Need a Philly Sports Fix? Here's a Union Primer

Need a Philly Sports Fix? Here's a Union Primer

The Phillies crashed and burned in the NLDS. The Eagles are 1-4. The Flyers, who are off to a phenomenal start, are just three games into an 82 game season. The Sixers? Well, the NBA might be a while.

So, where can you turn during a sports crisis like this? Where and how should you reallocate your suddenly available sports watching hours?

How about the Union?

Now, I realize that for whatever reason a large percentage of you are anti-soccer. That’s fine. I am not here to convert you. I am simply saying that if you are reading this site you are a sports fan. You enjoy watching teams or individuals compete.

You particularly enjoy watching games where the home team is good, the stands are full, the crowd is invested, and the tension is palpable. How much fun is it to watch the Phillies play at Citizens Bank Park in front of a sellout crowd hanging on each pitch? How great is it to watch a game being played at the Palestra?

It’s a fairly easy equation. Competitive Philadelphia Team + Boisterous Crowd = Compelling Sports Television.

Week in and week out PPL Park is bonkers. The Union average 18,201 fans. The team is in first place. It’s a good time to hop on board.

In the event you are worried, I can assure you that you will not turn into that pinko commie soccer loving caricature by simply watching a game. I promise.

In case you are joining this season already in progress here’s what you need to know.

WHERE THEY STAND

The Union, in just their second season, sit in first place in the MLS Eastern Conference. They host Toronto FC tomorrow in the final home game of the regular season. Win and they clinch a playoff berth.

I am not going to get into all the possible playoff permutations. What you need to know is that if the Union win their last two games they’ll finish first in the East.

WHO TO WATCH

The best player is Sebastien Le Toux. He’s a classic Philly fan favorite. Yes, he leads the team in both goals and assists, but what makes him special is his effort. Le Toux has played every minute of every league game. His work rate is off the charts. He never stops running. Ever.

ORGANIZATIONAL PHILOSOPHY

Fifteen of the twenty-seven players on the roster are 23 years old or younger. Yes, their most important players (Le Toux, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Brian Carroll, and Faryd Mondragon) are all older than 23, but the organization has placed a premium on identifying young talent.

No matter the sport you need to be strong up the middle. It’s no coincidence that the Union deploy their veteran players in the middle of the field. Mondragon, Califf, Valdes, Carroll, and Le Toux are the spine of the formation.

The rest of the starting lineup is composed primarily of young players. The other six starting spots usually come down to some combination of the under-23 group of players.

THE KEY YOUNGSTERS

Freddy Adu (22 years old) – Yes, he’s still only 22. He scored last week against Seattle and is rounding into form.

Michael Farfan (23 years old) – A revelation on the outside. Crafty beyond his years.

Gabriel Farfan (23 years old) – Michael’s twin brother has filled the void created by the trade of Jordan Harvey.

Zac MacMath (20 years old) PICTURED – Has stepped in and gone 3-0-4 in relief of the injured Mondragon.

Jack McInerney (19 years old) – A striker with an uncanny ability to get behind opposing defenses.

Danny Mwanga (20 years old) – The former first overall pick is coming back from injury. The most physically talented of the Union forwards.

Amobi Okugo (20 years old) – A ball-winning midfielder who could develop into a box-to-box midfielder.

Zach Pfeffer (16 years old) – The Upper Dublin native has seen some important minutes down the stretch. A future playmaker in the midfield.

Roger Torres (20 years old) – The most creative player on the team. Brings a much-needed offensive mindset to the midfield.

Sheanon Williams (21 years old) – Runs all day. Gets forward. His long throw-ins are a dangerous weapon.

THE COACH

Peter Nowak has won an MLS Cup as both a player (Chicago Fire) and coach (D.C. United). He’s a hardnosed coach who wants his players to attack, attack, attack. He’s probably the most intimidating coach in Philadelphia since Mike Keenan. Would destroy Keenan in a tough-guy staredown.

WHERE TO WATCH

Saturday’s game against Toronto will be on Comcast SportsNet (4PM). You could also do a lot worse than spending a Saturday afternoon tailgating outside of PPL Park prior to kickoff.

Tickets are tough to come by, but there’s always a handful available online. The weather should be nice -- mid-60’s, no rain.

The game will be over at 6ish, which transitions nicely into the Flyers/Kings game and Mike Richards’ return to Philly.

Union soccer. Seriously.

