Union Finally Back At It - Host San Jose

Union Finally Back At It - Host San Jose

The Union are finally back in action today after agreeing to reschedule last week's match with Real Salt Lake (who lost a heartbreaking CONCACAF Champions League Final to Monterrey). San Jose visits PPL Park (4PM/6ABC), where they picked up a 2-1 win last season.

The time off provided Peter Nowak's club a chance to get healthy and to hopefully figure out a way to jump-start their struggling offense. Brian Carroll, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, is listed as probable and should return to the starting lineup. Whether the offense can finally get things going remains to be seen.

San Jose sits at the bottom of the Western Conference with just five points from six matches (1-3-2). The Earthquakes have dropped two straight, including a 2-1 loss to Chivas last week.

Chris Wondolowski, who won the 2010 Golden Boot, has scored three of San Jose's six goals this season. Wondo scored San Jose's lone goal last week, a header from a difficult angle following a corner kick.

Penn Charter product Bobby Convey returns to his hometown fully fit, having played in every minute of every game this season. Convey picked up 10 assists last season, good enough for fifth in MLS, en route to winning the 2010 MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award. His ability to provide service from the wing will pose a challenge for Sheanon Williams on the outside. 

San Jose, which is in the midst of a four game winless streak, may mix things up a bit today. Head coach Frank Yallop promised changed following their loss to Chivas, saying "… I need to shake it up now, because that ain’t good enough. Not even  close. ... There might be a few [new] guys starting. We’ll see."

The Union, who after the week off sit in third place in the East with ten points (3-1-1), need to figure out a way to generate more offense. To date they've gotten results thanks to a vastly improved defense. However, plodding along at a goal a game pace is not going to cut it if they hope to make the playoffs.

How can they improve the attack? Well, playing Roger Torres a bit more would certainly help. He's really the only creative midfield presence on the roster (which is one of the reason I was clamoring for them to claim Benny Feilhaber). Torres has bailed them out off of the substitutes bench all too often thus far. Why not plug him into the starting lineup? Whatever deficiencies he has defensively should be covered up by the return of Carroll.

It would also help if Carlos Ruiz, Sebastien Le Toux, and Danny Mwanga could figure out a way to play together. They've combined to score just two goals this season, and Ruiz has both of them. Now, if you would have told me before the season started that the Union would be 3-1-1 with neither Le Toux nor Mwanga scoring a goal I'd of said no shot. It's a obviously a credit to their defense, but they need to get those two going.

Unlike San Jose I can't imagine Peter Nowak will tinker with his starting lineup too much. I expect we'll see Mondragon, Harvey, Califf (aka "The Sheriff"), Valdes, Williams, Mapp, Carroll, Miglioranzi (although I wish Torres would start here), Daniel, Le Toux, and Ruiz.

Final Score Prediction: The Union miraculously score two (count 'em two!) goals and take home the three points with a 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Thanks to the Union being all "disciplined" (air quotes) I am fearing it may be time to retire this bit, but I'll go with Justin Mapp, who is the most likely player on the team to hit the fourth official with a wayward cross and be sent off for making contact with an official.

Photo Credit: Some really dedicated Califf fans who sat near me at the Union/NYRB game. Oh, and Califf tossed them his sweaty jersey. Cheers!

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Forget about Monday's final result

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Forget about Monday's final result

Flyers vs. Sabres
7:30 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live starts at 6:30

After a hard-luck 3-1 loss in Montreal to the Canadiens on Monday, the Flyers (2-3-1) return home Tuesday to the Wells Fargo Center to face the Buffalo Sabres (1-2-1) for the first time this season.

The Sabres are struggling early on this year, so Tuesday night could be a prime opportunity for the Flyers to get back on the winning side of things.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

1. It’s a new day
Despite the result, the fact of the matter is the Flyers played a very good road game on Monday in Montreal against the Habs. Shots on goal were just about even (Montreal held a 33-32 advantage) and the Flyers had excellent opportunities to tie late in the game, but a fully healthy Carey Price had other ideas. Steve Mason was great with 31 saves, many of the difficult variety, and he had no chance on Brendan Gallagher’s winning deflection late in the third. It was seesaw battle and the Habs wound up on top when the final buzzer sounded. It goes that way sometimes.

