Matchday 1: Union Open Season Three in Portland

Matchday 1: Union Open Season Three in Portland

It's finally here. After a long, rollercoaster of an offseason the Union will open the 2012 season on the road in Portland (9:30PM, ESPN2). 
If you're on the fence about getting into the Union this season, tonight should be a good litmus test. The environment in Portland is pretty awesome. Despite their being an opposing team, it's everything any MLS fan should want a club to have. Compared to the venues that still have many empty seats, it's encouraging to see the support the Timbers get. 
This will be an extremely challenging season opener for the Union. In general, road teams are awful in MLS. Only two teams (LA and Seattle) were above .500 on the road last season. Combine that sobering league-wide away record fact with a cross-country flight, add in the fact that the Timbers compiled a 9-5-3 record at Jeld-Wen Field last season, and you've got a recipe for a nightmare of a season opener. 
The Timbers enjoy fanatical fan support - to the point that they averaged approximately 16,000 for their preseason matches. Also, their fans have been featured in an episode of Portlandia.

The field itself will also pose a challenge for the Union. The Timbers play on a short, narrow, turf field. The dimensions are 110 x 70, which just meet FIFA's minimum field dimension requirements. By contrast, PPL Park measures 120 x 75. What does this have to do with anything?

Well, a smaller field means there will be less room for players to operate (it's science!). Like any other sport it's important for a soccer team to be strong up the middle. This is particularly true when playing on a compact field. Fortunately, with Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez the Union are stout in the middle.
One player who would normally operate in the center of the field, Roger Torres, will not play tonight. Peter Nowak told Jonathan Tannenwald of The Goalkeeper blog that Torres picked up an ankle injury during preseason training in Costa Rica. It does not sound like it's too serious, but Nowak cited the turf field and the Portland weather as reasons why Torres did not travel with the team.
Where will the Union generate offense post-Le Toux and without Torres? Freddy Adu and Michael Farfan will likely be called on to carry the bulk of the offensive playmaking responsibilities. Oregon State product Danny Mwanga returns to the Pacific Northwest as the Union's main goal scoring threat. Newcomers Lionard Pajoy and Josue Martinez may see time up top as well.
Defensively goalkeeper Zac MacMath and the back four of Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Porfirio Lopes will have their hands full with Timbers designated player Kris Boyd (the all-time leading goal scorer in Scottish Premier League history) and second year midfielder Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe has been nursing an ankle injury, but should play. 
Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury, the lone Portland all-star last season, contributed seven goals last season and is an engine in the midfield. Diego Chara combines with Jewsbury to give the Timbers two dangerous attacking options out of the midfield.
Two key Timbers will not play tonight. Futty Danso has a broken bone in his left foot and will not play. Franck Songo'o also will not play - he's in Spain dealing with visa issues.
Even without Danso and Songo'o the Union will have their work cut out for them. Portland is truly one of the great atmospheres in the league. 
Starting Lineup I'd Like to See: MacMath, Williams, Valdes, Califf, Lopes, Carroll, Gomez, Adu, Okugo, M. Farfan, and Mwanga.
Final Score Prediction: It's incredibly difficult for a road team to earn a result at Jeld-Wen. With that being said, I do not like this spot for the Union. Portland takes the season opener 1-0. 
Photo Credit: [http://concacaf-futball.blogspot.com/2011/11/mls-soccer-is-growing.html ]

Watch: Eagles fan wearing Donald Trump mask gets roll thrown at him

Watch: Eagles fan wearing Donald Trump mask gets roll thrown at him

Philadelphia sports fans have a storied history of throwing things.

They threw snowballs at Santa Claus back in 1968 and bracelets onto the ice at the Wells Fargo Center during a Flyers home playoff game last April.

On Sunday, one fan took that long-standing reputation to new heights.

At a tailgate outside the Linc leading up to the Eagles-Steelers game, a dancing Birds fan wearing a Donald Trump mask had an Amoroso roll thrown at his face.

