Top Five Reasons to Tune In for U.S.M.N.T. vs. Honduras Tonight

Top Five Reasons to Tune In for U.S.M.N.T. vs. Honduras Tonight

It’s been kind of a slow month for the Philadelphia Union, who are in the middle of an 18-day stretch without a league game.

But there’s still been a lot of soccer to watch with the US national team gearing up to play their third World Cup qualifier in the past 12 days tonight with a key tilt against Honduras tonight (ESPN, 9 p.m.).

Why should you bother watching the Americans play a year before the World Cup begins? There are a lot of reasons but here are five big ones:

1. National pride: The World Cup is incredible but there still can be plenty of fanfare for CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. For proof, all you needed to do was watch last Tuesday’s game in soccer-crazed Seattle when more than 40,000 fans packed into CenturyLink Field and created some incredible tifo. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that the US played probably their best game under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, beating Panama 2-0 and rising to the top of the Hexagonal group. Here are the juicy highlights:

2. Michael Bradley, the maestro: You could argue that Clint Dempsey is the best player on the national team or that Tim Howard is the most valuable. But nobody is playing at a higher level right now than Michael Bradley. Against Panama, the 25-year-old central midfielder controlled the game perfectly, completing 78 of the 87 passes he attempted and seemingly always making the right one. As Bradley goes, so go the Americans. And it’s fun to watch.

3. Altidore and the offense: Over the past few years, there have been questions as to when supremely talented striker Jozy Altidore would figure it all out. The answer could be right now. The 23-year-old had scored in three straight games, sparking an offensive surge for the Americans, who have netted 10 goals in the past four games as a team. Considering Altidore hadn’t scored in a US uniform for two years before that, his recent outburst has been one of the most promising things to come out of these recent qualifiers. Can he keep it going tonight?

4. Revenge: It can be a clichéd and overused term in sports but it’s still a tried-and-true American value. In February, the US opened Hexagonal play with an ugly 2-1 loss at Honduras, with many people questioning Klinsmann's tactics at the time. Since then, however, the Americans have gone 3-0-1 in World Cup qualifiers, allowing just one goal in that span. A win tonight would not only bring them closer to qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil but also prove they’re a lot better than they were when they last played Honduras. Oh, and they’d get some revenge too.

5. No more big games until September: Tonight’s contest marks the Americans’ last World Cup qualifier until Sept. 6 when they travel to Costa Rica to begin a final stretch of games. The best way to deal with that kind of layoff: securing a perfect nine points during June qualifying and inching even closer to the spectacle that will be Brazil 2014.

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

There are good penalties. And bad penalties. And penalties which aren’t even penalties.

The last one would perfectly describe Radko Gudas’ hip check on Miles Wood that was whistled as clipping by referee Dan O’Halloran in the second period.

Even Wood was laughing as Gudas went to the box, realizing what a break he had gotten – a power play for nothing.

“He’s a pretty quick D-man,” Wood said. “I don’t think it should have been a call, but it was a good hit by him.”

That gave the Devils a power play. Then, when Wayne Simmond argued the call with O'Halloran, Simmonds drew two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The resulting 5-on-3 New Jersey power play saw the Devils score to break a 1-1 tie.

Minutes later, the Flyers had a bad line change and it was 3-1. Game over. The Devils would go on to win, 4-1 (see game story).

Bottom line? The Gudas call changed everything.

“I was really surprised,” Gudas said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty at all.”

Is this oversimplifying the game to say everything changed with that one call?

“Are we really simplifying it?” Gudas asked. “I think that after those calls we have to get together as a group and make sure we kill these off. Unfortunately, we let them score on that power play. It was just unlucky.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol called it “an excellent hit” by Gudas. He wouldn’t go deeper than that.

The six muffed power plays gave him enough reason to believe the Flyers could have gotten back in it. His Flyers are 3-9-3 since winning 10 games.

You can’t underestimate how those two calls turned the tables on the Flyers in this game.

“Everyone has their own opinion on the hit and we were obviously frustrated on the hit,” Travis Konecny said. “We thought it was a clean hit and we reacted to it. We have everyone’s backs.

“We have all had the one’s where we are angry with the ref and the one who made a hit like that. There is a time for that moment there.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth thought it was a difference maker.

“Oh, absolutely, we were playing better in the second period,” he said. “I thought we had a momentum. You know stuff like that 5-on-3 for two minutes, it’s tough to defend.

“I think it’s taking way too many penalties lately and you got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).