Matchday 7: No Nowak, No Garfan, No Daniel, No Problem?

Matchday 7: No Nowak, No Garfan, No Daniel, No Problem?

The Union, who have held the opposition scoreless over the last 332 minutes, host the San Jose Earthquakes (7PM/Comcast SportsNet) and Chris Wondolowski, who coming into play today was tied with Thierry Henry for the MLS goal scoring lead. The Union will attempt to shut down Wondo without the benefit of a number of familiar faces.
Manager Peter Nowak, starting left back Gabriel Farfan and starting midfielder Keon Daniel will all miss the game due to suspension. Losing Garfan will certainly hurt a defense that has kept three consecutive clean sheets. The back line will likely welcome back Danny Califf, who has been out with a hamstring injury. With Garfan out and Califf returning it remains to be seen how they'll line up in the back.
Rookie Raymon Gaddis has done a solid job since being introduced to the starting lineup. I can't imagine the Union coaching staff wants to move him from his right back spot. With that in mind we'll likely see Sheanon Williams get the start at left back. An outside back combination of Gaddis and Williams certainly brings a ton of pace to the table. A back four of Gaddis, Califf, Carlos Valdes, and Williams could be the the back line combination of choice for a Union team recommitted to locking things down defensively.
While they seem to have figured things out in their defensive third, questions remain as to their ability to create and finish chances in the final third. The Union have scored a meager four goals in seven games. Gabriel Gomez is their leading scorer - with two goals (one from a free kick and the other from a penalty kick). The only other players to score a goal are Freddy Adu and Lionard Pajoy. 
Adu has been fantastic since returning from Olympic qualifying. He's flashed the sort of skill and attacking mindset you're accustomed to seeing from him when wearing a US shirt. Michael Farfan has also played really well of late. His ability to get to the end line, take players on 1 v. 1 and deliver a cross have been on display recently - never more so than his cutting run and service on Adu's backheel goal last week against Chivas
The Earthquakes come to town atop the Western Conference table. The Quakes have accumulated 16 points from seven games (5-1-1). They've been paced by Wondolowski, the 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner, who has scored eight goals thus far. Amazingly, Wondolowski is the only San Jose player who has scored more than one goal so far this season. Khari Stephenson, former Union man Shea Salina (who is out injured), Rafael Baca, Alan Gordon and Simon Dawkins have each scored a single goal thus far. 
The Quakes have only conceded five goals in seven games. Jon Busch starts between the sticks. He plays behind a back line of Steven Beitashour, Ike Opara, Jason Hernandez and Justin Morrow.
It remains to be seen who will step into the role normally occupied by Keon Daniel. Could we see the debut of Kai Herdling in the Union midfield? Perhaps homegrown player Zach Pfeffer may get the call?
Starting Lineup I'd Like to See: Zac MacMath, Gaddis, Califf, Valdes, Williams, Brian Carroll, Adu, Gomez, Herdling, M. Farfan, Pajoy.
Final Score Prediction: I know I've predicted a lot of ties, but I see this one ending 1-1. 
Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson, US Presswire

Despite rocky offseason, Eagles QBs have "a really good relationship"

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Despite rocky offseason, Eagles QBs have "a really good relationship"

Sam Bradford says Carson Wentz is a great kid. Carson Wentz says his relationship with Sam Bradford is special.

So much for them hating each other.

Bradford and Wentz both spoke glowingly of each other Tuesday after an OTA practice at the NovaCare Complex.

And both spoke equally highly of Chase Daniel, the Eagles’ other quarterback.

Turns out they all like each other.

Boring? Yeah. Drama? No. But they all say that’s the reality.

“They’re great dudes,” Bradford said. “We have a really good room. Having Chase in the room for me and Carson has been great because he’s been in the system for what, three? This is his fourth year in the system? So he understands some of the smaller details.

“Like when we watch tape, he’s able to point out, ‘Hey, this play looks like this against this coverage,’ or, ‘You can short-cut this read and (throw) here a little quicker against this coverage.’ So I think having him in the room with me and Carson has been really good.

“Carson, he’s been great. He’s a great kid, he’s really talented. It’s been fun working with him, trying to help him, trying to just share bits of information that I’ve picked up.”

It was the Eagles’ decision to trade up to No. 2 in the draft and take Wentz that led Bradford to leave voluntary practices for two weeks and demand a trade.

It wasn’t until he returned earlier this month that he even met Wentz, the former North Dakota State star.

But Wentz said there’s been no tension between the two. The opposite has been the case.

“It’s been great working with Sam, working with Chase,” Wentz said. “We’ve got an awesome quarterback room. A lot of really good discussions about the play book, about life. It’s been great.

“And then on the practice field, it’s been great for me. We all have a really good relationship. Nothing but great things to say about those guys.”

