Midweek Matchup: Union Look to Remain Unbeaten at PPL

Midweek Matchup: Union Look to Remain Unbeaten at PPL

I'd imagine when you're accustomed to regularly playing weekend games a mid-week match can disrupt your typical routine. Similarly, flying cross country, playing a game three time zones away, flying back across the country, and playing another match less than four days later has to really mess with you.

Those are the circumstances the Union face tonight as they host Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7:30PM/The Comcast Network). The U, who lost 1-0 to Vancouver on Saturday night, now must regroup as they look to extend their seven game home unbeaten streak.

Further complicating things for the Union, a side which has struggled to find consistent scoring, is that that Carlos Ruiz is back in the fold after representing Guatemala in the Gold Cup. So, now Peter Nowak has five forwards to choose from (Ruiz, Danny Mwanga, Sebastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney, and the newly signed Veljko Paunovic), none of whom appears particularly comfortable playing with any of the others. I have no idea what strike combination Nowak will trot out tonight.

The midfield is another area of the team seemingly in constant flux. Stefani Miglioranzi returned to the lineup on Saturday in Vancouver replacing Michael Farfan. Justin Mapp also returned from a hamstring injury and replaced Keon Daniel.

I am not a huge fan of the Miglioranzi-Brian Carroll central midfield pairing. They are a talented defensive duo, but I think the team sacrifices too much offensively when they play together. Much like deciding on which forwards to go with I have no idea how Nowak fills in his lineup card for the midfielders.

Fortunately, there is no such issue as it relates to his goalkeeper and back four. Week in and week out it must be incredibly comforting to write in the names Mondragon, Harvey, Califf, Valdes, and Williams.

As much as I feel for the Union in terms of the short week it's nothing when compared what Kansas City has faced thus far this season. Tonight will be their 12th road game. They actually played their first ten games of the season on the road as they waited for Livestrong Park to be completed. All things considered it's fairly remarkable that they've gone unbeaten in their last five games (2-0-3).

Offensively SKC is led by Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury. Graham Zusi has been productive of late, scoring two goals and picking up an assist over the last two games. Former Mexican international Omar Bravo has also contributed two goals in just seven appearances.

Defensively KC coach Peter Vermes relies heavily on keeper Jimmy Nielsen and center back Matt Besler.

Tonight is the first in a mini two game homestand. The Union face another quick turnaround when they host Chivas USA on Saturday.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see today: Mondragon, Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams, Mapp, Nakazawa, Carroll, Le Toux, McInerney, Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction: The Union bounce back from a bad loss at Vancouver with a clean sheet and a 1-0 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: I am tiring of the discipline this team has showed. Where are the blatant elbows to the jaw? Where are the clear jersey-grabs on a clear breakaway? Come on already. Someone have a meltdown. Please. Since I am obliged to select someone I'll go with Seba Le Toux, who may gently pat a SKC player on the head a la Thierry Henry and see red. 

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.