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.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.