SECOND LEVEL: Clint Dempsey has 8 goals ... the Union have 9; this could be a problem

SECOND LEVEL: Clint Dempsey has 8 goals ... the Union have 9; this could be a problem

Seattle's Clint Dempsey moves the ball against FC Dallas on April 12. (AP Photo)

In our continued quest to give you great pretty good adequate soccer coverage here at The 700 Level, we’ll be launching a new feature where Philadelphia Union writers and old newspaper buddies Steve Moore and Dave Zeitlin discuss (read: argue about) a Union-related topic every week until the end of time. We'll call it "Second Level" until we come up with something better.

As someone who covers the team for MLSsoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com, Dave will bring you the perspective of a seasoned, award-winning journalist. And as someone who watches games from the River End while drinking a beer, Steve will give you the perspective of an occasionally sober fan.

This week’s question: between zero and one zillion, how many goals will red-hot striker Clint Dempsey score against the Union on Saturday in Seattle (10 p.m., The Comcast Network).

Dave: I really just picked this topic so we can show you some videos of Dempsey, who’s been LIGHTING IT UP for the Sounders of late.

After mostly struggling at the end of last season (and drawing unjust criticism from a sector of jump-off-the-cliff-at-the-sign-of-any-trouble fans), Dempsey is now hitting his stride in MLS.

The 31-year-old star currently has more goals (eight) than anyone else in the league – and just one fewer than the Union have scored all season. Here’s one of them in which he makes a ridiculous pass before finishing the job himself on a rebound.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/9F7PQvSy87o width=620 height=349]

It’s nice to see one of the best American soccer players playing so well leading into next month’s World Cup (holy crap, is the World Cup really next month?!?). And that extends to Union manager John Hackworth, who used to coach Dempsey on the national team and gave the old I’m-happy-for-him-but-this-weekend-he-is-the-enemy routine before leaving for Seattle.

The big question is whether a Union backline that features a converted midfielder (Amobi Okugo) and converted striker (Aaron Wheeler) at center back slow him down.

When asked about Dempsey this week, most Union players said they have to pay close attention to him but not at the expense of forgetting about other players on the first-place Sounders, especially his partner-in-crime, Obafemi Martins. In other words, they didn’t reveal any sort of gameplan about how they plan on stopping the leading MVP candidate, on the road, in perhaps the toughest place to play in the country.

Dave's Prediction: since the Union seem to be better in an “underdog” rule than when they play winless or slumping teams, I’ll say Dempsey finishes with zero goals and one assist while the Union manage to escape Seattle with a 1-1 draw.

* * *

Steve: So the underachieving Union are going on the road, to play the best team in MLS, in front of the biggest crowd in the league, on crappy artificial turf, against the best American goal-scorer there is.

That probably means a 4-0 Union win.

Seriously though, I have absolutely no idea what to expect from the Union Saturday night. Hackworth might start Austin Berry at striker and Antoine Hoppenot at goalkeeper. I don't know which way is up anymore.

One thing I do know is that Dempsey is going to be a nightmare for the Union back line. Whether it's Berry or Wheeler (it'll be Wheeler, and I'll be upset), Dempsey will get loose and create problems.

As an aside, my favorite Dempsey goal of the year so far:

[nbcsports_video src=http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.js#ec=AzNjgxbToagDg1OdTT2xua8MPmQMderw&pbid=4bfc225f82bf46c48dfb065eda97f74f width=620 height=349]

As much as the "we need to watch him but not at the expense of others blah blah blah" is just coach speak, it's the truth in this case. I have a feeling it'll be other Sounders players who burn the Union Saturday night. Wheeler and Okugo will need to be on their game, but the responsibility will also fall on Brian Carroll to track back with Dempsey and Martins.

And as much as Maurice Edu wants to push forward more often, he'll really need to pay attention to Dempsey and Martins, too.

Hackworth's seat is absolutely heating up in recent weeks, but this is not really a game that will make or break him. The Union are expected to lose this one.

Unfortunately, I think they will.

Steve's Prediction: Dempsey gets on the end of a rebound for a goal, Martins gets another, and the Union give up a header from a defender on a set piece. Conor Casey gets one for the Union. Sounders 3, Union 1.

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.