Soccer Night in America: Union Travel to Portland to Chop Some Timber

Soccer Night in America: Union Travel to Portland to Chop Some Timber

The Union will be under the bright lights of Fox Soccer's inaugural "Soccer Night in America" tonight as they travel to Portland to play the Timbers (10:30PM/Fox Soccer (obviously)). The Timbers, who are 3-0 at Jeld-Wen Field this season, play in front of what may be the most impressive home crowd in MLS.

Sure, it's only been three MLS games, but the Timbers have some serious soccer history. The Timbers, in one form or another, have been playing soccer in the Pacific Northwest since 1976 back in the North American Soccer League. Check out Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald’s excellent look at the history of soccer in Portland.

In addition to the intimidating atmosphere the Union will also face a Timbers side that has shown an ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Portland has scored ten goals already this season, which is double the Union’s goal total (Portland has played one more game).

Former USMNT forward Kenny Cooper leads the Timbers with three goals. He’s a strong target man who has surprisingly quick feet. Jorge Perlaza, Jack Jewsbury, and Rodney Wallace have each scored two goals thus far. By comparison, Carlos Ruiz is the lone Union player to score more than one goal (he’s got two).

On the flipside, compared to the Union the Timbers are a veritable sieve defensively. Portland’s conceded 13 goals already. The Union? Yeah, they’ve given up just two goals. Clean sheets!

One player the Union will not have is outside back Jordan Harvey, who will be serving his red card suspension. It remains to be seen who will fill that void, but the most likely candidate is Michael Farfan.

Farfan was inserted into the lineup following Harvey’s sending off against San Jose last week. Harvey has been an iron man of sorts, as his streak of 74 consecutive games will come to an end (h/t to Peter Hirdt and the Elias Sports Bureau for that nugget). I’ll miss his “My Name Is Earl”-esque mustache running up and down the flank.

What the rest of the Union lineup will look like remains TBD. Last week Peter Nowak, who obviously has been reading my previews, finally came around and gave Roger Torres a start. It’s tough to fairly assess the lineup change as Torres was subbed off for Farfan after Harvey picked up the red. Stefani Miglioranzi is listed as probable (groin strain), but I’d like to see Nowak go back to Torres.

Danny Mwanga is another player who got a starting nod last week. Mwanga, who settled in Portland with his mother after leaving Democratic Republic of the Congo, is making his homecoming. The second year forward played his college ball at Oregon State before being selected first overall by the Union in the 2010 MLS Super Draft. You know there’s nothing Mwanga would like more than to open his account in his hometown.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Farfan, Califf, Valdes, Williams, Okugo, Torres, Daniel, Le Toux, Mwanga, Ruiz.

Final Score Prediction: This is a tough spot for the U. They’re flying cross country, dealing with the time change, playing in a hostile atmosphere, and facing a team who is undefeated at home. With that being said, I think the Union are mentally tough enough to handle all of that. I think they earn a nice road point with a 1-1 draw (which would be the first time a visiting team picked up a point at Jeld-Wen)

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Last week I threaten to get rid of this gimmick and Jordan Harvey goes ahead and sees red. Ok, I won’t get rid of it. Fine. I’ll say Farfan gets sent off tonight. A rookie making his first start in a raucous stadium located in the Pacific Northwest?

Those are the exact circumstances which led me to name this little exercise in ridiculousness after Toni Stahl (who was sent off in the Union’s first ever game, which was played in Seattle). Sorry, Michael. The parallels are just too strong not to go with you.

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

HOUSTON -- James Harden had 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-92 on Wednesday night.

Harden drilled a straightaway 3-pointer with six minutes left to give Houston a 13-point lead and shimmied his shoulders down the court in a celebratory dance as the Bucks called timeout.

After losing three of four, the Rockets regained their form while improving to 17-4 at home this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks for Milwaukee (see full recap).

Rose powers slumping Knicks past Celtics 117-106
BOSTON -- Derrick Rose matched his season high with 30 points, and the slumping New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics 117-106 on Wednesday night.

New York played without injured starters Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah, but Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez each scored 17 points to help make up for their absence. It was just the third win in 14 games for the Knicks.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 39 points, his 13th time this season with 30 or more points. Jae Crowder added 21 for the Celtics, who lost for only the fourth time in 17 games.

Al Horford, Boston's big free-agent acquisition during the summer, had five points on 2-of-14 shooting. He was 1 for 8 on 3-point attempts.

Boston closed to 97-96 on Jaylen Brown's two free throws with just under eight minutes to play, but Justin Holiday and Courtney Lee nailed 3-pointers 29 seconds apart, pushing New York's lead back to seven. Rose then capped an 8-0 spree by putting in his own miss after Thomas missed a jumper -- his seventh straight shot that was off (see full recap).