But Tuesday is a new day, and the Flyers have a chance strike right back against the Sabres. Forget Monday’s final result. If the Flyers play the way they did Monday, they’re going to win plenty of games.

“Overall we played a pretty good game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after Monday’s loss. “Certainly we can do better, obviously not coming out with the points. We’ve got to turn the page real quick and get ready to go for a home game tomorrow night some 19 to 20 hours from now.”

Even though Monday night’s result is still fresh, sometimes it’s good to get right back out there and try and keep the momentum of strong play going.

And the Flyers will get some reinforcements on the blue line Tuesday as Radko Gudas will return from his six-game suspension and be in the lineup. No word yet on who will sit.

2. Can’t stop Jake
Move aside Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds. Jake Voracek is the new hottest Flyer.

With his slick deflection on Monday, Voracek now has three goals in his last two games and is riding a four-game point streak. As matter of fact, he has a point in all but one of the Flyers’ six games this season. He’s posted three goals and five assists for eight points so far, which is good to tie for fourth most in the NHL in the early going.

Perhaps most encouraging about Voracek’s play early on is the fact that he’s shooting the puck frequently. A natural passer, the 27-year-old forward has 21 shots on goal so far this year, which ties him for 10th most in the league. He has a nice shot when he wants to use it, and he’s certainly using it this year.

Considering Voracek’s struggles last season, it has to feel good for him to get off to this kind of solid start. And it has to be reassuring for Hakstol and the Flyers. The second line with Voracek, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny is playing well as a unit, too.

3. What’s up with Buffalo?
Things got off on the wrong foot, almost literally, for the Sabres the day before the regular season started when stud sophomore and franchise pivot Jack Eichel went down during practice with a high ankle sprain. He’s likely out for about another month or so.

And things haven’t gotten much better as the Sabres have scored just 11 goals in four games this season. Those 11 goals are tied for second least in the entire league and six of them came in one game in Edmonton. It’s tough to judge the Sabres based on the small sample size of games they’ve played so far, but it’s not a good sign when more than half of a team’s goals come in one game.

Starting goalie Robin Lehner is out of Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed illness. Backup Anders Nilsson will make his first start of the regular season. Nilsson has played in three games against the Flyers in his career and owns a 2-0-0 record against them with a 2.26 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on
Flyers: Brayden Schenn has had the Sabres’ number with six goals against them in 14 career games against them. That said, Schenn is still trying to find his footing this season as he’s pointless in three games since returning from his three-game suspension to open the season. Tuesday could be a perfect time for the Flyers’ 24-year-old forward to have the breakout game he’s been looking for.

Sabres: Buffalo’s offense begins and ends with Ryan O’Reilly. He leads the Sabres with three goals this season and is tied for the team lead in points with five. He’s got nine points (six goals and three assists) in 10 career meetings with the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The Flyers went 1-1-1 last season against the Sabres in three meetings. The Sabres did win in Philadelphia in overtime last October.

• The Sabres enter Philadelphia on the end of a four-game road trip that saw them tour Western Canada. But the Sabres have had four days off while the Flyers played Monday night in Montreal and had to travel home.

• The Flyers haven’t lost to the Sabres at home in regulation in the regular season since March 5, 2011.

• The Flyers have been lethal in the second period this season, as 13 of their 20 goals have been scored in the middle frame.

• He may not have found the back of the net yet this year, but Claude Giroux comes into Tuesday’s matchup on a five-game point streak with six assists over that stretch.

Watch: The Phillie Phanatic trashes ESPN, Skip Bayless

Watch: The Phillie Phanatic trashes ESPN, Skip Bayless

The Phillie Phanatic is just like you and me. He hates being stuck in an office.

ESPN posted the below video of the Phanatic being forced to wait around an office for some sort of interview and an idle Phanatic is a mischievous Phanatic.

He starts out by trashing former ESPNer Skip Bayless, finds some Mets' swag to desecrate, and finishes off by going all Office Space on a desk chair.

It's fun for the whole family.

Not sure why the ESPN people didn't just let him post for the Body Issue like the people over at Sports Illustrated.