Philly Sports Saturday Act II: Sounders v. Union at PPL Park

Philly Sports Saturday Act II: Sounders v. Union at PPL Park

The second course of your Saturday Philadelphia sports smorgasbord takes place in Chester where the Union host Seattle (4PM/The Comcast Network). The Union (3-1), who have played four consecutive 1-0 games, look to put together their second winning streak of the young season. They sit atop the Eastern Conference table with nine points, three points clear of Toronto and New England.

Seattle (1-2-2) enters the game in a three way tie for fourth in the West. They picked up their first win of the season last week thanks to a 2-1 win over Chicago. The Sounders have scored four goals over their last two games, which is all the more impressive considering they've been playing without Fredy Montero, who's been out with a broken wrist.

Montero made the trip to Philly, but is listed as questionable. O’Brian White has helped pick up the scoring slack, recording two goals and an assist over the last two matches. Steve Zakuani has also contributed in Montero's absence, picking up a goal and an assist over the same period.

One amazing number to keep in mind about this one is 80. 80 is the combined age of starting goalkeepers Kasey Keller (41) and Faryd Mondragon (39). To put that into perspective consider that the combined age of Union players Jack McInerney (18), Roger Torres (19), Danny Mwanga (19), Amobi Okuguo (20) is just 76. Yeah, Keller and Mondragon have been around.

Speaking of Okugo, he'll likely start in the place of Brian Carrol, who, due to a hamstring injury, was forced to leave last week's win over the Red Bulls after just six minutes. Justin Mapp, who made his way back into the Union lineup last week, apparently emerged unscathed and should be fit to start.

I know Peter Nowak has no qualms about winning games 1-0, but they need to find a way to get their offense going. Once again it took introducing Roger Torres into the lineup to shake things up. Last week it was only a matter of seconds before Torres made an impact. Mwanga picked off a terrible pass from Red Bull centerback Tim Ream and sent Torres through for the decisive goal.

The contributions off the substitutes bench have been great, but Carlos Ruiz and Sebastien Le Toux need provide a threat. In their defense they've had zero support from the midfield. I cannot remember a single serve into the box from a Union midfielder. The midfield absolutely needs to do a better job of providing a link between the back four and Ruiz/Le Toux.

If only there was a creative string-pulling midfielder out there who could help jump-start the Union offense. I mean, at this stage of the season there can't be anyone who would fit that bill, right? Wait, what's that? Benny Feilhaber is now available? And the Union sits in the second allocation position? Kerith Gabriel reports that the Union have no interest in Feilhaber.

Please tell me that's just Nowak keeping things close to the vest. Benny is a perfect fit for tihs team.

Benny! Feilhaber!

Please go get him.

Seriously, go get him.

That potential acquisition will have to wait until Tuesday. For today your likely starting X1 will be Mondragon, Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Mapp, Okugo, Stefani Miglioranzi (who was a turnover machine last week), Keon Daniel, Le Toux, and Ruiz.

Final Score Prediction: Union make it three wins in a row with yet another 1-0 result.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Miglioranzi, who will be matched up with Osvaldo Alonso all day. I am a big Alonso fan, and think he'll provide a serious problem for Miglioranzi.

Bonus Reminder to Set Your DVR for El Clasico Note: Barcelona and Madrid play this afternoon in what will be their first of four games against each other over the next 18 days. They play at 4PM, so fire up your DVR.

Bonus Music Track: They're hosting Seattle. It's a bit of an obvious choice, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to include Pearl Jam covering Mother Love Bone.

 

Photo Credit: Barbara Johnston/AP

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies (70-89) vs. Mets (85-74)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

Just three games remain in the Phillies' season. After a 24-17 start, the season went predictably downhill. However, the Phils have a chance to play spoiler to a big-time rival with the New York Mets in town. Alec Asher is on the hill for the Phillies while Robert Gsellman faces the Phillies for a third times this year.

Here are five things to watch on Friday night.

1. End of the road for the Big Ticket
There are just three games left in Ryan Howard's tenure with the Phillies.

It's been a long ride for Howard. There'll be plenty on Howard this weekend (and there's a pregame ceremony for him on Sunday), but here are some of his stats from his 13 years in Philadelphia.

Howard has hit 381 home runs and has 1,192 RBI with the Phils. He has 10 seasons of at least 20 home runs and has a run of six straight seasons from 2006 to 2011, his first six full seasons, with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He twice walked more than 100 times in a season and he racked up 276 doubles.

The long-time first baseman has hit 47 home runs against the Mets, his second highest total against any team (52 vs. Atlanta). In 174 games, Howard has 157 hits and 73 walks against the Mets.

Howard goes into the weekend with 197 home runs at Citizens Bank Park. Overall, he's racked up 1,465 total bases at CBP. He has, however, struck out 880 times in 769 games there as well.

2. Playing spoilers
While the Phillies are firmly outside of the playoff race, the New York Mets are in the driver's seat for a wild card spot. The Phillies could have something to say about that.

