Union, Soumare put impending break-up on hold

Union, Soumare put impending break-up on hold

CHESTER, Pa. – Imagine you’re living with someone who doesn’t treat you how you think you deserve to be treated. So you tell this person you want to leave. And this person, though a little bit surprised, doesn’t want to change and decides to help you look for a new place to live.

Now imagine that after a couple of months of trying to coexist in the same house while essentially broken up, you both realize maybe it’s in your best interests to stay together – at least in the short term until you both find something better.

No, this isn’t the plot to a cheesy movie. (Or maybe it is? Did I just describe “The Break-Up” with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn? That movie didn’t really make a lasting impression on me.) It’s pretty much the sports equivalent of what’s going on right now with the Philadelphia Union and high-priced center back Bakary Soumaré.

Despite asking for a trade very early in the season because of a lack of playing time – and the Union telling him they’d grant that that request – Soumaré is poised to make his season debut Saturday against the Chicago Fire because of a hamstring injury to starting center back Jeff Parke and a one-game suspension to right back Sheanon Williams (who can also play center back).

To be clear: Soumaré still wants to be traded to a team where he can play regularly. And it seems unlikely Soumaré plays so well Saturday that manager John Hackworth opts to reshuffle the lineup and make him a full-time starter ahead of staring center backs Parke and Amobi Okugo.

But here’s the part that’s sort of interesting: there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between the two sides. Soumaré says he’s content with how the Union have shopped him around and is very excited to get back on the field and wear the Philadelphia uniform this weekend. And Hackworth seems happy that Soumaré has still worked hard in training for the past two months, thus making him ready to come off the bench and fill the void created by Parke’s injury.

Take a look at this Hackworth quote from Wednesday’s press conference when he was asked about the relatively good relationship he’s maintained with Soumaré despite the trade request:

“I think that speaks volumes to both sides and how we approach this. The term I would use is it’s a professional approach. We tried to leave personal agendas out of it. And from both ends, you have to look at it from a business side and what it means for our team. And you have to look at it on a personal level and what it means to a player. And you come to a point where both sides are working diligently to get something done. And then you have a little bit of respect that at least the process is going according to how it should be.”

Yes, it’s still sort of silly that the team’s second-highest paid player (behind Kléberson, another guy that doesn’t play) is being used as a backup until he’s traded. But, hey, it probably could have been worse. Maybe Soumaré could have simply decided to stop showing up to training until a trade is completed. Or maybe the Union could have decided to completely ice him out as a punishment for going public with his trade request, which has probably made the act of trading him more difficult.

Take a look at this quote from Soumaré, who seemed to be in very good spirits after Wednesday’s practice:

“If I’m called upon, I’ll be ready. Just like I was ready the week before. Just like I’ve been ready. The thing with Hack, it’s always been that we’re trying to trade you but you’re still a part of this team and if we need you we’re going to call on you so be ready. And this is what’s happening now.”

It seems likely that Soumaré will still end up playing elsewhere at some point this season. But I think it’s also fair to say this could have been a much messier break-up. Like in that movie “The Break-Up.” Or something.

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”