The Philadelphia Union have mastered the art of squandering a lead right before the final whistle while up a man

The Philadelphia Union have mastered the art of squandering a lead right before the final whistle while up a man

You could probably go a whole season without seeing a team give up a goal seven minutes into stoppage time while playing up a man.

You could probably go your whole life without seeing it twice.

Or you could be a Philadelphia Union fan.

On late Wednesday evening/early Thursday morning, the Union surrendered a goal in the 97th minute to settle for a 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake despite having a one-man advantage. If that sounds similar, it’s because LITERALLY THE EXACT SAME THING happened on Saturday against FC Dallas – right down to the minute of the goal.

“I’m losing a lot of hair,” Union manager John Hackworth said after the game. “I’m aging like crazy.”

Speaking of no hair, bald striker Conor Casey was absolutely dominant in Utah, setting up the first goal and scoring the second to nearly singlehandedly carry the Union to their first-ever win against Real Salt Lake, one of the league’s premier teams.

That was a bright spot of Wednesday’s game. So was color commentator Alejandro Moreno pointing out that he has a “man-crush” on Antoine Hoppenot, who had a terrific assist on Casey’s goal.

The not-so-bright spots: the Union being outscored 2-1 following the 59th-minute red card and ejection to RSL’s Lovel Palmer, Sebastien Le Toux missing a wide-open breakaway opportunity early in stoppage time, and of course the hand ball in the box from Union defender Ray Gaddis that led to the game-tying penalty kick from RSL’s Javier Morales in the 97th minute. (Watch all of the the highlights below, if you're so inclined.)

“The locker room is gutted right now,” Hackworth said. “This happened to us five days ago. Two times in five days is hard to swallow.”

The crazy part is the Union still managed to earn their first-ever point at Rio Tinto Stadium and they still haven’t lost a game since May. But they’ve been very fortunate since the start of June, going up a man in four of their last five games. Yet, they’ve only been able to win one of those, which could certainly hurt them down the road as they fight to get into the playoffs.

The Union continue their road trip Saturday against the Houston Dynamo (9 p.m., The Comcast Network). If they go up a man and you see there will be more than five minutes of stoppage time, I suggest curling up in a corner and sucking your thumb until the final whistle blows.

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."