Real Madrid-Celtic FC Kick Off Another Big Soccer Weekend in Philly

Real Madrid-Celtic FC Kick Off Another Big Soccer Weekend in Philly

Growing
up a soccer fan in Delco, it was rare I got to see much of the game on
TV much less in person. Today, after watching the Olympic gold medal
match on TV, we'll rush up to the Linc, where the global force that is
Real Madrid will take on deeply rooted Celtic FC. Tomorrow night, we have the
regularly scheduled Union home match against Chicago Fire at PPL Park.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday and Sunday if you're into the
beautiful game. Even better, neither match really interferes with the
Phils-Cardinals series at Citizens Bank Park. 

The Madrid-Celtic match was slotted for 1:30 pm to
alleviate congestion in the sports complex, clearing out before all but
the Phillies tailgating early birds show up for tonight's 7:05 start.
Tomorrow, the slots reverse. A summer weekend filled with sports either
in person or on TV… I'll take it. 

Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid return to Philly
for a second straight summer visit since the Union became a franchise.
Last year, we were treated to a fantastic friendly between the Union and
Madrid. Despite taking the loss, the Union showed well, with a
memorable chip goal by Michael Farfan as he formally announced his
ascendency.  

In the 2012 visit, Madrid face Celtic FC, who have
also played the Union locally, down at PPL Park. It may seem a minor
thing, but it speaks volumes to me about the growth of the game in this
region that two of the most recognized clubs in the world will play here
in recent years, along with a number of other teams visiting.
Milan train here, and Celtic recently announced plans for a local
international development academy.

Aside from a report
that Celtic defender Glenn Loovens didn't care for the area (unclear as
to whether he meant the one surrounding PPL Park, where he played
against the Union in 2010, or Philadelphia on the whole), some players
from global powerhouses that have come through Philadelphia in recent
years have left speaking about how it is top class. The Eagles
organization has done a good job of providing comfortable training
facilities and making the Linc a soccer destination despite it being
geared much more toward American football, and the Union's fan support
and new soccer-specific stadium seem to leave a favorable impression
even to opposing teams. 

While the match itself is an off-season friendly,
many stars will be out today. Joseph D'Hippolito takes a nice look at
the firepower Real brings here
.

Each club represents one half of two of soccer's
most passionate rivalries. Celtic and Glasgow Rangers are Scotland's
famous Old Firm
, a rivalry deeply rooted in religion, politics, and
violence.
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona's rivalry, played out each year in El
Clasico, also has profound roots off the pitch. Rev put together a great
primer on it earlier this year
. These
days, the focus is mostly on which Spanish powerhouse will rule the
world, but the rivalry represents not only two large cities, but the
"clash of Castillian nationalism and Catalan pride; and a rivalry of
cultures forged in the Spanish civil war and the reign of General
Franco," as Will Tidey of CNN put it in 2011

If you're interested in the rich history of these
rivalries and many other social and economic components to soccer, I
highly recommend Franklin Foer's book, How Soccer Explains the World.
It's absolutely brilliant and eye-opening. 

But today, we're just expecting a fun display
between two respected clubs. Each should be well represented at the
Linc, so far from their home grounds.

Eagles camp Day 4 notes: Brandon Brooks out; starting O & D

Eagles camp Day 4 notes: Brandon Brooks out; starting O & D

As the Eagles kicked off their first full-squad practice in the bubble on Thursday afternoon, a big part of the offense was missing. 

Starting right guard Brandon Brooks was nowhere to be found. In his place, with the first-team offense, was veteran Stefen Wisniewski. 

Brooks, who signed a five-year, $40 million deal to join the Eagles this offseason, missed practice with a hamstring injury and is listed by the team as day-to-day. 

The only other player that missed practice is running back Ryan Mathews, who is on the Active/Non-football Injury list with an ankle injury he suffered while training last week. 

Offensive starters
Thursday’s light afternoon practice was what Andy Reid used to call a “10-10-10” practice. The term is back under Doug Pederson. Basically, it’s a light practice that goes continually through offense, defense and special teams. But it’s not very conducive for observations because of the format, which is meant to allow the offense or defense to look good. 

But we did get a chance to see the starting units. 

Here’s what the first-team offense (they came out in 11 personnel) looked like to start practice: 

QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Darren Sproles (Mathews was out)
TE: Zach Ertz
WR1: Nelson Agholor
WR2: Chris Givens
Slot: Jordan Matthews
LT: Jason Peters
LG: Allen Barbre
C: Jason Kelce
RG Stefen Wisniewski (Brooks was out)
RT: Lane Johnson

Notes: It’s worth noting that Matthews is still working in the slot way more than he is outside. And Givens, after a nice spring, got the nod to work outside with the first team.

Defensive starters
The defense first came onto the field in the nickel package, so we’ll start there: 

LDE: Vinny Curry
RDE: Connor Barwin
LDT: Fletcher Cox
RDT: Bennie Logan
LB: Jordan Hicks
LB: Mychal Kendricks
LCB: Leodis McKelvin
RCB: Nolan Carroll
Slot: Ron Brooks
S: Malcolm Jenkins
S: Rodney McLeod

Notes: We listed the defense in nickel, but when the Eagles were in base, Nigel Bradham was on the field as the strongside linebacker. The most important thing to note is that when the team was in base, Ron Brooks stayed on the field and moved outside. That’s what the team did most of the spring and it hasn’t changed yet. We’ll have to keep an eye on that. 

North Dakota’s hero
Earlier this week, there were several reporters and a TV crew from North Dakota to watch the progress of their hometown hero Carson Wentz. Wentz said it was cool to see some familiar media faces, especially because he knows how closely fans in his home state are still following his career. 

The rookie hasn’t been home much recently, so he wasn’t sure if the buzz has died down at all since the draft, but he suspects there are many more Eagles fans at home now. 

