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?”

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”