(h/t Deadspin)

Instant Replay: Mets 17, Phillies 0

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Mets 17, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — This time, there was no lead for the Phillies’ bullpen to blow.

Sunday, the Mets tagged five Phillies relievers for 14 runs in a 17-0 demolition and won the four-game series. 

The Phillies only recorded three hits against Robert Gsellman, a rookie righthanded starter who stands to play a large role in the Mets’ injury-ravaged rotation down the stretch.

The Mets — for now — regained control of the first wild card spot in the NL. They had entered Sunday tied in the standings with the Giants. The Giants’ game against the Padres had no score when the Mets’ game concluded. The Cardinals sit a half-game back of both teams. Their game against the Cubs does not begin until 8:08 p.

The Phillies fell to 70-86.

Players from the Mets and Phillies both poured out of the dugouts for a pregame moment of silence in honor of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who died early Sunday morning in a boating accident at the age of 24.

Starting pitching report
Jake Thompson showed life on his changeup, a pitch he has struggled to wield effectively since his August arrival in the majors. He ran into trouble in the second inning when he surrendered a double to Jay Bruce on a middle-in fastball and a single to T.J. Rivera, but escaped with only one run in damage after inducing James Loney into an easy double play.

He nearly imploded in the fourth, surrendering a solo homer to Curtis Granderson to lead off the inning and then walking Jose Reyes with the bases loaded and two out to force in a run. Thompson elicited a popout to left from Asdrubal Cabrera to end the bases-loaded scenario, but that was the end of his afternoon.

Gsellman erased the rough memories of his first major league start, a 5-1 defeat to the Phillies at Citi Field on Aug. 28 in which he surrendered four runs on five hits and was pulled in the seventh inning.

He struck out eight batters in seven shutout innings. Gsellman only ran into trouble in the first inning when he faced a runners-on-the-corners, two-out situation in the top of the first. He promptly got Ryan Howard to ground out to first base.

Gsellman even managed to reach base with a bunt single in the third despite not being able to swing a bat due to a labrum tear in his non-throwing shoulder.

Bullpen report
Phil Klein made his first appearance since being called up for the second time on Sept. 10. He had been dealing with elbow soreness. Klein only retired one batter in the fifth and surrendered two runs on two walks, two singles and a pitch that hit Rene Rivera in the left hand. He departed with the bases still loaded.

Colton Murray entered to clean up the mess in the fifth and allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. He added a scoreless sixth but loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and got pulled.

Frank Herrmann inherited the bases-loaded situation and promptly walked the first batter he faced, Jose Reyes, to force in a run. It was all downhill from there, as Asdrubal Cabrera took him deep to right for a grand slam.

Patrick Schuster gave up four runs in the eighth on a Jose Reyes double with the bases loaded and a two-run single by Eric Campbell.

Luis Garcia allowed two runners to score in the eighth on a Michael Conforto double, one of which was assigned to Schuster.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez’s 29-game streak of reaching base safely came to an end.

Freddy Galvis was the only Phillies player to advance past second base, singling in the first and then advancing on a wild pitch and steal of third. He was stranded by Howard’s grandout.

In the field
Hernandez and Freddy Galvis turned a 4-6-3 double play in the second inning in a runners-on-the-corners, no out situation.

Health check
Tyler Goeddel did not play as he recuperates from his concussion. Relievers Luis Garcia and Severino Gonzalez were unavailable last night due to ankle issues. Garcia pitched the end of the eighth in mop-up duty.

Up next
The Phillies will have a day off before they start their final homestand of the season against the Braves on Tuesday. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.75 ERA) will start for the Phillies. He has a 1.75 ERA against Atlanta in four starts against them this season.

The Braves’ scheduled starter has yet to be determined and their game against the Marlins scheduled for Sunday was cancelled once news emerged of Fernandez’s death.

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