Matchday 6: Union Look to Put Together a Winning Streak

Matchday 6: Union Look to Put Together a Winning Streak

The Union, fresh off picking up its first three points of the season, travel west to face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center (10:30PM/The Comcast Network). In the last pregame post I wrote that the Union needed to pick a style of play and stick with it. Well, with consecutive shutouts it certainly looks like Peter Nowak has opted to focus his attention on the bolstering the defensive third.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the current shutout streak is the fact that the Union held Columbus scoreless without Danny Califf and with rookie Raymon Gaddis making his first career MLS start. Sheanon Williams, who shifted to center back in place of the injured Califf, was at a physical disadvantage against the taller Crew forwards, but managed to hold his own. Gaddis was shaky, but the rookie possesses enough pace to overcome the bulk of his miscues. Hopefully his MLS debut jitters are behind him and he can settle down and play a more composed game. 
The offense remains a work in progress. The lone Union goal against Columbus came on a Gabriel Gomez penalty kick. Freddy Adu, who played his best game in a Union kit, served a dangerous ball into the box, which was handled by Eric Gehrig. Gomez converted a cheeky chip right down the middle for the lone goal of the game. Scoring from the run of play has been a major challenge for the U - as they've scored a single goal (Lionard Pajoy against Colorado) without the benefit of a whistle stopping play.
With that being said, there were some positive signs last week. Brian Carroll returned to his customary lone holding midfielder role. The move freed Gomez up to be more positive in his play. Whereas in previous weeks you'd rarely see Gomez cross the center circle - against Columbus the Panamanian pushed forward towards the edge of the Crew penalty area. The move opened things up for the Union, and allowed Gomez to contribute to the attack.
Another positive development was the play of Adu. Freddy was confident and aggressive on the ball. You saw him take on defenders and perform the sort of multiple step-overs your accustomed to seeing him unleash when wearing a US uniform. I am still not quite sure why Nowak took him off so early last week, but Adu was by far the most dangerous Union player.
Chivas enters the game in fifth place in the Western Conference (3-3). Strangely, the Goats are 0-3 at home and 3-0 on the road. Something will have to give tonight as the Union has yet to pick up a road point. Former Union man Alejandro Moreno is still plugging away in MLS. Moreno is one of four Chivas players to score so far this season.
Juan Pablo Angel, who was so dangerous when wearing a New York Red Bull shirt, is available for selection tonight by Chivas manager Robin Fraser. Angel has missed time with a concussion, but if chosen by Fraser could present a challenge for a Union back line who will be without Danny Califf for a second consecutive week.
Chivas is not a particularly high scoring team - scoring four goals in six games - so it's not out of the question for the Union to earn a point, or three, despite traveling cross country for the match.
Lineup I'd Like to See: Zak MacMath, Gaddis, Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Carroll, Keon Daniel, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan, Adu and Pajoy.
Final Score Prediction: The Union earn its first road point of the season with a 1-1 draw.

Hakstol intrigues with pairing, potential of Konecny, Couturier, Voracek

Hakstol intrigues with pairing, potential of Konecny, Couturier, Voracek

VOORHEES, N.J. — Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek styled matching green jerseys during Friday’s practice at Flyers Skate Zone.

Together, they whipped around the ice in what head coach Dave Hakstol called a “physical, grinding, competitive day, probably the most competitive of camp … and that was for a purpose.”

Flyers fans are likely crossing their fingers, hoping the trio in green holds a purpose, as well.

The line of Konecny, Couturier and Voracek was a new wrinkle to 2016 training camp, a day before the team’s fifth preseason game. Maybe an experiment of sorts by Hakstol, but one that exudes all kinds of potential leading up to Saturday night’s contest against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

“It’s one day of practice,” Hakstol said. “They were fine. I wasn’t keying on that line in any way, I was keying on a lot of our team play. They were fine, they worked hard. To really see what kind of chemistry they have and how productive they can be, we’ll have to wait until the game [Saturday] if they’re together.”

Will we see that?

“You might,” Hakstol said. “I don’t have anything set yet.”

