New York City FC -- Another (Richer) New York Rival for the Union

New York City FC -- Another (Richer) New York Rival for the Union

I had originally planned something for today about the Union's 1-0 victory last weekend and HUGE game in Montreal this coming weekend. But that can wait a day or two.

Today's big Major League Soccer news is all about New York -- because when are things not about New York?

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The league announced Tuesday that English Premier League moneybags (and this writer's preferred EPL club) Manchester City are teaming up with the New York Yankees (yes, the Yankees) to own Major League Soccer's 20th team. The team will begin play in 2015. Where they will play is still unknown, although it appears an area near City Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing is the leading candidate. They'll start in a temporary home, which could possibly be Yankee Stadium.

Casual Union fans might be wondering why a league with only 19 teams (now 20) would add a second New York team before the list of other interested cities -- including Miami, Orlando, San Antonio and St. Louis, among others mentioned across the interwebs.

The answer is simple. New York City FC (please don't try to be called just "City") is the first New York MLS team.

Now that doesn't mean the Don't-Call-Me-New Jersey Red Bulls can't be a success (they are decidedly not, right now). They have money, they have the backing of a hugely successful company, and they have what is arguably the best soccer stadium in America. They also have a huge audience nearby in central and northern New Jersey to cater to.

But the Red Bulls have never attracted the attention of the glamorous, Upper West Side audience they seem to need in order to feel special. Not even the arrivals of high-priced stars like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill have changed that perception.

The Red Bulls' attendance so far in 2013 is slightly down from 2012 (better-attended summer dates are still to come), although it's safe to safe the butts-in-seats number is nowhere near the current "paid" attendance average of 17,053.

A trip from Manhattan to Red Bull Arena takes 25 minutes by Google Map, 70 minutes by Google Transit, and a lifetime in non-Google reality. Even without a traffic catastrophe, it would be faster to drive from Center City Philadelphia to Red Bull Arena than for a soccer mom to drive there from Long Island. Add gas, parking, Hudson River tolls (which I think are $46 and a first-born at this point) and the chance to spend a day in lovely Harrison, N.J., and the Red Bulls are never going to get the crowd they think they deserve.

And that's just fine -- but only if the Red Bulls put away their ego. There are PLENTY of soccer fans in central and north Jersey, and the greater New York area is plenty large enough for two teams. NYCFC (little clunky acronym, no?) does not necessarily spell doom for the Red Bulls. But without a change of mindset, it might.

What does NYCFC mean for Union fans? Nothing but good things.

Aside from an excuse for a fun road trip weekend into the Big Apple, nothing bad can come from another driveable/transitable local rival. Games at PPL are more fun when the visiting fan section is full, and the Manchester City bank vault (which makes the Yankees look like hobos, by the way) can only serve to bring more big-name stars into the league.

People like to argue that the "rich" clubs in MLS are driving us closer to repeating the history of the North American Soccer League, where a few big-money teams drove the rest of the league into the ground. MLS is established. 20 teams, most with their own stadiums, and a single-entity structure, where, in its simplest terms, the entire league technically owns the rights to and signs the paychecks of every player.

So if you're a New York Red Bulls fan (where are you, first of all?), you might want to be a little bit worried about your new not-so-nearby-neighbor.

If you're a fan of the Union or any other MLS team, the biggest problem with New York City F.C. is that you might see John Rocker on the 7 Train to Flushing.

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.