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!

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

BOX SCORE 

The tone was set in the opening minutes of the third quarter. 

The Sixers quickly made up a halftime deficit and rolled from there, outscoring the Bucks, 67-50, in the second half for a 113-104 victory over Milwaukee on Monday.

The Sixers have now won four of their last five games with their only loss in the stretch coming the game Joel Embiid sat out. 

Milwaukee used a 19-4 run to take a 54-44 lead, but the Sixers scored the final basket of the first half and the first eight points of the third quarter to tie the game. 

Embiid scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 22 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high tying five blocked shots.

Inside the box score
• The Sixers scored 18 of their 24 first-quarter points from the 3-point line, connecting on 6 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc. Philadelphia hit on 14 of 37 three-point attempts, while Milwaukee was just 5 for 14. 

• Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in the first half, but battled foul trouble after the break and finished with 23 points for the game. He picked up his fourth foul with 6:04 left in the third quarter and was whistled for his fifth foul just 38 seconds into the fourth quarter. 

• Eight Sixers scored in double figures, led by Embiid with 22. Dario Saric added 17, Ersan Ilyasova scored 12, Gerald Henderson and Robert Covington had 11 and Sergio Rodriguez, Jahlil Okafor and Chasson Randle each added 10. 

McConnell MRI negative
The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and did not play against the Bucks (see story).
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”

Sergio Rodriguez started in McConnell’s place and scored 10 points with seven rebounds and six assists. 

Monster jam
Embiid threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Sixers a 77-76 lead with 1:00 left in the third quarter. He then forced a turnover on the other end and later blocked a shot attempt by Matthew Dellavedova at the third-quarter buzzer. 

Noel sits
Sixers center Nerlens Noel was a late scratch from Monday’s game due to a sprained left ankle. 

Up Next
The Sixers will host Toronto (27-13) on Wednesday and Portland (18-25) on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center before traveling to Atlanta to face the Hawks (24-17) on Saturday. 

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell has left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and will miss Monday's game vs. the Bucks in Milwaukee.
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”
 
McConnell is averaging 4.8 points and 5.4 assists in 38 games. He has started Philadelphia’s last seven games, a stretch during which the Sixers have gone 5-2.

With McConnell out, Sergio Rodriguez will start at point guard Monday against Milwaukee.

Rodriguez started 29 of the first 30 games he played this season, his first in the NBA since 2009-10. The 30-year-old is more of an offensive threat than the defensive-minded McConnell, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 assists.  

“You immediately go to losing that defensive energy T.J. is known for,” Brown said. “Sergio is a more gifted scorer. T.J. is a more gifted defender. To have Nerlens (Noel) and Joel (Embiid) behind the scenes, we can make up some ground with Sergio.
 
“People understand Sergio’s pedigree. He’s a 30-year-old legend in Europe. He has a wealth of experience. He’s a medalist and an MVP of the Euro league. He also was our starting point guard for a while. We’re happy to give him back that responsibility.”

No Noel
In addition to McConnell, the Sixers on Monday will also be without the services of Nerlens Noel, who is dealing with a left ankle sprain. Noel came down with a season-high 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss to the Wizards.

Still restricted
Sixers center Joel Embiid will still be on a 28-minute restriction Monday against the Bucks.

Embiid sat out Saturday’s 109-93 loss to Washington after playing 28 minutes in a 102-93 win over Charlotte on Friday. He has reached 30 minutes just once in his 27 games this season.