Matchday 12: The Hackworth Era Begins

Matchday 12: The Hackworth Era Begins

It's a new beginning for the Philadelphia Union as the John Hackworth (interim?) era starts today at PPL Park against first-place D.C. United (7PM, Comcast Sportsnet/Galavision). After parting ways with Peter Nowak midweek the Union return to MLS play for the first time since May 26th. 
Dating back to the Sebastien Le Toux trade it has been a tumultuous last five months for the third-year franchise. Consider that in that time they've traded their most popular player (Le Toux), parted ways with two former captains (releasing Faryd Mondragon so he could return to Colombia and trading Danny Califf), traded their first ever draft pick (former first overall selection Danny Mwanga) and parted ways/fired/broke up with manager Peter Nowak. Oh yeah, and they're 2-7-2 and sit in ninth place in the ten team MLS Eastern Conference.
Say what you will about the off-the-field moves, but the fact remains that the Union have been a terribly painful team to watch thus far. Their offensive philosophy seems to consist of completely bypassing the midfield and playing long hopeful balls into space for Lionard Pajoy (who is suspended tonight). They've played well enough defensively, conceding the third fewest goals in the conference, but they remain vulnerable on set pieces.
Speaking of set pieces, the Union will have their hands full today with D.C. United who have scored three goals from corner kicks and two from free kicks so far this season. Branko Boskovic is the trigger man on set pieces. Assuming he plays, he's listed as probable with an abductor strain, his service will present a huge challenge for the Union back four. 
Another massive challenge for the U? Trying to handle reining MVP Dwayne De Rosario. D-Ro leads MLS with eight assists and is tied for seventh in goals with five. Oh, and he was the MLS Player of the Month for May, so he's in good form. As if that weren't enough, Maicon Santos is the fifth leading scorer in the league, scoring 10 goals in 13 games.
So what can John Hackworth do to counter a streaking D.C. United team that is on a three-game winning streak? Your guess is as good as mine. He stated during his introductory press conference that “There will be some changes and some new faces out there". Who could he be referring to? Will we see Jorge Perlaza, who was aquired in exchange for Danny Mwanga, get a start along the front line? Will Josue Martinez get an opportunity to shine with Pajoy suspended?
Hackworth should have goalkeeper Zac MacMath back between the sticks as he returns from concussion symptoms. He'll continue to wear the very Petr Cech-style padded helmet, but he should return tonight.
No matter what Hackworth does with his formation or changes he makes to his lineup the hard truth is that this team has no identity, no style and little margin for error. Yes, we're only at the 1/3rd point of the season, but it's getting late early.
Photo: philadelphiaunion.com

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).