MacMath Gets First Test As Union and New England Both Search For a Win

MacMath Gets First Test As Union and New England Both Search For a Win

You want storylines? I’ll give you storylines. How about two teams, each winless over their last six games, facing each other? Check. A rookie keeper, drafted #5 overall, thrust into the starting lineup for the first time due to an injury to the team captain and lone MLS All-Star? Check. A rescheduled game being played mid-week thanks to a hurricane? Check.

All of these stories are in play as the Union host New England tonight at PPL Park (8PM/The Comcast Network). Oh, and as if all of those storylines aren’t enough it’s the first ever Dollar Dog Night at PPL. Adding processed meat in tube-form into the equation can only add to the intrigue.

Speaking of intrigue, how will rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath fare stepping in for the injured Faryd Mondragon? Stepping in for Mondragon, who is out 2-4 weeks with a broken right ring finger, is a near impossible task. The Colombian keeper has made a seamless transition to MLS. His skill and experience enabled him to step right into a starting role, assume the captain’s armband, and become a team leader.

MacMath? Well, many are surprised that he’s even on the Union roster. Leading up to the MLS Super Draft many Union fans hoped the team would select an offensive-minded player to help jumpstart the struggling attack. Instead , despite rumors having surfaced that the team was set to sign Mondragon, the Union opted to select All-American out of the University of Maryland.

There’s no questioning MacMath’s pedigree. He was an All-American and All-ACC player for a reason. At just 20 years old he’s got plenty of time to fill out his 6’2” frame. However, it’s asking quite a bit for a rookie goalkeeper to step in and help right the ship of a side struggling to stay in playoff contention.

If he has any hope of succeeding he’ll need his back line to step up and return to early season form. As the MLS game notes point out, after allowing a season-high two goals just five times in the opening 22 games of the season, they have now allowed two goals in each of the last three.

You’d think New England would be an ideal opponent for MacMath to face in his first ever MLS start. They are tied with Toronto for the fewest goals scored (26) in MLS. However, Rev’s head coach Steve Nicol will likely pair a couple of 6’2” forwards at the top of his formation. Designated Player Milton Caraglio and Rajko Lekic provide nice target options for Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph.

The combination of the Argentinean Caraglio and the Danish Lekic will pose challenges for the center of the Union back four. Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes (back from a yellow card suspension) will need to be decisive in front of MacMath. They cannot afford any miscues or miscommunication with a rookie keeper behind them.

Offensively, the Union continue to struggle. It certainly was nice to see Sebastien Le Toux finally score from the run of play – as he did on Saturday in Salt Lake. Peter Nowak has to hope that the volley Le Toux picked out of the air and sent into the back of the net gives his most complete player a confidence boost.

Freddy Adu, who has come off the bench the last two matches, is getting closer to being able go the full ninety minutes. Earlier in the week he alluded to the fact that he continues to work on his fitness and conditioning. It’s easy to forget that Adu, aside from a few appearances in the Gold Cup, had not been training regularly since the end of his club season in Turkey. Lord knows the Union are desperate for a player like Adu to inject some creativity into the offense.

Danny Mwanga is another player who needs to get things going. He never seems to find himself in dangerous goal scoring positions. Perhaps frustrated with a lack of service he’s constantly checking back to the midfield to pick up the ball with little options in front of him.

To be honest, Veljko Paunovic has seemed more willing than Mwanga to pay the price to get into those danger areas.

A number of you have complained about Nowak’s insistence on playing two holding midfielders – feeling that he’s sacrificing too much offensively. Well, I think you’re out of luck tonight if you hope to see him change that. With MacMath in net I’d imagine Nowak wants to provide as much cover as possible for his rookie keeper.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight: MacMath, Williams, Califf, Valdes, G. Farfan, Mapp, Carroll (there are conflicting reports as to his health/availability, but if he’s healthy I’d start him), Okugo, Adu, Le Toux, Paunovic.

Final Score Prediction: The winless streak for both teams moves to seven as this one ends 1-1.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely To See Red: Califf, who may be too aggressive in seeking to protect his young keeper.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers, in dire need of a confidence boost, found one at the Barclays Center.

Trailing 2-0 in the second period on Sunday night, the Flyers stormed back to beat the Islanders in overtime, 3-2, and stop some serious bleeding.

