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.

Report: Nelson Agholor expected to be active for Eagles vs. Bengals

Report: Nelson Agholor expected to be active for Eagles vs. Bengals

Nelson Agholor is expected to be active for the Eagles against the Bengals on Sunday, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. 

Agholor, who has struggled mightily in his second pro season, was held out of the Eagles' loss to the Packers on Monday night. Undrafted rookie and preseason standout Paul Turner dressed in his place.

The Eagles may be without their leading receiver, Jordan Matthews, who has an ankle injury and is considered a game-time decision.

For the season, Agholor has 27 catches for 264 yards in 10 games. His lone touchdown reception came in the Eagles' win over the Browns in Week 1.

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.