Konecny played left wing Friday, next to Couturier at center and Voracek on the right. If that is in fact the case Saturday, the 19-year-old Konecny will see another golden opportunity to woo management in his push for a roster spot. The Flyers purposely paired Konecny with NHL forwards Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl in Wednesday’s 2-0 preseason win, and the 2015 first-round pick responded with a goal and an assist.

Friday marked a new day with new possibilities.

“It felt good,” Konecny said. “Just like the game [Wednesday] night, you’re playing with good players and it makes the game easier. I was just trying to keep things simple and work hard.”

Couturier and Voracek are two of the Flyers’ most skilled passers and playmakers. Combine them with Konecny — a prized prospect with the same traits — and it’s hard to measure the upside.

“It opens up a lot of space,” Konecny said. “Those guys are big out there, so when they’re going to the corners, it creates a little room for me. I’ve just got to find the holes and find the spots and the puck kind of just comes to you.”

Left wing is Konecny’s best shot at making the team’s roster and snagging a top-six role. The Flyers are heavy at right wing while light at left. Among the Flyers’ group of forwards, it’s the position of greatest need.

Like Hakstol said, Friday’s practice had purpose. So Konecny’s trying out left wing had substance, too.

“I think it’s a possibility,” Hakstol said. “I wouldn’t say that’s an absolute, but that’s one area that we’re looking at — not just for him, but for other players. So that’s one possibility.”

Konecny, more of a right winger and/or center, has no qualms with playing left. Really, a player of his ilk can make an impact regardless of position.

“I’ve played all positions through junior,” he said. “I’ve played right, middle and left, so wherever I fit in, I’d play there. I’m trying not to look too far ahead, though, just trying to play every day, and wherever I am that day, I’ll focus on that position and get the job done that day.

“I usually end up on the left wing when I’m coming across the ice anyway. I enter the zone on that side of the ice, so it helps me. I actually think I see the ice better when I play on that side of the ice.
 
“I got another day to play today. It’s just about earning each and every day.”

Voracek and Couturier, both of whom have yet to play in a preseason game because of World Cup of Hockey competition, looked at Friday as just another practice with new elements — such is life in training camp.

“It needs some work, obviously we need to get used to each other but if we skate and play with the puck, we should be fine,” Voracek said.

“Even last year along with this year, every game [Konecny has] been very solid. He’s a hard-working kid for his size. He’s very greedy, he’s not scared and he’s skating well. For a 19-year-old, he’s looking very, very sharp.”

Roster talk
According to a report by generalfanager.com, the Flyers waived forwards Petr Straka, Andy Miele, Chris Conner and Greg Carey, as well as defenseman and South Jersey native T.J. Brennan. None of the five were seen practicing Friday and the Flyers did not have an announcement. If they clear waivers — which seems likely — they’ll report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

With the reported moves, the Flyers’ roster stands at 34, including injured players Nick Schultz, Mark Alt and Cole Bardreau. The Flyers will have to be at 23 by the season opener Oct. 14.

Goalie situation
Hakstol said whomever is in net Saturday will play the entire game. He would not say if it would be Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth. An announcement will be made Saturday morning. Neuvirth is back from the World Cup and has yet to play a preseason game.

Gudas update
Defenseman Radko Gudas (wrist), who said Wednesday he’s “pretty close” to 100 percent, will “definitely” play in a preseason game, Hakstol said. The coach would not say whether it would be Saturday or next week.

Carson Wentz named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

Carson Wentz named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

As Carson Wentz rolls out of bed, he wins an award. Brushes his teeth, wins an award. Eats breakfast, award.

This time, the Eagles' rookie quarterback has been named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Steelers in a 34-3 Week 3 win.

Against the Steelers, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a 125.9 passer rating. He beat out Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, Browns CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun and teammate Wendell Smallwood.

This is the second time in three weeks that Wentz has been named the NFL Rookie of the Week.

Here are the awards Wentz has won so far this season:

- NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 1
- NFC Offensive Player of Week 3
- NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for September
- NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 3

Wentz won't have any chances to win more awards this weekend as the Eagles are on their bye. They'll play again on Oct. 9 in Detroit.