The San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals both won on Thursday while the Mets were off. That leaves the Mets one game ahead of the Giants for the first wild card spot and two games up on the Cardinals for a playoff spot. 

If the Mets win two of three this weekend, they clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card game on Wednesday. With one win, they guarantee that they cannot be eliminated this weekend. Their magic number is two to clinch a playoff berth, so a combination of wins and Cardinals' losses can get them into the postseason. 

The Phillies can throw a wrench into the Mets' gameplan with a strong showing this weekend. While they've lost six of seven, the Phillies will likely get up for games with playoff implications. Furthermore, the Mets have the incentive to clinch as soon as possible as to avoid needing Noah Syndergaard to pitch on Sunday, so they can hold him for the National League wild card game on Wednesday.

3. Asher closes out impressive month 
Asher has made four starts since coming up earlier this month and has been much more impressive than his late season stint in 2015. 

After going 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA last year, he's 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA. However, despite picking up a win last weekend against the Mets, he struggled late and left room for improvement. 

Asher began his start Saturday vs. the Mets with a perfect game through three innings. He worked around three baserunners in the fourth inning, but came unglued after a couple errors in the fifth inning. While poor defense is not his fault, it would have been a good sign if he could have picked up his defense. Instead, he barely made it through the inning after four unearned runs.

Normally, a team would look for length out of their starter when handed such a large lead, so Asher only making it through five is disappointing. He still hasn't allowed more than two earned runs and has induced plenty of weak contact with his two-seam fastball.

The Mets will be the first (and only) team he faces twice this season.

4. Third time the charm vs. Gsellman?
Gsellman will be making his seventh career MLB start on Friday and it will be his third against the Phillies.

In two starts against the Phils, Gsellman is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings. He has 13 strikeouts against them while allowing 10 hits and three walks. 

All four runs he allowed to the Phillies came in his first start. He had held the Phils to one run over six innings but departed after loading the bases with none out. The Mets' bullpen promptly allowed all three inherited runners to score.

On Sunday, Gsellman dominated, shutting out the Phils for seven innings. He allowed just five baserunners and struck out eight in the 17-0 win. 

The 23-year-old rookie has a 2.56 ERA through seven appearances in the majors. He started the season in Double A, but he will likely get a playoff start if the Mets gets to the Division Series.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have just two extra base hits in 50 plate appearances against Gsellman. They are hitting .222/.271/.267 against him. 

• Eight Phils have hits off Gsellman. Freddy Galvis is 2 for 5 with a double and Jimmy Paredes is 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Michael Conforto hit a home run off Asher last season. No Mets hitter has more than one hit against him, in part because none of them have faced him more than three times.

• The Phillies have 601 runs on the season, the fewest in baseball by 39 runs. The Mets have the fifth worst total with 659 runs.

• Jeanmar Gomez is 0-3 with a 19.13 ERA in September. He's allowed 18 runs (17 earned) in eight innings.

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

Carson Wentz. He’s a phenom. He’s a star. He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for for all this time. Wentz has led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, showing poise well beyond his years, and establishing himself, without a doubt, as the best quarterback in Eagles history, or at least the best since Jeff Garcia. Who else would it be? McNabb? Please. How many times was he undefeated at the bye? 

Wentz, especially after crushing the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, is unquestionably the real deal -- and I have only two questions: Should I order my flight to Houston for the Super Bowl now, or wait until the rates come down? And should the parade go up Broad Street towards City Hall, or down, towards the Sports Complex? 

Carson Wentz has already been named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, which is clearly only a small steppingstone to Rookie of the Year, MVP, having his number retired, and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, did you see some of those throws last Sunday? 

But even with all the excitement, some are skeptical. After Week 1, we heard “it’s just one game, and besides -- it’s Cleveland!” After week 2? “the Browns and Bears suck -- wake me up when he beats a good team. After week 3? “He hasn’t even played a division game yet!” Worst of all was CBS’ Bart Scott, who called Wentz "fool’s gold." 

Please. What you have to understand is that people like Scott aren’t just mouthing off on a pregame show or sharing a meaningless NFL opinion. They are launching a vicious attack on Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles organization, every Philadelphia fan, and the city of Philadelphia itself. We should all be horribly insulted, and demanding action. 

It’s bad enough when the national guys bring up snowballs and Santa Claus. But let’s be real: Bad-mouthing Carson Wentz must not be tolerated, ever. I call for a boycott of all CBS-owned properties (other than WIP), until Bart Scott apologizes or is fired. 

Sure, I know a lot of people are more upset about the national anthem stuff. But make no mistake: Questioning Carson Wentz is way worse. 

Other Philly sports takes: 

- Of course, I’d be even happier with the Eagles’ start if the long snapper hadn’t unfairly lost a televised talent show to a little girl. 

- For those of you who asked: Now that Buddy has passed, I’ll be writing in Carson Wentz for president. 

- Assuming Jim Schwartz leaves the Eagles for a head coaching job, who should replace him as defensive coordinator? It’ll be a tough choice between Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan.  

- The only downside to the Eagles’ 3-0 start? Josh Innes isn’t around for it. Poor guy. 

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