MATCHDAY: Bring out the orange ball Union shoot for first points in mile high air UPDATED

MATCHDAY: Bring out the orange ball Union shoot for first points in mile high air UPDATED

The Union’s newest striker spent most of last week’s
home opener trying to stay warm on the bench at PPL Park.

When he came on in the 84th minute, the
Union were already down two goals and the home crowd was cold and restless.

So Conor Casey threw his weight around a bit. 

The 31-year-old veteran threw a vicious hipcheck on
notorious pest Aurelien Collin, and finished it off by exchanging words
with his fellow hairless counterpart.

It at least drew some cheers from the Sons of Ben,
who were itching for something to cheer about. 

[UPDATE: The game has been postponed as we mentioned it may. Sunday at 3:00 pm is the new game time.]

Today at 6 p.m. (The Comcast Network) – or tomorrow
at 3 p.m. if MLS decides the 18 inches of snow in today’s Denver forecast
are too much – Casey returns to Colorado, where he made his name as
a strong-willed striker who knew how to find the net.

That’s what they Union were hoping to get when they
picked Casey in the December re-entry draft. 

So why did it take 84 minutes to see him last week?

I won’t pretend to have watched many Rapids games
in recent years. But even before last week’s opener, I was hoping
to see Casey from the opening whistle. After all, the Union’s offseason
message was basically, “See, we got real strikers now!” 

Casey has not played a full-ish season since 2010,
when he scored 13 goals in 27 games (26 starts). But he’s full recovered
now from an Achilles injury that limited him in 2011 and 2012, and judging
by last week’s late cameo, he might be just what this team needs from
the opening whistle.

The major problem last week was on defense, but the
Union also missed a few big chances at the other end. And while Sebastien
Le Toux played OK as a lone striker, one of his major flaws is his inability
to hold up the ball and break an opponent’s momentum. 

In case you didn’t notice, Sporting Kansas City
took the momentum late in the first half and never gave it back.

Casey may not score 15 or 20 goals this season, but
his presence on the field might be just what this team needs. 

Today’s Game:

Colorado Rapids (0-1-0, 0 points) vs. Philadelphia
Union (0-1-0, 0 points) 

6 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City,
Co. – TV: The Comcast Network

(The league was set to make a decision regarding the
snow on Saturday morning. If the game is postponed, the teams will play
Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern – I’m assuming still on Comcast Network).

Today’s Opponent, in Haiku Form: 

Atiba up front

Could give the U some trouble

Mastroeni lives

Real Facts About Today’s Opponent: 

Colorado has long been one of the tougher places in
the league to go and get points, but the Rapids are definitely a team
in transition.

One of the few recognizable names – new acquisition 
Edson Buddle – is not expected to be ready today as he completes his
recovery from knee surgery. The team waved goodbye to Omar Cummings
(Houston) and Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago) and will likely spend a few
weeks trying to find the right combination for the starting lineup. 

Sports Illustrated’s Avi Creditor placed the Rapids
15th out of 19 in his preseason
power rankings
(the Union were 14th). On
the upside for Colorado, top-choice goalkeeper Matt Pickens will start
after missing the opener due to injury. Backup
Steward Ceus and his major league gaffe
led to the
only goal in last week’s 1-0 loss at FC Dallas.

A Real Fact About Today’s Opposing City (via Denver.org): 

More beer is brewed in Denver than any other American
city.

The Player Most Likely to Doop: 

If they game goes on in the snow, a 0-0 draw might
be the most likely outcome. If a goal is scored, I could go with Le
Toux as the easy choice. But after John Hackworth hinted this week at
a changed starting lineup, I’ll go out on a limb and reluctantly say
Jack McInerney.

Lineup I Would Love to See: 

Until Hackworth shows some semi-consistency in his
lineups, I’ll stop trying to read his mind and just give you the lineup
I’d choose.

The formation below is a little unorthodox and unlikely,
but mostly I’d love to see Hackworth find a way to get these guys
on the field. Daniel was one of the best players last week and earned
himself another start. 

Macmath

Williams – Soumare – Parke – Gaddis (reluctantly) 

Okugo – Carroll

      
Daniel 

Le Toux – Casey –
M.Farfan

Prediction Sure to Be Way Off: 

Whether it’s today or tomorrow, I’d love to predict
a Union win. If they have aspirations of improvement in 2013, they need
to get results on the road against some of the league’s weaker teams.

Sadly, I don’t see it. 

Colorado 2, Union 1.

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).