Union post impressive win (over bad team), even score a really nice goal in the process

Union post impressive win (over bad team), even score a really nice goal in the process

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Hey, a win!

The Philadelphia Union did what any respectable (or even semi-respectable) team should do and beat up on lowly Chivas USA Saturday night, posting a 3-0 win in Southern California.

Sure, Chivas is maybe the only team more disappointing than the Union this season, and is a perennial laughing stock in MLS, but still, three points is three points.

The highlight of the night was an absolutely beautiful team goal that started with Maurice Edu near the center circle. Edu sprayed a really nice pass wide to the left to Cristian Maidana. For an instant, Maidana, who had struggled up until that point after missing last week's game due to suspension, seemed to lose his touch near the top of the penalty area, but recovered with a perfectly placed left-footed cross. Conor Casey, who got the start over Andrew Wenger, left no doubt, with a sorta-diving header past goalie Dan Kennedy (usually the only Chivas player worth noticing).

Conor Casey's early penalty kick and Maidana's second-half goal that absolutely should not have counted due to offsides capped the scoring for the Union.

I went to bed with two thoughts on the match:

1) Philadelphia is now 3-1 this season in games where Amobi Okugo is the captain. And you know when Okugo gets the armband? When Brian Carroll doesn't play.

As someone pointed out when I tweeted that during the game:

2) In my totally-devoid-of-inside-information opinion, the win all but guarantees manager John Hackworth will be here through the end of the season. Considering he's still here even after multiple embarrassing losses, it's clear the team doesn't want to pull the trigger. And I figured the only thing that would've forced ownership's hand was two more bad losses before the World Cup break.

Barring a complete meltdown Saturday night at home against Vancouver (i.e. losing 6-0 or 14-2), I think Hack will get to see the season out.

 

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."