“I know now that football season is starting to kick up, it’s starting to heat up back home,” he said. “Everyone’s all interested in the Eagles, more than just the local teams around there. It’s pretty exciting. Exciting time for the state of North Dakota, for sure.” 

Odds and ends
• We’ll start with Wentz, who made a great toss on Thursday down the field about 40 yards to shifty wideout Paul Turner. Just a beautiful ball from the rookie. 

• Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Jalen Mills made another play. This time, he was able to get between the ball and Jordan Matthews near the right sideline. Perfect coverage. If he keeps this up once the pads go on Saturday, he’ll earn some playing time this season. 

• Jason Peters spoke for the first time this year after Thursday’s practice. We’ll have plenty on his thoughts and comments, but here’s what stuck out to me: he really didn’t like the way Chip Kelly did some things. He clearly didn’t like the tempo offense or Kelly’s management style. When asked, Peters agreed that Pederson’s staff is way more veteran player-friendly. 

“Any vet that stood up and had something to say, we got rid of him,” Peters said. Yikes. 

• Sproles, Agholor and Rueben Randle worked as the punt returners on Thursday. Obviously, Sproles is the guy, but this gives us an idea of the depth there. 

• Pads go on Saturday. 

• The first open practice (of two) is this Sunday at the Linc at 10 a.m. No tickets needed, just show up. 

Nelson Agholor: 'I fell short of my mission' to represent Eagles, family

Nelson Agholor: 'I fell short of my mission' to represent Eagles, family

When the allegations were first made public on June 10, Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor feared for his football career.

“To be honest with you,” he said, “there were points I thought an opportunity that was given to me to play for this organization and to have the life I have could have been taken from me.”

Agholor last month was accused by an exotic dancer of sexual assault during a visit Agholor made to a gentleman’s club in South Philadelphia in early June.

It wasn’t until about a month later — July 18 — that Agholor was cleared when the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office announced that no charges would be filed against the 23-year-old second-year pro.

On Thursday, after his first practice of training camp, Agholor spoke for the first time about the allegations.

“I put myself in a poor situation, and the most important thing for me was to realize that no matter what’s going on, if I make the right decision, I won’t be there,” he said after an afternoon practice in the Eagles’ indoor bubble.

“I put myself in that position going there, and to be honest with you, as I look at it, at the end of the day, it’s either neutral or negative consequences being in a place like that. So I made the wrong decision being there. …

“It definitely puts me in a position where I truly have to re-center my focus and remind myself who I am. You know? Being associated with anything like that is not who I am as a man. Falling short and even being associated with that, you’ve got to make sure you find yourself again and be yourself. Truly be yourself. And that’s what I’m going to do from here on out.”

Agholor declined to talk specifically about what happened at the strip club that day in June, but he did say the first few days, especially after the allegations came out, were very difficult for him and his family.

“Tough. Tough,” he said. “For a few days I sat back and I was in shock. But after a while I had to realize, I put myself in that position and all I can do is grow and find ways to get closer to my family and get closer to the people that had my back and just continue to grow and also train because I couldn’t let it defeat me twice.

“If I had just sat around moping, I wouldn’t be prepared to perform today. So I continued to train, stay with my family and get myself ready.”

Agholor said after the allegations came out, he returned home to Tampa to reconnect with his family and start the process of deciding exactly what kind of changes he had to make in his life to be the person he wanted to be.

“My parents were disappointed,” he said. “But they also understand that the best I could do is respond the right way. The actions were the actions. But what was I going to do after that from here on out?

“[Becoming] closer to my younger brother, taking care of my little sister, being there every day, being there for my family, making the right decisions. And they were proud of the way I responded.”

Agholor, the 20th pick in last year’s draft, had a disappointing rookie year, with just 23 catches for 283 yards and one touchdown.

So even before these allegations were made public, a lot of Eagles fans were disappointed in Agholor.

Now he has more to overcome to win the fans back. Because even though there won’t be any charges against Agholor, his reputation has definitely taken a major hit.

“At the end of the day, what I did gives everybody enough to say, ‘Hey, man, you did something wrong,’” he said. “At the end of the day, they have every right to do that.

“But as a man, I’ve got to do stuff from here on out to show who I am as a person and the type of man I’ll be.

“You never wish for negative things to happen to you, but they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And I swear I feel way stronger. I do.”

It’s hard to imagine anybody coming across more genuine in such circumstances than Agholor Thursday.

His voice shook as he spoke of the faith that Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Jeff Lurie had in him and how he let them down.

“I fell short of my mission and I understand I should have done a better job,” he said. “From here on out, I have an obligation to do the right thing and to be the right person for this organization.

“What’s going to change? Understanding that every day I have an opportunity to take care of the life I have and to be a good person.

“I made a [poor] decision. I wish I didn’t. But at the end of the day, I have to make a conscious effort every day when I wake up to feed myself the right stuff and be around the right people and make the right decisions and hold myself accountable. So that’s what I’m going to do.”

Secret Service at DNC enjoy some magic at Eagles training camp

carsonwentz-secret-service.jpg
Philadelphia Eagles on Instagram

Secret Service at DNC enjoy some magic at Eagles training camp

Long snapper Jon Dorenbos took a break from Hollywood to return to Philadelphia to kick off Eagles training camp on Thursday. But that didn't stop him from showing off his magic yet again.

It wasn't a national audience on America's Got Talent this time but rather an intimate audience inside the Eagles facility at the NovaCare Complex.

A number of Secret Service officers who are in town working the Democratic National Convention visited the Birds during some down time and Dorenbos did something not many people can do. He got one past them.

You can watch the trick below. You can also catch Dorenbos yet again during the semi-finals of America's Got Talent in the coming weeks.