Claude Giroux netted the game-winner, his first marker in 13 games.

On Saturday, the Flyers’ return from five days off was unceremonious to say the least, as they lost badly to the Devils, 4-1, after entering their NHL mandated bye week losers in 11 of the last 14 games.

So this was a game they desperately had to have and got it.

The Flyers (23-19-6) picked up just their fourth win since Dec. 17, improving to 4-9-3 since rattling off 10 straight victories, a streak that seems like ages ago.

Speaking of streaks, the Flyers snapped a nine-game losing slide on the road in which they had been outscored, 36-12.

The Islanders (19-17-9) had their three-game winning streak halted. On Tuesday, New York fired its head coach Jack Capuano.

Notable goals
Shayne Gostisbehere converted a nifty wraparound pass to Giroux, who finished the winner.

Ivan Provorov made it all possible with a beautiful play to tie the game at 2-2 less than two minutes into the final stanza. The rookie defenseman took a pass at the blue line and patiently maneuvered by two Islanders before unleashing a shot from the circle that got past Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss off the skate of his own defenseman Adam Pelech.

It marked Provorov’s first goal since he scored two against the Blackhawks on Dec. 3.

Wayne Simmonds kept another game from unraveling when he beat Greiss with 5:50 left in the second stanza. Simmonds gathered a loose puck off the skate of Brayden Schenn and fired it home to trim the deficit to 2-1 and give him his team-leading 19th marker.

"It was a bouncing puck and [Radko Gudas] made a great play and kept it in,” Simmonds said at second intermission. “There were a couple more bounces and I just picked it up and shot it far side and it went in.”

In the first period, Islanders leading scorer John Tavares got things started with a takeaway that resulted in Steve Mason under siege. Tavares, who stripped an Andrew MacDonald pass to Jakub Voracek, went in uncontested on Mason, who denied the shot and follow attempt from Anders Lee. With the puck still loose in the crease and Mason on his side, Ivan Provorov knocked it out but right to Nick Leddy for a clean wrist shot and goal with 6:35 remaining in the opening stanza.

At 4:47 of the second period, Mason was unable to control a rebound and New York took advantage. Alan Quine came in and fluttered the puck over Mason’s shoulders to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.

No goal
The Flyers had 33 seconds of 5-on-3 action early in the second period, when they put the puck on Greiss, who couldn’t secure it. It created a mad jumble of bodies at the net but somehow the puck never crossed the goal line. The play was ruled no goal and later confirmed by official review.

The Flyers failed to score later at 5-on-4 and the Islanders used the momentum to extend their lead moments later on Quine’s tally.

Goalie report
Mason, who had not won since Dec. 21, made 36 saves.

He entered with a 4.03 goals-against average over his last 10 appearances but made a number of timely stops, including four in one wild sequence of a New York power play during the third period. He also turned away a Tavares breakaway in the extra session.

Coming off back-to-back shutouts in which he made 55 total saves, Greiss stopped 44 shots. He went to a full split to rob Sean Couturier midway through the second period and stoned Provorov in overtime before allowing the winner.

Power play
The man advantage, which went 0 for 6 on Saturday and was 0 for its last 11 coming in, went 0 for 3.

The Islanders finished 0 for 2.

Penalty kill
Lacking discipline in their first game back from the bye week, the Flyers were forced to go on the penalty kill seven times Saturday, allowing two goals.

On Sunday, the Flyers didn’t allow New York a power play until the final stanza. The Flyers finished 2 for 2 on the PK.

The Islanders stopped all three Flyers power plays.

Hits
Brayden Schenn skated to the bench hunched over after colliding with Josh Bailey in open ice during the second period. Schenn was OK and returned his next shift.

The Islanders outhit the Flyers, 23-12.

Scratches
For the Flyers: Forward Dale Weise, and defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, all healthy.

Defenseman Brandon Manning returned to the lineup after two straight healthy scratches.

For the Islanders: Forwards Andrew Ladd (upper-body injury) and Stephen Gionta (healthy), and defenseman Scott Mayfield (healthy).

Next up
The Flyers follow their back-to-back with another such set. First up are the Rangers on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden before the Flyers come home Thursday to face the Maple Leafs, who currently trail the Flyers by a point for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.