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. 

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

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Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

By now, most Eagles fans have probably heard stories that the team coveted Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft, but waited too long and wound up watching helplessly as he went to the Seahawks. Doug Pederson was just an offensive quality control coordinator with back then, but even he realizes how losing out on a franchise quarterback altered the course of history.

“If we’d have drafted Russell Wilson in 2012, we’d still be here as coaches,” Pederson said with a smile.

That's what Pederson tells Albert Breer for TheMMQB.com, and there might be a bit of truth to it. Despite concerns over his stature, it turns out Wilson was an outstanding NFL signal-caller from the jump, and while he was surrounded with a dominant defense and ground attack, likely would've been a winner just about anywhere.

Actually, Wilson may not have been good enough to save Andy Reid's head coaching job in Philadelphia or his staff — after 14 years, it was time, and an offensive line depleted by injuries was the real reason behind a 4-12 season. Regardless, Pederson learned something from waiting too long on Wilson in the draft, and based on their aggressive move for Carson Wentz this year, the Eagles organization did too.

Simply enough, if you like a quarterback, Pederson says, “Take him. Take him. Take the best available one. If you’re not planning for the quarterback position, you’re probably not going to win many games.”

...

“There’s a lesson there. Seattle, they felt like we did with Russell Wilson,” Pederson said. “We got Nick Foles right after that, and I love Nick Foles and think he’s gonna be a good quarterback in this league and do well for Kansas City. But if you’re not planning for that position …”

For as much criticism or questioning as the Eagles have faced for their plan at the quarterback position this year, "take him" certainly was not the issue. In addition to all of players and draft collateral they gave up for Wentz, they also invested large sums of money into current starter Sam Bradford and long-term backup Chase Daniel.

If you think Pederson and executive vice president of personnel Howie Roseman's experience of missing out on Wilson didn't play a role in those moves, the head coach made it quite clear to the contrary. While Eagles fans would prefer the known quantity and proven Super Bowl champion under center, you can't say this regime hasn't done everything in its power to erase that mistake.

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).