Vancouver Whitecaps In Town For Union Home Opener

Vancouver Whitecaps In Town For Union Home Opener

I have to admit that after looking at it for the first time it was a
bit jarring to see the Union listed at the top of the Eastern Conference
table. Sure, it's been just one game, but it certainly was different
seeing a 0 in the loss column. Being on the good side of .500 for the
first time in franchise history isn't bad at all.

They'll put their first ever winning record on the line today against
the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps (4PM/6ABC). Vancouver is coming off
one of the more impressive debuts ever. They thrashed Toronto 4-2 in
front of a raucous home crowd. Under the radar designated player Eric
Hassli paid immediate dividends scoring two goals for the Whitecaps.

The Union season opener in Houston was notable for a number of reasons.
First, they picked up a road win, which was all too rare last season.
Second, they kept a clean sheet. Third, they won a game where they had
little possession and even fewer quality scoring chances. That would
have never happened last season.

Despite only being forced to make two saves I feel confident in
saying that the clean sheet does not happen without Faryd Mondragon in
goal. I know I was more confident simply watching the game with him in
net. With that being said I cannot imagine the calm the Union players
felt with the big keeper between the sticks.

Mondragon expertly managed his back four. He controlled his box. At
one point he even pulled Carlos Valdes away from a small pushing match.
The guy was in total control. Again, it's only been one game, but if
this is what we can expect the signing will be an incredible success.

Another bright spot was the central midfield combination of Stefani
Miglioranzi and Brian Carroll. They did a nice job of patrolling the
center of the pitch and making life difficult for the Dyanmo. The
flipside to that was the frightening regularity with which Brad Davis
roamed free down the flanks. The Union need to shut down those sorts of
runs.

Offensively the Union did not have much punch. I am not a huge fan of
playing Sebastien Le Toux up top, and would much prefer he played in an
advanced midfield role. Will Peter Nowak pair Danny Mwanga and Carlos
Ruiz up front today? With Justin Mapp ailing with a hamstring injury
it's likely that Le Toux will indeed move to a midfield position.

Regardless of who Nowak puts there they won't have to deal with Jay
DeMerit, who will be in New Jersey on national team duty as the U.S.
host Argentina in a friendly. Michael Boxhall, who started against
Toronto alongside DeMerit in the center of the backline, will also be
missing as he's away representing New Zealand during this international
window.

Davide Chiumiento, who was all over the field for the Whitecaps,
helping to create a ton of chances and picking up two assists, is
alternately listed as doubtful/out for today (hamstring strain). Shea
Salinas, the former Union man, also will not play as he deals with a
knee sprain.

This is a tough spot for the Whitecaps. They are coming off the high
of the first win in franchise history. They had to hop on a plane and
travel from one coast to the other. They're also facing a team Union in
front of a rabid home openining crowd.

Final Score Prediction: The U reward the PPL faithful with a 2-1 home win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: I'll go with Valdes, who showed a bit of a temper last week.

Wayne Simmonds gets engaged during Flyers' bye week

Wayne Simmonds gets engaged during Flyers' bye week

So far, 2017 has been a pretty big year for Wayne Simmonds.
 
In addition to being named to his first All-Star team this year, Simmonds clearly had big plans on how to spend his bye week away from hockey, before returning to play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. He popped the question to his girlfriend, Crystal Corey, and she said yes.
 
Simmonds announced the engagement on his Instagram.

11,700 feet and she said YES! I Love you @cryscorey đź’›#SimmondsandSimmonds

A photo posted by Wayne Simmonds (@wayne17simmonds) on

Simmonds is the second Flyer to get engaged this season after Claude Giroux popped the question in December.
 
Congratulations, Wayne!

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, C: Cash money or Kelce?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, C: Cash money or Kelce?

Time to talk everybody's favorite Eagles whipping boy, or one of them in Jason Kelce, who's viewed very differently by fans than he is his peers. Case in point, it might surprise some readers to learn Kelce was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl for 2016, which means a lot of NFL players and coaches must've been voting for him.

