunday crash on U.S. Highway 93.

Dalrymple didn't say if any players or staff were onboard the bus.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says the collision occurred about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, in western Arizona.

The agency said it was a fatal crash but couldn't immediately confirm the number of people killed.

The bus was heading to an afternoon fan event in Las Vegas where organizers say the team's mascot was expected to appear.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.

Previewing Eagles 2016 training camp: A to Z

Previewing Eagles 2016 training camp: A to Z

The Eagles officially kick off training camp on Monday morning, when rookies, select veterans and quarterbacks report to the NovaCare Complex. 

The rest of the team will show up on Wednesday, which leads into the first full team practice on Thursday afternoon at 3:30. From there, things don’t really stop until the season ends in January. 

But every season starts with training camp. This will be the first under head coach Doug Pederson and the first as Eagles for many rookies and free agent pickups. 

Let’s take a look at this year’s training camp from A to Z: 

A – Nelson Agholor: Agholor wasn’t charged with sexual assault stemming from an incident at a South Philadelphia gentlemen’s club in June, but that doesn’t mean he’s past it. The second-year receiver will undoubtedly be asked about the incident the first time he fields questions from reporters and likely won’t say much. He’s lucky most of the incident is behind him, however, because the last thing he needs is a distraction. Agholor is coming off an extremely disappointing rookie season and has a chance to turn things around by earning a starting receiver job. He could be one of the biggest keys to the Eagles’ offense in 2016. 

B – Bucs. Mark it on your calendars, folks: the first preseason game of 2016 is on Aug. 11 against Tampa Bay at the Linc. It’ll be our first chance to see a ton of new players – including the No. 2 pick – in game action. 

C – Cornerback. One of the more intriguing position groups on this team for a few reasons. It looks like one of the starting corner jobs is going to belong to free agent pickup Leodis McKelvin. But the other? Well, it could belong to Nolan Carroll or Eric Rowe or Ron Brooks or even rookie Jalen Mills. And then one guy will have the opportunity to play the slot. During the spring, Brooks played outside and slid into the slot in the Nickel. 

Aside from the top of the roster, there’s intrigue among the last few corners on the roster. Simply put: there are too many talented young players than there are roster spots. 

D – Days off. There aren’t many. Training camp is a brutal few weeks. From the start of camp until the first game on Aug. 11, players have off just two days (Aug. 2, Aug. 9) and 15 practice days. 

E – Early mornings. If training camp isn’t brutal enough, practices are starting mighty early. Once the entire team gets to camp, practices will start at 8:15 a.m., which is when Andy Reid used to hold his camp practices. 

F – Fullback. Under Doug Pederson’s offense, a fullback will be used. Now, the Eagles don’t have a traditional FB on the roster, so this job will belong to either Trey Burton or Chris Pantale, who are both listed as tight ends. Pantale worked with the first team at fullback in the spring, while Burton got some second-team snaps, but Pederson made sure to note that he wanted to see both of them play the position when the hitting started at training camp. Here’s his chance. 

G – Chris Givens. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar player to become a fan and media favorite during camp, look no further than Givens. He had a very good spring and his rapport with starting QB Sam Bradford was clearly on display. Givens can catch short passes, but his ability to stretch the field will be more fun to watch. With a base salary of just $760,000, he could be a huge bargain. 

H – Hitting. It’s something we didn’t see a lot of during the last three years of training camps under Chip Kelly. He preferred to keep things lighter, in terms of hitting, to prevent injuries. Pederson’s philosophy is different and more like Reid’s. The Eagles will hit at training camp. At times, they will have live (tackle to the ground) periods. It will much more closely resemble actually football than what Kelly had the team doing for the last three years. 

I – Isaac Seumalo. Through no fault of his own, the rookie third-round pick missed all of OTAs this spring because of the NFL/college graduation rule. Seumalo was able to stay in touch with his coaches through the marvels of modern technology, but he still missed a ton. And now he’s playing catch-up. Will he have enough time to wrestle away the starting left tackle job from Allen Barbre? Not sure. First, though, he’ll need to surpass top backup Stefen Wisniewski, who also has his eyes set on that starting left guard spot. 

J – Jason Peters. For whatever reason, Peters declined to talk to the media all spring. We’ll try again during training camp. Perhaps it’s because he wasn’t thrilled about all the talk of his decline in play, which, while it might be unpleasant for him, is hard to argue. Peters is 34 and his eventual successor Lane Johnson signed a long-term deal this offseason. Still, Peters is a big key to the Eagles’ offensive success in 2016. 

K – Kicker. Caleb Sturgis or Cody Parkey will win this job and you may not care. But you probably should. Sturgis looked better in the open practices this spring, but Parkey is recovering from a serious injury and will have every chance to win his old job back. 

