The Philadelphia Union are piling up the shutouts but they’re not sure if anybody realizes

The Philadelphia Union are piling up the shutouts but they’re not sure if anybody realizes

If you’re a Union fan and somebody asks you about the team’s defense, you might point to how they traded or loaned away top center backs Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes and Bakary Soumare over the past year-and-a-half. Or that they’ve struggled to find a natural left back after sending away Jordan Harvey and then Gabriel Farfan. Or that they’ve decided the best course this season was to put a natural midfielder (Amobi Okugo) at center back and a natural right back (Ray Gaddis) on the left side.

You might even harken back to the dark days when the Union finished their inaugural 2010 season with the absurdly low total of two shutouts. Or perhaps you’d bring up how they’ve twice let in five goals in a game this season while giving up four in another one.

What you might fail to mention is that, heading into Sunday’s nationally televised showdown against the San Jose Earthquakes (11 pm ET, ESPN2), the Union have already matched a franchise record for shutouts with 10, a total that’s tied for second in the league.

Gaddis – who’s started at left back most of the season but filled in at right back for last week’s scoreless draw against the Montreal Impact – believes that shutout total “gets overlooked a lot of times.”

“As a defensive unit, we don’t necessarily get enough credit,” Gaddis said. “But we are okay with that.”

Perhaps one reason why the shutout number gets overlooked is because the Union have conceded 37 goals this season, the second-worst total in the Eastern Conference. But the main reason for that is because of those few games when the floodgates have completely opened.

For them, one of the most important defensive metrics is shutouts. In fact, one of their preseason goals was to get 10 clean sheets, which they thought was part of the formula to make the playoffs.

Does it simply come down to the Union’s tried-and-trued mantra that they don’t get enough leaguewide respect?

“If they don’t respect us, they don’t respect us,” Gaddis said. “Of course you feel that maybe we should get some more respect. We’ll just go out there and continue to do our job.”

And their job, Union defenders have said time and again this season, is to get shutouts. Remarkably, the Union have held the opposing team scoreless in five of their last seven games. And if they can do it again Sunday, it would be quite the accomplishment, considering Okugo is suspended for his second straight game and the Earthquakes feature a strong attack led by 2012 MVP Chris Wondolowski.

But maybe then, people will begin to pay attention to those shutout stats.

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

When Brett Brown agreed to become the Sixers' head coach, he knew he was embarking upon a unique challenge with a franchise that planned to be as methodical as possible in its rebuild. 

One of the results was a career record for Brown of 47-199 entering this season, a record so lopsidedly poor that Brown may never break the .500 mark.

But the Sixers are finally showing real progress, with a star in Joel Embiid and young players who are turning out to be useful pieces. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine, and there's no one happier to see that than Brown's former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

"It's one of my joys in life to watch them win basketball games because if there's any team that deserves it, it's those guys," Popovich told ESPN.

Brown and the Sixers aren't out of the woods yet. At 14-26, they're still closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the entire vibe around the team has changed. 

"They've had it really tough for all the obvious reasons," said Popovich, who has been the Spurs' head coach since 1996 and worked with Brown from 2002-13.

"There's nobody in our business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat and ready to teach and love than Brett Brown. He's a unique, unique guy."

Clay Buchholz was introduced to his wife by Donald Trump, is big fan of 45

Clay Buchholz was introduced to his wife by Donald Trump, is big fan of 45

Philadelphia Phillies fans likely don't know a ton about one of the team's most recent pitching acquisitions, former Red Sox right-hander Clay Buccholz, but it turns out he has a unique connection to the 45th President of the United States of America.

It was Donald Trump who first introduced him to his now wife, Lindsay Clubine, at an after party of a UFC fight following a game out in California back in the late aughts.

The Boston Globe wrote about the encounter early last year.

“It was ‘Affliction: Banned’ fighting, and [Trump] owned the whole circuit," Buchholz told the Globe. "My wife knew him prior, from ‘Deal or No Deal’ when he came on the show as a celebrity banker."

“She was helping him host this event in Anaheim. So when we all walked in, he was there, and he saw us and he introduced Lindsey to me.”

Trump, of course, also has ties to a more formative New England athlete in Tom Brady who allegedly called Donald on Thursday to congratulate him on his coming inauguration. 

As for Buchholz opinion on Trump? He was a big supporter during the campaign and is a fan of the former " The Apprentice" host.

“He says what a lot of people think and don’t say,” Buchholz told the Globe. “I like that part of him."

Phillies fans tend to say what they think, so he'll probably be a fan of them as well, right?

Here are some shots of the couple from their social media accounts: