Matchday 14: Union Look To Make It Two In A Row

Matchday 14: Union Look To Make It Two In A Row

The Union return to Houston for the first time since being eliminated from the MLS playoffs by the Dynamo last season (8:30PM/The Comcast Network). Interim head coach John Hackworth has rejuvenated a long struggling Union offense. The blue and gold have scored 9 goals over the last two games (a 4-0 win of Sporting KC and a 5-2 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders in US Open Cup play).

They'll need to continue their recent run of good form if they hope to hand Houston its first home loss of the season. This will be the Union's first trip to the brand new BBVA Compass Stadium, where the field dimensions are the same as they were at Robertson Stadium, which is to say narrow. Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made certain that his team would continue playing on a 70 x 115 pitch, which is an advantage for a team as dangerous as Houston with Brad Davis whipping left-footed crosses into the box.

It's been only three games since Hackworth took over, but there's an unmistakeable sense that a huge weight has been lifted of the shoulders of the players. They're playing freely. They seem more committed to each other. Players seem to have clearly defined roles. And, most importantly, they've started putting the ball into the back of the net.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the coaching change has been Jack McInereny. The former first round pick has started all three games under Hackworth and has responded with three goals over the last two games. He's not playing as a withdrawn forward or as a midfielder - he's playing a position he's accustomed to; up top and central in a 4-3-3. McInereny is not going to blow you away with his pace, or overpower you with his size, but he has a nose for goal and a sense for how to slip behind opposing back lines. Hackworth recognized this and has finally put him in a position to succeed.

Another area of improvement under Hackworth has been the consistent play of the midfield. The threesome of Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud and Michael Farfan have been terrific. It will be interesting to see if Hackworth replaces Lahoud with Gabriel Gomez, who is returning from knee tendonitis. Gomez actually played and scored a cheeky goal against Harrisburg midweek. If I had to guess I'd say that Lahoud will retain his starting spot and Gomez will likely come off of the bench.

However, with Ray Gaddis out serving a suspension and Sheanon Williams listed as doubtful there may be a hole to fill at right back. Chris Albright is listed as probable and could get the start. Another option would be to play Michael Farfan at right back and start Gomez in his place. Whatever they do I am firmly in the play anyone other than Porfirio Lopez camp.

No matter who is along the back line they'll have to deal with Dynamo forward Will Bruin, who is fourth in MLS with 9 goals. There's no real mystery to what the Dynamo want to do offensively. They want Brad Davis to serve balls into the box from the run of play, from corner kicks and from free kicks. He'll aim for the heads of Bruin, Brian Ching, Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron. It's simple, but it's incredibly effective. We saw during the playoffs last season how difficult it can be to stop.

In reviewing the game notes I was surprised to read that the Union are undefeated all-time against Houston (2-0-2). They'll need to continue playing the free-flowing style they've shown of late if they hope to stay undefeated against the Dynamo. I think the Union will be satisfied if they earn a point on the road tonight.

I see the Union earning a road point with a 2-2 draw.

Photo Credit: philadelphiaunion.com

Flyers-Panthers 5 things: Eyeing longest win streak since Ilya Bryzgalov was in net

Flyers-Panthers 5 things: Eyeing longest win streak since Ilya Bryzgalov was in net

Flyers (14-10-3) vs. Panthers (12-11-3)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers, on the NHL’s longest current win streak, will try to extend it to six games when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s get you set for the matchup with five things to know:

1. Push it to the limit
The Flyers beat the Predators, 4-2, on Sunday to give them their most consecutive wins since March 15-22, 2014, when they also won five in a row.

A victory on Tuesday would mark the team’s longest win streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when it won seven straight and Ilya Bryzgalov was in net — yeah, that long ago.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has been pleased with the consistent effort by his club after it collapsed Nov. 11 in a 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs.

“You go back to that poor performance up in Toronto, which was about a dozen games ago,” Hakstol said Monday. “Since that point in time, I think we’ve really taken pride in the consistency of our play and worrying about what we do on a day-to-day basis. It’s real important that we continue to do that.”

2. Leier hops right in
With Matt Read out approximately a month because of an oblique muscle pull, winger Taylor Leier has been recalled from AHL affiliate and will join Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Dale Weise on the Flyers’ third line Tuesday.

Leier, a 2012 fourth-round pick of the Flyers, gets his chance after proving himself with the Phantoms in 22 games, putting up 20 points on six goals and 14 assists.

The Flyers decided it was Leier over Scott Laughton, who has been sent back down to Lehigh Valley. Leier's earned his second call-up of the season with the Flyers. The first was just for one game on Oct. 25 in which he was a healthy scratch. Last season, the 22-year-old made his NHL debut, going scoreless in six games.

3. Mason on a roll
Speaking of consistency, goalie Steve Mason finally finding a rhythm is a big reason why the Flyers are stringing together wins.

In his last four games, the 28-year-old is 4-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. He was honored for his play by being named the NHL’s first Star of the Week.

“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me,” Mason said Monday. “Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Ever since Michael Del Zotto returned to the lineup from his three-game benching, the orange and black have won five straight. Now there’s no direct correlation, but Del Zotto is providing a stable presence defensively and chipping in offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) over the five-game run.

Panthers: Center Aleksander Barkov leads Florida in assists with 12 and has eight points (two goals, six assists) over his last nine games for a plus-5 rating.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-3-2 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in 13 career games against the Panthers.

• Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, who has a 2.15 goals-against average this season, is 9-10-3 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 23 games lifetime against the Flyers.

• The Panthers are 1-1-2 since general manager Tom Rowe took over head-coaching duties for the fired Gerard Gallant.

• The status of Radko Gudas (sick) for tonight’s game is uncertain. He’s missed the last two contests.

• Florida defenseman Keith Yandle’s ironman streak of 577 games will come to an end Tuesday as the 30-year-old is expected to miss some time with a lower-body injury.

• It’s unknown if Panthers leading goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault (lower-body injury) will play Tuesday. 

Philly brewery creates Ghost Bear beer in orange and black can

Philly brewery creates Ghost Bear beer in orange and black can

Who doesn't love a good dance around sports league licensing deals?

The bootleg T-shirt business is a cottage industry keeping sports fans in Philadelphia sharply dressed for years.

There's something to be appreciated about the creative marketing that hints at something but doesn't expressly break any rules.

Conshohocken Brewing absolutely killed it with the naming and branding on their latest beer: the Ghost Bear Golden Ale that just so happens to be in an orange and black can.

Now, some hockey fans who watch plenty of Flyers games might say it's in honor of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, but whose to say it's not simply a beer named after a couple of wonderful emojis. Namely the ghost and the bear,

I, for one, applaud them on their branding. You can pick one up at their local brew pubs or at the release party over in Fishtown on Friday.

And what a world we live in where Joel Embiid wants to create his own line of Shirley Temple beverages and there's a beer seemingly named after a Flyer who gets the healthy scratch.