Matchday 5: Rested Union Seek First Win of Season

Matchday 5: Rested Union Seek First Win of Season

After a week off the Union return to action at home against the Columbus Crew (3:30PM/NBC Sports Network). Winless on the season, the Union picked up its first points of the campaign two weeks ago with a scoreless draw against Vancouver. 
The Union, not the most creative team to begin with, will be without its most creative player for the next 6-8 weeks. Roger Torres, who when given the opportunity to play is the closest thing the Union has to a string puller, sprained the MCL in his left knee during a reserve league match
His absence creates an opportunity for Freddy Adu to assume the primary playmaking duties. Adu, who has not played for the Union since the season opener in Portland, is fit and rested after featuring for the US U-23's during their failed Olympic qualifying campaign. Anyone who watched Adu play for the U-23's saw a dangerous, confident, attacking player. You would not use any of those words to describe Adu's play with the Union. He'll need to carry that form from his US kit to the blue and gold of the Union.
True, Adu featured at right wing for the U-23's, providing service into the area and taking players on 1 v. 1. It's anyone's guess at to where and how Peter Nowak will deploy him. I don't know if Freddy is best served playing centrally, but I do know Nowak needs to figure out the center of his formation.
I've said it before, but Gabriel Gomez and Brian Carroll are redundant (at least they've been deployed in a manner that's redundant). They both play in front of Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes as holding/defensive midfielders. Fundamentally, I do not have a problem playing a back four along with two holding midfielders. It's a defensive posture, which makes sense considering Zak MacMath is an inexperienced goalkeeper.
What I do have a problem with is that the Union wants to play a style whereby they maintain possession and knock the ball around the park all day. How they think they can do that when six of their ten field players are defensive-minded is beyond me. Do they want to be a defensive team or a free-flowing offensive team? Their personnel does not lend itself to the latter, so why not recognize your strength and embrace a defensive counter-attacking style?
What, you may be asking, about this Columbus side they'll face today? The Crew are 2-2 and sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference table. They come to town an injured bunch. Presumed starting center back Julius James has not played a game this year. He underwent surgery last week after suffering a collapsed lung. Presumed starting goalkeeper William Hesmer also has not played in a game this season. Hesmer underwent microfracture surgery on his right hip and will be out approximately six months.
Who will be in uniform for Columbus today? Chad Marshall, who was anchored the Crew back line for what seems like forever, will again be in the middle of the Crew's back four. Marshall will make his 201st appearance in a Crew uniform, just 15 appearances shy of tying Mike Clark's all-time club record.
Offensively, the Crew are led by forward Olman Vargas and midfielder Milovan Mirosevic. Former Rutgers player Dilly Duka came on off the bench last week during the Crew's 4-1 loss to New York and may have earned himself some additional playing time today. Eddie Gaven, who like Marshall has been in MLS forever, also mans the midfield for the Crew. 
What do the Union need to do to pick up its first win of the season? As mentioned, they need to pick a style and stick with it. Holding Vancouver to zero shots last time out was a promising sign that they may have opted to assume a grind it out defensive style. If they persist on trying to dominate possession they'll likely continue to struggle.
Starting Lineup I'd Like to See: MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Valdes, Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Adu, Garbiel Gomez, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Lionard Pajoy, Danny Mwanga
Final Score Prediction: Not a win, but the Union grind out a 1-1 draw.
Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson, US Presswire

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

MIAMI — The Phillies will be without their best utility man and bat off the bench for at least six weeks.

Andres Blanco needs surgery to repair his broken left index finger. He suffered the injury making a tag play at third base during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. According to manager Pete Mackanin, Blanco will have a pin inserted in the finger during surgery on Wednesday.

“That’s a shame,” said Mackanin, who has called Blanco the best utility man he’s seen in his 47 years in pro baseball. “He was one of our best players. Maybe in six weeks he can come back. But it’s going to be a while.”

With the trade deadline a week away, Blanco would have been a nice fit on some contending teams. Now, he will stay put. 

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Peter Bourjos remain strong trade possibilities. Hellickson started Monday night against the Marlins, who are interested in his services. A source confirmed a FOX Sports report that the Phillies have been scouting the low levels of the Marlins farm system in preparation for a potential deal (see story). The Marlins are considering other pitchers, as well. Some industry insiders view Hellickson and Bourjos as backup targets for teams looking for pitching and outfield help. Translation, the fate of bigger names on the trade market might have to shake out before the Phillies know if they can strike a deal. The trade deadline is next Monday.

The Phillies recalled infielder Taylor Featherston from Triple A to take Blanco’s roster spot (see story).

Mackanin gave a succinct answer when asked whether the team considered bringing up top prospect J.P. Crawford.

“None,” he said “No talk about him.”

Crawford could still see time in the majors later this season.

The Phillies are expected to make another roster move later this week when Aaron Altherr’s minor-league rehab assignment expires after Wednesday’s game. Altherr, who suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in March, is playing at Triple A. The Phillies could bring him up Thursday. To clear a roster spot for Altherr, the Phils could trade Bourjos or subtract a player such as seldom-used Jimmy Paredes.

Altherr was on target to be a starter in the Phillies outfield before he went down in spring training. He will play a corner outfield spot when he arrives.

“I'm sure he'll be here sooner rather than later,” Mackanin said. “I'm anxious to see him. He's important for us to get a good look at. I'd like to see two months' worth if I could.”