Philadelphia Union reserve Matt Kassel injures American hero Brek Shea in exhibition, gets booed by own fans

Philadelphia Union reserve Matt Kassel injures American hero Brek Shea in exhibition, gets booed by own fans

It’s a rare thing for a player to be booed at home while an opposing player walks off the field to cheers.

But last night in an international friendly at PPL Park, Philadelphia Union reserve Matt Kassel managed to accomplish such a feat.

In the 27th minute, with the Union trailing Stoke City of the English Premier League by a pair of goals, Kassel went in for a hard tackle on Stoke City winger Brek Shea. Kassel was shown a yellow card and booed the next couple of times he touched the ball, while Shea limped off the field as “U-S-A” chants rained down from the PPL Park seats.

Here’s why: just two days ago, Shea had become one of the few US soccer players to ever score a tournament-winning goal when he netted the only goal in a 1-0 win over Panama in the Gold Cup final. Then, the rising American star met up with his Stoke City teammates in Philly, scored another goal, and promptly sustained what could be a serious knee injury in a meaningless exhibition.

You can see the video of Shea's goal at the 29:45 mark and would be able to see the injury at around the 37:55 mark if not for an ad for a 50/50 raffle. (This seems suspicious but I’m told it’s a coincidence. The stream was taken directly from what was shown on the video board since there was no broadcast and it just happened that the 50/50 ad went up right before the tackle.)

As you might expect, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes did not handle it well, saying he expected Shea to be out “for a number of weeks at least,” calling it “a very, very poor challenge by the boy,” and even calling into question Kassel’s motives.

“You don’t expect that,” Hughes said. “It’s a friendly game. You need to protect your fellow professional. And I don’t think the guy did that. I don’t know who he was. Maybe he was trying to make a name for himself. I don’t know. He went the wrong way about it.”

Hughes’ quotes perhaps seem a little bit harsh but the timing couldn’t have been worse, considering Shea was coming off such a huge goal and was heading into the English Premier League season with a lot of confidence.

To his credit, Shea handled it relatively well, admitting he was “pretty upset” but also making sure to say he’s not mad at Kassel. Shea’s best quote after the game: “When I was walking off, he apologized. And I said, ‘Shit happens.’”

As for Kassel, he expressed a lot of remorse after the game and apologized again to Shea. But the player previously best known for sorta sharing a name with an NFL quarterback is getting absolutely hammered online – by US Soccer and Stoke City fans – as you can see from the comments in the article I wrote for MLSsoccer.com.


Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that Shea’s injury is not that serious. But no matter what, Kassel should learn from this and not make such hard tackles in exhibitions, even if he is trying to prove he deserves more playing time.

Or he could just take teammate Amobi Okugo’s advice and tackle players that aren’t, you know, American heroes coming off championship-winning goals.

Laughed Okugo, "We all made fun of Kassel - like why aren’t you trying to take out someone like [Honduran Wilson] Palacios or someone else that’s in CONCACAF?”

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.