Home cooking: Wiz top Grizz 104-101, 13th win in row in DC
WASHINGTON -- A vastly different team at home, the Wizards won their 13th consecutive game in Washington by edging the Memphis Grizzlies 104-101 Wednesday night behind two late layups from John Wall, who finished with 25 points and 13 assists.

James Ennis III missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer for Memphis.

The Wizards are just 4-13 on the road but now 18-6 at home, where they've compiled their longest winning streak since a 15-game run in the 1988-89 season.

Washington never trailed and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, then held on after a 10-0 run by Memphis made it a two-point game with 2 1/2 minutes left. That's when Wall took over, scoring on consecutive drives (see full recap).

Walker, Hibbert lead Hornets past Blazers 107-85
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 23 points, Roy Hibbert provided a huge boost off the bench, and the Charlotte Hornets stopped a five-game slide with a 107-85 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

Nicolas Batum added 17 points for the Hornets, who limited the Trail Blazers to 35 percent shooting and snapped an eight-game streak of allowing at least 100 points. But it was the 7-foot-2 Hibbert who stole the show.

Hibbert, who came in averaging 5.2 points per game, had a season-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Damian Lillard scored 21 points and C.J. McCollum had 18 for Portland, which has lost three straight and 16 of 22 since Dec. 5 (see full recap).

Penn State falls to Indiana, 78-75, on buzzer 3-pointer

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Penn State falls to Indiana, 78-75, on buzzer 3-pointer

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Shep Garner gathered his teammates along Penn State's bench to remind them they needed one more stop to head to overtime.

Indiana's James Blackmon was ready to head home, however.

Blackmon took an in-bounds pass with less than five seconds to go, sprinted down the court and drained a 3-pointer to lift the Hoosiers to a 78-75 win over Penn State on Wednesday night.

Blackmon, Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson all scored 17 points for the Hoosiers (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten) who survived a late Penn State rally.

"They definitely grew up," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "It wasn't easy, but they definitely earned the victory. It would've been a shame if they hadn't gotten this win because they earned it."

Tony Carr scored a career-best 24 points and Garner added 15 for the Nittany Lions (11-8, 3-3) who trailed by 14 with 9:19 left. Garner brought Penn State within striking distance with a 3-pointer that cut it to 75-73 with 39 seconds to play.

It was the second straight win for the Hoosiers (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten) who took control by halftime and led the entire second half until a pair of Lamar Stevens free throws tied the game with less than five seconds left.

"I'm really proud of the kids, the way they fought back," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "I felt like Penn State really hurt Penn State tonight, missed layups, little things. If we shoot better from the free-throw line, maybe the outcome's different."

Memories of Watford
There's a good reason Blackmon's shot was strikingly similar to the one Christian Watford sank at the buzzer to beat then-No. 1 Kentucky in 2011.

"It was the same play-call," Crean said. "But we got open differently. Usually we run off a screen but in this case we knew they'd switch it so James did a great job of setting it up."

Penn State coaches and players knew they'd have to defend a similar play, Chambers made note of it in his scouting report, but Blackmon was able to slip past Josh Reaves at midcourt and pull up over Julian Moore to hit the winning basket.

Rim un-protected
Indiana didn't have as big of a challenge on the glass with Penn State's designated rim-protector Mike Watkins in early foul trouble. Penn State's leading rebounder played just 13 minutes and finished with no rebounds.

The Hoosiers won the battle on the glass 37-33 and Penn State made just 21 of 31 free throws.

Hurt Hoosier
Indiana lost OG Anunoby on the final play of the first half to a right knee injury. The sophomore forward came down after battling for an offensive rebound and crumpled to the floor where he clutched at his right knee before trainers helped him slowly to the locker room. He did not return.

Anunoby started eight games and was tied for sixth in the Big Ten with 1.4 steals per game.

Crean said Anunoby would be evaluated when the team returned to Bloomington.

The big picture
Indiana: The Hoosiers entered Wednesday's game having lost five of their last eight. They'll have a chance to gain momentum with four of their next five against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten foes before a trip to Madison to take on No. 17 Wisconsin on Feb. 5.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions' inability to put a full game together has to be grating on coach Patrick Chambers. Even in their last win against No. 24 Minnesota, the Nittany Lions were out of sorts early before a late rally paid off. They were competitive early and late in this one but sluggish and mistake-prone midway through when Indiana took over.

Up next
Indiana hosts Michigan State on Saturday.

Penn State plays at No. 22 Purdue on Saturday