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

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”