Much Adu About Something - Union host F.C. Dallas

Much Adu About Something - Union host F.C. Dallas

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Not sure if you’ve heard, but the Union signed Freddy Adu this week. Seriously. As I write this all four main stories on the Union website contain photos of Adu. Oh, and there’s also a handy link right there on the main page in the event you want to purchase a #11 Adu jersey. Freddy, Freddy, Freddy(!) is the new Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Now, whether Adu actually sees the field tonight against F.C. Dallas (8PM/ABC) remains to be seen. He is eligible to play, and apparently will be included in the game-day 18. But, and this is a big but, Adu has not played in a competitive game since the Gold Cup Final back on June 25th.

If I had to guess I’d say that Adu makes his first appearance in or around the 60th minute. Whether he plays or not the Union need to find a way to get out of this game with the three points. The U still sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, but have struggled over the last two or three games.

Their play has been lifeless. Perhaps the sudden departure of leading scorer Carlos Ruiz took the rest of the players by surprise. Maybe the uncertainty surrounding the transfer window has taken mental toll on the team. Whatever the reason, the Union need to snap out of it and get back winning games at home.
 
They’ll have their hands full tonight as F.C. Dallas, the second place team in the West, visit PPL Park. Dallas, coming off of a 3-1 loss to L.A., boasts perhaps the best young player in MLS. Brek Shea, who on Wednesday set up the game tying goal at the Linc against Mexico, is tearing up the league. He’s scored nine goals, which leads his team and ties him for fourth in all of MLS.

Shea is a 6’3” left-footed monster. He brings pace, a deft passing touch, and an ability to finish. He authored one of the best goals of the MLS season with this cracker against Toronto.

One player the Union will not have to worry about is Fabian Castillo, who tormented them in their matchup earlier this season. Castillo, who is away representing Colombia at the U20 World Cup, set up Shea’s goal and scored one of his own as Dallas beat the Union 2-0 back in May. No doubt Union players, and fellow Colombians, Faryd Mondragon, Carlos Valdes, and Roger Torres are relieved that Castillo is on international duty.

So what can Union coach Peter Nowak do to jumpstart his suddenly lethargic side? Well, if nothing else the Adu signing should inject some life and excitement into the side. Tactically, the Adu signing is perfect. He brings a desperately needed creative presence to the team. He can sit above Brian Carroll and spray balls all over the field. He can also step outside to the flanks and provide service to the forwards. Oh, and he can score, which as we all know is a major area of need for the Union.

Speaking of goal scoring, can we all agree that Nowak should just reunite Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga in the starting lineup? I think Mwanga will thrive with Adu on the field. Ruiz was a dangerous finisher, but he was not going to win a race to a ball played into space. Adu has the ability to pick out Mwanga and play balls ahead of him and into space. Mwanga has the speed and strength to get to and win those balls. Look for them to develop a quick chemistry. Similarly, Le Toux should have a field day running onto balls played into dangerous areas.
 
Defensively, should the Union grab the lead they’ll need to do a better job of killing off the game. Giving up a goal late in the game, as they did last week at home against Houston is unacceptable. Here’s hoping their training sessions this week stressed end of game situations.

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Williams, Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan, Mapp, Carroll, Torres (as mentioned I would bring Adu in off the bench, likely in this spot), Daniel, Le Toux, and Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction:  With Adu in the fold there’s going to be an electric atmosphere at PPL Park tonight. I think it helps lift the home side to a much needed 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See Red: I’ll say Daniel gets sent off as he’ll have his hands full with Shea all night. 

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).