Matchday 18: I-95 Derby, Union Take On Le Toux and the New York Red Bulls

Matchday 18: I-95 Derby, Union Take On Le Toux and the New York Red Bulls

Can they make it four league wins in a row? That's the goal this afternoon as the Union travel up 95 North to Harrison, New Jersey where they'll face the New York Red Bulls (2:30PM/ESPN). To capture their fourth consecutive league win they'll have to do what no other visiting MLS team has been able to this season - walk out of Red Bull Arena with all three points.

I know I've said in the past that Sporting Kansas City can throw some serious offensive firepower at you, but the triumvirate of Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper and recently acquired former Union star Sebastien Le Toux has to be up there too. New York sits second in the Eastern Conference table, one point behind SKC. With a win today they'll leapfrog SKC atop the standings.

The Union are winding down a brutal stretch where they'll have played six games in just 17 days. Despite the compressed schedule the U have regained their footing under interim coach John Hackworth. The ship has been righted and the blue and gold have played their best soccer of the season since the coaching change.

Roles are defined, players are being put in a position to succeed and the results have been coming. Yes, the Union sit in ninth place in the ten team Eastern Conference, but along with Columbus they've played the fewest games in the conference. In fact, the Union sit just four points out of sixth place. With the All-Star break looming (the game is at PPL Park on Wednesday night) they'll finally have an opportunity to rest and gear up for the second half of the season.

Amazingly, the three game winning streak is the first in franchise history. In order to make it four straight they'll likely have to do it without Michael Farfan, who is listed as doubtful with a groin strain. If Marfan can't go then you may see Josue Martinez get the starting nod in the midfield. As much as I'd love to see Roger Torres get the call I do not think he's fit enough to put in a 60-65 minute shift as he works his way back from injury.

Whomever plays in the center of the midfield will have to work hard to interrupt the passing of Dax McCarty, who is one of my favorite under-the-radar MLS players. You don't hear a whole lot about him, but McCarty can pick out a pass and spray the ball around the field.

Oh yeah, there's that Henry guy to worry about too. Carlos Valdes, the lone Union All-Star, and Amobi Okugo cannot let Henry receive the ball in dangerous positions. His first touch is too good, he's too creative and his finishing instincts are still there. This is   huge challenge for the U's centerback pairing, who have played so well over the last month or so.

The Union have been incredibly resilient recently. They'll have to work incredibly hard to earn even a point this afternoon. I say the do just that with a 2-2 draw.

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."

Flyers fans send amazing postcards to their beat writers

Flyers fans send amazing postcards to their beat writers

I like to give Flyers fans a bit of a hard time on occasion, but that's only because I love them.

One beautiful Flyers fan today reminded me of why I love them.

They took the time to send a postcard to CSNPhilly.com's Flyers Insider -- and hater of the woo -- Tim Panaccio with one single word written on it.

"Woo."

Panotch says "Someone wasted a stamp and post card on this," but I say we just generated at least 50 cents in ad revenue from those of you that are reading this right now.

Money and time well spent.

Now, if you're not up on your wooing, Panotch penned a piece on how some fans wooing at games started annoying some of the players. Panotch hates the woo. BUT... and this is an important but... the Flyers are 6-0 since this all started. 

Woo.