PPL North: Union Close Out the Regular Season in U York

PPL North: Union Close Out the Regular Season in U York

A perfect storm of soccer story lines will converge at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey tonight as the Union face the New York Red Bulls (8PM/ESPN2).

Playoff spots, playoff positioning, a suspended superstar, a heated regional rivalry, and ESPN's cameras combine to make this must watch TV.

Oh, and the plot is thickened considerably thanks to the potential 1,000 Union fans who are making the trip up I-95. No, that’s not a typo. Early indications are that between 750-1,000 Union supporters will be there tonight.

Quick tangent - it's phenomenal for the league that so many Union fans are traveling to the game. I want to say it was Sir Alex Ferguson who pointed out during one of Manchester United's trips to the U.S. that one of the challenges MLS faces is the sheer size of the United States.

What did he mean by that? If you're a Tottenham fan living in London, you can hop on a train to Manchester to see Spurs play Manchester United, at Old Trafford, in about two hours. That's the case pretty much across the board in the Premier League. It's easy to travel to away games.

Here? Not so much. I don’t know too many fans who are willing or able to travel from Philly to Portland to see the Union play the Timbers. A regional rivalry is one of the great things about sports. The league and the game need these sort of rivalries to thrive, which makes the fact that an estimated 1,000 Union fans are going to wreak havoc tonight all the more fantastic.

Ok, tangent over.

So, what's on the line tonight? Win, and the Red Bulls are in. Lose, and New York will need some help. You know there's nothing Union fans would like more than to deliver a near-fatal blow to New York's playoff chances.

The Union clinched a playoff spot by virtue of their tie with Toronto on Saturday. They can take a step towards clinching first place in the East with a win.

The second step towards clinching the East is contingent upon what happens with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. If the Union win tonight, and SKC ties or loses on Saturday against D.C. United, then the Union win the East.

If the two teams end up tied in points then the first tie-breaker is goal differential (both teams have a +9 differential right now), followed by total goals scored (SKY has scored 49 goals to the Union’s 44).

Ok, so the actual on the field stuff? Right. Red Bulls leading scorer Thierry Henry will miss the game due to a red card suspension. New York will obviously miss Henry, but they boast a number of other dangerous goal scoring threats.

Luke Rodgers has scored 9 goals, Joel Lindpere has 7, Dane Richards 6, and Juan Agudelo, who will likely start in place of Henry, also has 6. NYRB is tied with SKC for second in MLS in goals for with 49 (Seattle is first with 53).

On the flipside, New York is vulnerable defensively. Look no further than the game these two teams played earlier in the season when New York center back Tim Ream played an atrocious ball right to Union forward Danny Mwanga. Mwanga simply found and fed Roger Torres the ball for the only goal of the game.

Between Ream's shakiness, and Rafa Marquez' complaining about the quality of his teammates, the NY back line is a bit of a mess right now.

Another Red Bull weakness is their inability to defend set pieces. The Red Bulls have conceded 10 goals from corner kicks this season, most in MLS. Sixteen of the 44 goals allowed by the Red Bulls have come directly from set pieces, also the most in the league.

The Union simply need to continue what they've been doing. They are unbeaten over the their last eight. They welcomed Faryd Mondragon back into the lineup Saturday against Toronto. Aside from Veljko Paunovic, who is nursing a hamstring injury, they are healthy. Things are coming together at the right time.

Aside from perhaps protecting Sebastien Le Toux down the stretch of this game, I cannot imagine Peter Nowak changes much in terms of his approach. Make no mistake, the Union want to win this game. The fact remains that they can still finish anywhere from first to fourth in the East.

They desperately want to avoid falling the fourth, where they'd be forced to play a wildcard playoff game against a Western Conference opponent.

Yeah, so there's a lot on the line tonight.

Lineup I'd Like to See Tonight: Mondragon, Gabriel Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction: I am basing my prediction on nothing other than the fact New York seems to be a cursed organization. They've been in MLS since its inception, and have failed to win a trophy (be it an MLS Cup, or a US Open Cup). If something can go wrong, it will. With that in mind, I like a goal at the death by 75th minute substitute Jack McInerney to crush the Red Bulls playoff chances. Union win it 2-1.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely to See Red: I am going with a big fan N/A tonight. If anything, I'll predict Luke Rodgers gets sent off, if for no other reason than karma's a bitch.

Sixers sign Chasson Randle to second 10-day contract

Sixers sign Chasson Randle to second 10-day contract

It looks like point guard Chasson Randle has earned himself some more time in Philadelphia. 

The Sixers on Friday announced that they signed Randle to a second 10-day contract. 

Randle was first signed by the Sixers on Jan. 9 and has appeared in two games, thanks in large part to a wrist injury that forced starter T.J. McConnell to msis some time and pushed backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez into the starting lineup. 

"It’s a great feeling to know that I get another shot at this and (get to) be around this team, be around this staff another 10 days," Randle said. "I’m just thankful."

Randle scored a career-high 10 points in 16 minutes in Monday's win over the Bucks, shooting 50 percent from the field (3 for 6) and beyond the arc (2 for 4), while also adding two rebounds and an assist. 

"You just watched him play in Milwaukee and you saw somebody take his length and come up with loose balls and deflections," Brett Brown said. "You saw somebody come down and had sort of a swagger and a confidence where he could rise up and make a three. He's a four-year Stanford graduate that comes with a very distinct pedigree and intellect and maturity that adds to team. Albeit new, he really adds to what we're trying to build in relation to the guys that we invite in our program. He's a high character guy."

Randle played in 19 games this season for the Westchester Knicks of the NBA D-League before signing with the Sixers, leading the team in scoring with 21 points per game, including back-to-back games of 38 and 36 points in December. 

He went undrafted in 2015 after four years at Stanford, and spent last season overseas with CEZ Nymburk of the National Basketball League in the Czech Republic.

Source: Sixers claim, then waive Mo Williams

Source: Sixers claim, then waive Mo Williams

Updated: 6:13 p.m.

Mo Williams was barely a Sixer.

The Sixers on Friday claimed the 34-year-old point guard, then waived him, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com's Jessica Camerato. The Sixers followed it with the re-signing of guard Chasson Randle to a second 10-day contract.

ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the news of the Sixers' claiming Williams.

Per the report, the Sixers made the claim in order to get $2.2 million closer to the salary floor while preventing the Nuggets from doing so after Denver acquired Williams in a trade with the Hawks.

It's been a whirlwind two weeks for Williams, who was traded from the Cavaliers to the Hawks as part of the Kyle Korver deal. Williams was then shipped to the Nuggets, who then waived him.

Now he's been claimed and waived by the Sixers in the same day.

Williams, a veteran of 13 NBA seasons, last played for 2015-16 championship-winning Cleveland, where he played 41 regular-season contests and averaged 8.2 points and 2.4 assists per game.