Union Head to Texas to Face F.C. Dallas

Union Head to Texas to Face F.C. Dallas

The Union, who played the Galaxy to a 1-1 draw at home on Wednesday, have a short turnaround and are on the road tonight in Frisco, Texas where they'll play F.C. Dallas (8:30PM/The Comcast Network).

On Wednesday the Galaxy were without David Beckham. Tonight F.C. Dallas will be without reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira who suffered a gruesome broken ankle on April 23rd against Vancouver. At the time of the injury Ferreira was leading Dallas in scoring with three goals in six games.

With Ferreira out Dallas has been forced to rely on a more balanced
attack. They've had six players (other than Ferreira) score goals so far
this season, which helps to explain how they're tied for third in the
Western Conference despite playing without the league MVP.

A couple of familiar names appear on the Dallas roster. Former Union players Andrew Jacobson and Chris Seitz now wear the Dallas red and white. Seitz has yet to play, but Jacobson has appeared in seven games, starting six of them.

For the Union the story remains the same. It's lockdown defense and an offense missing in action. The game on Wednesday provided little in the way of evidence that things are going to change any time soon.

For 80+ minutes the Union had zero offense to speak of. It took yet another botched pass by an opposing player - this time it was Sean Franklin, against New York it was Tim Ream - for the Union to score a goal.

Yes, it was encouraging to see Danny Mwanga calmly beat Donovan Ricketts and open his account, but the offense didn't exactly show many positive signs. They struggle to connect on passes, are seemingly unable to put together any combination play, and appear unwilling to run at people. They've been entirely too negative in their play.

How futile has the Union offense been? Well, they're the lowest scoring team in Major League Soccer.

It's funny, I was at the game on Wednesday and had a "they've arrived as a true Philadelphia team" moment when the fans around me were yelling and pleading for the Union to go forward. They'd had enough and saw one too many back passes.

It reminded me of the fans at Flyers games who yell at the team to shoot while on the power play, or the people at Eagles games who scream at Andy Reid to run the ball. In this instance the fans in my section just wanted to see some positive play.

Fair or not their ire was mostly directed at Justin Mapp. When he arrived I wrote that he was a very talented player who had a tendency to drift for long stretches. Well, he's certainly lived up to the "drift for long stretches" part. He's been providing absolutely nothing out on the flank. I think it may be time to make a change there. Hopefully Peter Nowak watched the tape when he returned from Poland and has the same feeling.

Also, why not juggle things up top and insert Jack McInerney in place of Carlos Ruiz. They need to be more athletic up front. Ruiz just constantly sloooooooowwwwwsssss things down. You are not sacrificing anything defensively if you remove Ruiz. Please, for the love of offense make the change.

One final note. Although not listed on the injury report Mondragon suffered a groin injury on Wednesday. He managed to finish out the game, but it bears monitoring this evening. If he's unable to go the full ninety then we may see rookie first round pick Zac MacMath.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight:
Mondragon, Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams, Daniel, Okugo, Carroll, Le
Toux, Mwanga, McInerney.

Final Score Prediction: Although I think the game could end 0-0 it goes against my offensive sensibilities to predict such a score line. So, with recent history as my guide, let's say 1-0 Union.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Faryd Mondragon. A goalie? Really? Well, hopefully he's fully fit, but watch out if Mondragon is forced to come out of his net to challenge a Dallas player in behind the Union back line. Pulling a player down in the box, seeing red, and giving up a PK would be the ultimate in the history of this award.

Philly Mayor goes to bat for Eagles fans, cheesesteaks against John Oliver

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HBO's Last Week Tonight

Philly Mayor goes to bat for Eagles fans, cheesesteaks against John Oliver

Charter schools. They're complicated!

After watching John Oliver's segment on them over the weekend, you'd agree there is plenty of nuance involved in the charter school debate. But also that some of them are dirty as all get out. An underground nightclub at a SCHOOL? Jeez. That can't be okay anywhere.

It's a solid segment. But it also took a couple of unneeded digs at the city of Philadelphia, its cuisine, and its sports fans.

That irked the Mayor of Philadelphia and he fought back today on Twitter.

"Agree on charter oversight but English soccer fan who eats fish from newsprint can't judge Eagles fans, cheesesteaks," Jim Kenney tweeted.

Take that you fish-eating Brit!

You can also watch the entire John Oliver segment from Last Week Tonight below.

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end and go make plays," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision-making

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision-making

By now, most Eagles fans have probably heard stories that the team coveted Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft but waited too long and wound up watching helplessly as he went to the Seahawks. Doug Pederson was just an offensive quality control coordinator with the Birds back then, but even he realizes how losing out on a franchise quarterback altered the course of history.

“If we’d have drafted Russell Wilson in 2012, we’d still be here as coaches,” Pederson said with a smile.

That's what Pederson told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, and there might be a bit of truth to it. Despite concerns over his stature, it turns out Wilson was an outstanding NFL signal-caller from the jump. And while he was surrounded by a dominant defense and ground attack, he likely would've been a winner just about anywhere.

Actually, Wilson may not have been good enough to save Andy Reid's head coaching job in Philadelphia or his staff — after 14 years, it was time, and an offensive line depleted by injuries was the real reason behind a 4-12 final season. Regardless, Pederson learned something from waiting too long on Wilson in the draft, and based on the Eagles' aggressive move for Carson Wentz this year, the organization did too.

Simply enough, if you like a quarterback, Pederson says, “Take him. Take him. Take the best available one. If you’re not planning for the quarterback position, you’re probably not going to win many games.”

...

“There’s a lesson there. Seattle, they felt like we did with Russell Wilson,” Pederson said. “We got Nick Foles right after that, and I love Nick Foles and think he’s gonna be a good quarterback in this league and do well for Kansas City. But if you’re not planning for that position ...”

For as much criticism or questioning as the Eagles have faced for their plan at quarterback this year, "take him" certainly was not the issue. In addition to all of players and draft collateral they gave up for Wentz, they also invested large sums of money into current starter Sam Bradford and long-term backup Chase Daniel.

If you think Pederson and executive vice president of personnel Howie Roseman's experience of missing out on Wilson didn't play a role in those moves, the head coach made it quite clear to the contrary. While Eagles fans would prefer the known quantity and proven Super Bowl champion under center, you can't say this regime hasn't done everything in its power to erase that mistake.