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Photos from the Union on Facebook and US Presswire

NHL Notes: Islanders fire head coach Jack Capuano

NHL Notes: Islanders fire head coach Jack Capuano

The struggling New York Islanders fired coach Jack Capuano on Tuesday, ending his tenure in the middle of its seventh season.

General manager Garth Snow named assistant GM/coach Doug Weight as Capuano's interim replacement. Snow told reporters Tuesday that the Islanders weren't where they wanted to be in the standings and that everyone's disappointed in their performance his season.

"At the end of the day organizationally I don't think Jack was probably going to be a coach that we were going to bring back," Snow said, adding that the team will begin a full-time coaching search now.

Snow said the halfway point of the season played a role in the timing of firing Capuano a day after beating the Boston Bruins 4-0. The Islanders were 17-17-8 and are in last place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points (see full story).

Predators: Hunt claimed, Fiala sent to AHL
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have claimed defenseman Brad Hunt off waivers from the St. Louis Blues.

In other moves announced Tuesday, the Predators assigned forward Kevin Fiala to their American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee and have placed defenseman Petter Granberg on injured reserve.

Hunt had one goal and four assists in nine games for St. Louis this season. He has appeared in a total of 30 NHL games over parts of four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis. He has two career goals and six assists.

Fiala has six goals and three assists in 32 games for Nashville this season.

Granberg has played in 10 games for the Predators and has 10 penalty minutes.

NFL Notes: Tomlin says Antonio Brown 'foolish, selfish' for live stream

NFL Notes: Tomlin says Antonio Brown 'foolish, selfish' for live stream

PITTSBURGH — The father in Mike Tomlin regrets the language he used to describe the New England Patriots during the postgame speech Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's opted to livestream on social media after a taut playoff victory over Kansas City.

The coach in Tomlin has just as big an issue with one of his team's biggest stars forcing the Steelers to talk about something other than trying to find a way to finally beat Tom Brady when it counts.

A characteristically blunt Tomlin called Brown's decision to broadcast more than 17 minutes of Pittsburgh's giddy locker room to the world -- a move that caught Tomlin using a handful of profanities -- over Kansas City "foolish," "selfish" and "inconsiderate."

"Not only is it a violation of our policy, it's a violation of league policy, both of which he knows," Tomlin said Tuesday.

"So there are consequences to be dealt with from his perspective. We will punish him. We won't punish us."

Tomlin took responsibility for his choice of words, though he was unaware of being filmed as he spoke.

During Tomlin's brief remarks he attached an expletive to the Patriots, who earned a full day's head start on the Steelers by virtue of beating Houston on Saturday night, 24 hours before Pittsburgh outlasted Kansas City 18-16.

"The responsibility associated with being in this thing, just from a role model standpoint, it's something that I personally embrace," Tomlin said.

"It's something that we as a team and organization embrace. So that's why the language, specifically, in terms of the content, is regrettable," (see full story).

- The Associated Press

Report: Former Eagles DL Clyde Simmons joining Browns' staff
The Sporting News' Alex Marvez reported that the Browns are hiring Clyde Simmons to coach their defensive line.

Since 2012, Simmons has worked as the assistant defensive line coach for the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams under head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Fisher was fired by the Rams with three games left in the 2016 season and Williams left Los Angeles for Cleveland, where he will also be the defensive coordinator.

Filling out his staff in Cleveland, Williams appears to be bringing Simmons with him from the Rams. Cleveland.com reported that Williams is also hiring his son, Blake, as the linebackers coach and Jerod Kruse as the defensive backs coach. 

Simmons spent the first eight seasons of his 15-year NFL career in Philadelphia, starting 108 of the 124 games he appeared in. Simmons recorded 76 of his 121.5 career sacks with the Eagles and also forced 12 fumbles, recovering 10, and scoring two touchdowns with the Birds.

- CSNPhilly.com

Broncos: Joe Woods promoted to defensive coordinator
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos coach Vance Joseph has promoted secondary coach Joe Woods to defensive coordinator, replacing Wade Phillips, who left for the Los Angeles Rams.

Woods, 46, was in charge of the Broncos' "No Fly Zone" secondary that led the league in pass defense each of the last two years behind All-Pro cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart and nickel back Bradley Roby.

Woods has a quarter-century of experience coaching defensive backs including the last 13 seasons in Denver (2015-16), Oakland (2014), Minnesota (2006-13) and Tampa Bay (2004-05).

Joseph said Woods "is ready for this opportunity" and "no one will outwork Joe."

Harris said, "If we had to lose Wade at least we get to keep Joe," (see full story).

- The Associated Press