Head coach Doug Pederson has maintained that Bradford is the starter going into the regular season. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said there’s open competition.

Whatever happens in September, it’s only a matter of time until this is Wentz’s team.

But Daniel said so far everybody is handling a tricky situation just fine.

“You know what, business is business,” Daniel said Tuesday. “Like I’ve said before, everyone handles (those situations) a little bit differently. For me, there’s no awkwardness. I know I’ve talked to Sam, there’s no (awkwardness).

“It’s you check your ego at the door, it’s time to go to work. Let’s go to work.”

If there are any hard feelings, these three quarterbacks are certainly hiding them very well.

“The relationship we have with us three is huge,” Wentz said. “We’re not out there to get each other, we’re out there to make the team better. (That) not only uplifts the team but makes us individually better.

“Being able to work together and not have to worry and stress out about the other stuff. At the end of the day makes the team better.”

Bradford is the incumbent starter. Daniel is the most experienced in Pederson’s offense. Wentz is the hot-shot rookie.

It’s a better story if they hate each other. But so far at least, they seem to be getting along just great.

“For me and the rest of the quarterbacks, we view every day as an opportunity to get better,” Wentz said.

“We have a little friendly competition among ourselves to make us better. If we’re all pushing each other, working together, it only makes the team better, and I think that’s something we have going on here that’s really special.”

President Obama praises Villanova at the renamed 'Blue and White House'

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AP Photo

President Obama praises Villanova at the renamed 'Blue and White House'

Villanova’s memorable victory tour continued Tuesday as noted basketball fan and President of the United States Barack Obama welcomed the Wildcats to the White House -- or, as he called it, “the Blue and White House today.” 

You should definitely watch the whole video but here are some highlights from the very cool ceremony: 

  • Obama said that Vice President Joe Biden, whose wife Jill Biden got a Master’s degree from Villanova, picked the Wildcats to win it all. “That’s the type of wise counsel you’re looking for in a vice president. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the counsel so my bracket was busted,” said Obama, who picked Kansas to win it all and didn’t even have ’Nova in the Final Four.
  • Obama called Jay Wright the “George Clooney of coaches” and “the best dressed man in college basketball.” We’ve reached out to George Clooney’s reps for comment (no we haven’t).
  • He pointed out that leading scorer Josh Hart went to the same high school -- Sidwell Friends -- as his daughter Malia, who will graduate from there next week. “It’s good to see a Sidwell kid do well.”
  • It was fun to hear the president call Daniel Ochefu and Kris Jenkins by their nicknames -- “The Chef” and “Big Smooth,” respectively.
  • He purposefully sped through Ryan Arcidiacono’s name “in case I didn’t say it right” -- and he didn’t. “I’m just gonna call him Arch,” Obama said, learning an important lesson for Villanova fans, college basketball writers and world leaders everywhere.
  • Was that a Charles Barkley weight joke? After comparing Kris Jenkins’ famous game-winner to Christian Laettner’s shot vs. Kentucky in 1992 and N.C. State’s buzzer-beater in the 1983 title game, Obama said “Charles Barkley apparently jumped out of his seat, which he doesn’t do very often these days.”
  • He praised Villanova’s off-court achievements, including the fact that they ranked in the top 10 percent nationally in grades and all five seniors graduated (continuing a trend of every four-year Villanova player graduating since the 1970s). And he discussed how Ochefu and Arcidiacono surprised a young ’Nova fan with cancer by hiding in his playhouse -- “which seems a little scary but their hearts were in the right place.”
  • He didn’t hold back about the epic ending to the NCAA tourney, calling it “as memorable of a championship game as I can remember” and “maybe the best title game of all time,” before adding that “just the last few seconds could be a documentary.” 

After Obama’s remarks -- good job, speechwriters! -- Wright took his turn at the podium to present the President with a Villanova jersey from their game at Pearl Harbor last December and to thank him for his leadership.

“Nothing is as big as this,” Wright said. “This is big time. This is a great day for Villanova University.”

Well said, Coach Clooney.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

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Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals' lineup Tuesday night after being hit in the knee by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch on Memorial Day.

Big break for the Phils considering Harper has hit .346 against them with three doubles, 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and 21 walks in his last 104 plate appearances against them.

It's an equally big break for Aaron Nola, against whom Harper is 6 for 10 with two homers (see game notes).

For the Phillies, Ryan Howard gets the start at first base against another right-hander, Washington's Joe Ross. Phillies fans are clamoring for more playing time for Tommy Joseph, but starting Howard against Ross does make some sense given how much better lefties have been against him (.295 BA) than righties (.209). Ross throws a ton of sinkers and sliders, which make it tough on same-handed hitters.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Cameron Rupp, C
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. David Lough, RF
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Aaron Nola, P

And for the Nationals:

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Clint Robinson, LF
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Espinosa, SS
9. Joe Ross, P