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.

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

Saunders can also play first base, which could allow the Phillies to sit Tommy Joseph against a tough right-hander and fill in the outfield.

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

There's another Embiid WWE 2K17 entrance and it includes Hinkie

There's another Embiid WWE 2K17 entrance and it includes Hinkie

He’s done it again.
 
Eleven days ago, Sixers social media went wild over a video that showed Joel Embiid walking out to the ring as a WWE character in WWE 2K17. Well, YouTube user Hillman811 is back with an even better version of the video complete with Sam Hinkie and fans chanting.
 
The first video sparked questions to Embiid about his favorite WWE wrestler, and he even did his own Triple H introduction at the Wells Fargo Center after The Game threw him an All-Star vote (see story).
 
Watch the video below and let your mind run wild with what this would look like if it actually happened.