L – Linebackers. This is perhaps the scariest position on the roster in terms of depth. Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks have lengthy injury histories and Nigel Bradham is somewhat of an unknown. Still, it might be a solid starting group. But after them? Najee Goode, Deontae Skinner, Joe Walker and a few undrafted rookies. Yikes.  

M – Most at stake. There are several players who can earn a roster spot or even a starting job over the next few weeks. I outline them here

N – NovaCare Complex. For the fourth straight year training camp will be held in South Philadelphia and it doesn’t look like it’ll be heading back to Lehigh University anytime soon. This is sad in some ways because it was a lot of fun up there, but it’s hard to blame Pederson for choosing convenience over team-building. 

O – Open practices. This is the part of having camp at home that really stinks. When it was at Lehigh, fans could get a really good look at their team and I know many took the opportunity to make a mini vacation of it. This year, there are just two open practices, on July 31 at 10 a.m. and Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. 

Both open practices are at Lincoln Financial Field and do not require tickets. Seating is first-come, first-serve. Parking for the practices is free in K Lot, which will open at 7 a.m. (gates open at 8) on July 31 and 4 p.m. (gates open at 5) on Aug. 14. Keep in mind, the NFL’s clear bag policy will be in effect. Concessions will be open during those practices. 

P – Doug Pederson. Obviously, a lot of eyes are going to be on Pederson as he enters his first year as a head coach in the NFL. We got a sense of what his practices are going to look like from OTAs, and they’re going to be much different than the ones Kelly ran. Slower pace, more teaching. Really, a more traditional look. 

Q – Quarterbacks. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, the Eagles have invested a ton of money and resources into the quarterback position. They re-signed Sam Bradford, signed Chase Daniel, then moved up from 13 to 8 to 2 to draft Carson Wentz. Pederson and his offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who are both former NFL QBs, have obviously put a ton of stock in the position. How will it all shake out this season? We’re not sure yet, mostly because injuries are impossible to predict, but we’ll certainly be watching. 

R – Rookies. Wentz is the first quarterback the Eagles have taken this high in a draft since Donovan McNabb. Yeah, people are going to be watching him. But the Eagles have plenty of other draft picks and undrafted rookies in camp, 26 in all. Now, not many are considered to be candidates to make impacts this year, but a few could. 

S – Jim Schwartz. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator is almost as important as the head coach. He’s charged with turning around a unit that has been very bad for the last few years. He has some new pieces to go along with his 4-3 scheme. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to watch. 

T – TV. The first two preseason games will be simulcast on CSNPhilly and COZI TV. The last two preseason games will be on NBC10. CSNPhilly will also replay all the games (see story)

U – Under the microscope. For the last few years, Fletcher Cox has way out-performed his rookie contract. To out-perform his new deal, he’ll have to become a perennial Pro Bowler. He’s clearly the best player on the team – and the Eagles paid him like it – but now it’s time for him to show he’s worth the money. And Cox isn’t the only one. Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry also got big money in long-term deals. 

V – Destiny Vaeao. Aside from linebacker, the position with the biggest depth concern is probably defensive tackle. After starters Cox and Bennie Logan, there’s Mike Martin, who is probably the top backup. Then there’s Beau Allen and Taylor Hart, who are questionable scheme fits. That leaves the door open for an undrafted rookie to make the team here, and the top one this spring was Vaeao from Washington State. Now, Aziz Shittu from Stanford might push for a roster spot, but he missed all spring because of the NFL/college graduation rule.  

W – Carson Wentz. The No. 2 pick’s first training camp. Everyone’s gonna be watching. The thing we really have to look forward to is seeing Wentz playing in the preseason games, where he should get significant snaps. 

X – X’s and O’s. Since training camp will actually resemble real football, the X’s and O’s will be important. We’ll see if Pederson’s offense will have some downfield influence from Frank Reich. And then we’ll get a chance to see what Schwartz’s defense is all about. How quickly will the returning players figure it out? 

Y – Year 2 and 3 players. Plenty of folks will be watching the rookies, specifically Wentz, but there are several players entering their second and third years in the league who need to make more of an impact. To name a few: Agholor, Josh Huff, Marcus Smith. All early-rounders who haven’t hit their potential. 

Z – Zoo. Under Kelly, there just seemed to be much more media hype around the Eagles, especially last year. Plenty thought the Birds were legitimate Super Bowl contenders, Kelly was always intriguing, and the team made some major offseason moves. This year, there’s Wentz, but not nearly the expectations in 2016. With the headlines and radio airwaves the Sixers have gotten in town recently, the Eagles have been on the back burner. Don’t expect this to last long though. After all, this is a football town.