We know Eagles fans weren't coming out in droves. Yet if we were to go off of only the respect people around the league have for Kelce, he's considered one of the top eight centers in football. That ranking also happens to be roughly commensurate with his salary cap hit for 2017, which is currently 10th at the position, according to OverTheCap.

That's still going to be high for many critics that say Kelce is too undersized and has become too frequently penalized in recent years. It's especially high when you tell some of those same people the Eagles could save nearly $4 million by going in a different direction.

The trade or release of Kelce would free up $3.8 million to be exact, although once again, that's before we consider the cost of replacing him. And unlike other areas of the Eagles roster, there really isn't a young prospect waiting in the wings to take over, even somebody who is maybe only a year away from being ready to take over.

So if the Eagles were to get rid of Kelce, they would have to pay somebody to replace him. Granted, only 14 centers carry a higher cap number, and many starters make half of the six-year veteran's money, so there are cheaper options available — although, what kind of quality is the offense getting for that price?

Kelce is a perfect example of when the grass isn't always greener. There are some big, mauling centers around the NFL, like the Pouncey brothers, and who doesn't love that? But while Kelce isn't necessarily going to rip anybody's spine out at the point of attack, there probably isn't a better center in the league at pulling or blocking at the second and third levels. He's a unique player from that perspective, something people tend to forget.

The Eagles are not going to upgrade the position by going significantly cheaper. Kelce can hold his own in pass protection, and he's elite when the play design allows him to get into space. There's also something to be said for his knowledge of the offense, in addition to the rapport he's building with Carson Wentz.

Best case scenario, the Eagles are probably replacing him with Stefan Wisniewski, who the club paid $2.76 million in 2016. Figuring a raise, that's most of their cap savings right there, and Wisniewski is not nearly as decorated or so widely respected by his peers. There must be a reason for that.

Kelce is pretty good.

CENTERS UNDER CONTRACT

Jason Kelce
Age: 30*
Cap Number: $6,200,000

The bigger issue with Kelce is he's approaching his 30th birthday this year, although many centers enjoy lengthy careers, especially the guys who play more of a finesse game. And if the Eagles do want to start thinking about the future, it might help if they begin developing his replacement now. Kelce will be much easier to move on from in 2018 in terms of the salary cap, so if the Eagles draft somebody this year, theoretically they could move on next season. Keep in mind, Kelce was a sixth-round pick, and the club got a lot of mileage out of him, so it doesn't have to be a major investment. Plus, if that doesn't work out, renegotiation could be on the table, with Kelce's cap hit reaching $7.2 million in '18, but only $1.2 million of prorated signing bonus left on a contract that runs through 2020. The Eagles will be looking to reduce their costs, while Kelce will want some financial security.

Josh Andrews
Age: 26*
Cap Number: $615,000

Andrews joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2014, and after a few years of clinging to the practice squad and on the 53-man roster as a reserve, finally saw his first action on offense this season. He played one snap at center against the Ravens in Week 15. Andrews can also line up at guard and has played special teams, though spent most of '16 inactive. He seems like a bit of a Chip Kelly outcast at this point, although it's difficult to put him in a box with so little actual experience. Is Andrews somebody who simply hasn't been given an opportunity and could fill in capably for Kelce, or will the Eagles feel the need to find competition for his roster spot?

Aaron Neary
Age: 25*

Neary originally joined the Broncos roster as an undrafted rookie, but found his way to the Eagles practice squad following his release. The Eastern Washington prospect was a two-time All-American at the Division I-AA level. At 6-foor-1, 305 pounds, Neary is considered undersized, like Kelce, which suggests this organization wants nimble centers like that. While he's probably a ways away from having any impact, the Eagles signed Neary to a futures contract at the conclusion of the season.

* Age as of 12/31/2017