Vote: The700Level's Philadelphia Union 2011 Regular Season Awards

Vote: The700Level's Philadelphia Union 2011 Regular Season Awards

The Philadelphia Union will begin their first ever playoff series against the Houston Dynamo this weekend, with game 1 in Chester on Sunday. Before the playoffs make or break what should be considered a fantastic run no matter what, we thought we would take the pulse of Union fans on what were the best and brightest moments and players on the pitch this regular season.

MVP
OK we're not going to vote for an actual Most Valuable Player, because it's Sebastien Le Toux, hands down. But who would be the Union's Second Most Valuable Player?

Who is the Union's Second MVP?
Brian Carroll, Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes

Who is the Union's Second MVP?

Top Newcomer
This goes to the Union player who wasn't with the club last year. This being the MLS, there were quite a few to choose from. We're not going to list them all, but here are a few.

Who was the Union's Top Newcomer?
Freddy Adu, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Gabriel Farfan, Michael Farfan, Faryd Mondragon, Veljko Paunovic, Zac MacMath, Carlos Valdes
Who was the Union's Top Newcomer?

Best of the Backline
The Union back line went from inaugural year weakness to second year strength. The defense conceded 13 fewer goals this season, despite playing four more games.

Who was the Union's best defender?
Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams
Who was the Union's best defender?

Most Improved
Which Union player showed the most improvement during the 2011 campaign compared to 2010?

Who was the most improved member of the Union?
Danny Califf, Amobi Okugo, Kyle Nakazawa, Roger Torres, Sheanon Williams
Who was the most improved member of the Union?

Sub of the Year
The MLS season runs for 34 games over eight long months. A successful team must have quality depth and the ability to shift tactics and players on the fly. The quality of the players coming off of the substitutes bench goes a long way towards determining a team's success. These Union players were the key contributors off the bench.

Who was the best off the bench?
Danny Mwanga, Roger Torres, Kyle Nakazawa, Jack McInerney, Freddy Adu
Who was the best off the bench?

Most Disappointing
With the team improving from 8-15-7 to 11-8-15, a 17-point swing over four more games, it feels a little counterproductive to seek out the players who could or should have been better along the way. But, here are a few we expected more from.

Whose performance was most disappointing?
Juan Diego Gonzalez, Justin Mapp, Danny Mwanga, Carlos Ruiz
Whose performance was most disappointing?

Most Likely to Make the Jump Next Year
Take one look at the Union roster and you can see they place an emphasis on identifying and acquiring youth. The roster is littered with talented young players who have gained significant experience this season. These are the players we feel are most likely to make the leap and break out next season.

Which Union player is most likely to be an MLS star next year?
Michael Farfan, Gabriel Farfan, Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga, Zach Pfeffer, Roger Torres, Sheanon Williams **(We had to reset the poll below due to two players being left off that were intended to be on. The votes on this poll have been restet as well; please feel free to cast yours again if you have already.)***
Which Union player is most likely to be an MLS star next year?

So that's our completely scientific poll of the field of Union players deserving of consideration for 2011 regular season awards. In the comments, please feel free to let us know who you voted for, why, and whether we omitted anyone deserving in any category. It wasn't easy to fit so many players into these subjective categories, so there's bound to be a few.

Compiled by Rev and Matt P.

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

The Eagles might not have any top-flight cornerbacks, but they certainly have a lot of guys with some talent.

Many of them are young, and all of them are battling for just several roster spots.

That hodgepodge of talent has made the corner position one of the more intriguing spots at this year's training camp. We're not sure how it'll all shake out, who will be the starters, who will be the depth players.

But one thing's for certain: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants all of them to be aggressive.

"It's going to be fun to watch the corners compete," Schwartz said after practice Tuesday. "We have some guys that can cover. We have some guys that have a great opportunity here. If they'll get up and they'll challenge receivers, like I said before, if you can cover — you can't cover many people if you don't want to challenge guys. That's God's honest truth. I could play the deep ball. I'd get my ass 50 yards deep and you couldn't get one over the top of me, but I couldn't cover anything else.

"There's a fine line in there. And the fine line is you obviously have to play the deep ball in this league, but if that's the only thing you're worried about, you're not going to cover anything else."

Schwartz said he's happy with the blend of veteran and young players on the roster, before rattling off five names: Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, JaCorey Shepherd and rookie Jalen Mills.

The one notable omission from that list of names is second-year player Eric Rowe, who finished last year as a starter, but has been somewhat of a forgotten man this spring and summer. On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned some "hiccups" Rowe encountered learning the new defensive scheme (see story).

Even with Rowe buried on the depth chart for now, there are still plenty of talented, young corners fighting for jobs.

Carroll, on the other hand, isn't young. He's 29 and a returning starter from last year. Schwartz praised Carroll's smarts and said he's been a resource for younger players. But Carroll is also coming off of a fibula fracture and subsequent surgery. That's why he's one of the select vets that reported to camp early.

"This is important for him now," Schwartz said. "It's a good opportunity for him to come back before the full club gets here, just to sort of test it out and see how he's feeling. You don't want to judge too much. He might need a day here or there. It helps that he's a veteran player."

It seems Carroll, on a one-year deal, has a decent shot of being a starter opposite McKelvin. During the spring, Brooks worked outside in the base package and moved inside to the slot. At times, the rookie Mills also played in the slot.

Schwartz said corners in the slot need a different set of skills than the ones outside. They need to have the "courage" to take on big-bodied running backs and the occasional pulling guard. They also need to cover differently.

"It's very rare that you're getting the same routes," he said. "You're not getting the same routes from the slot as you are from the outside. So there's a different skill set. Some guys can play both, some guys can't. So it's our job to determine over the next six weeks where all the guys fit in that."

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday night, batting fourth against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. 

It's the second start in three games for Howard, who has actually been productive lately when he's gotten a chance to start. He went 2 for 3 on Saturday and had a homer in three of his previous five starts. Over that span he's gone 6 for 21 with three home runs and five RBIs as the Phillies' starting first baseman.

One of those homers was against Koehler last week at Citizens Bank Park, a two-run shot.

Howard's struggles this season have been well-documented and he's still hitting just .165, but he and Tommy Joseph have produced from a power standpoint. The only team in the majors that has more home runs from its first basemen than the Phillies (24) is the Cubs (26).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

And for the Marlins:

1. Ichiro, CF (four hits away from 3,000)
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 1B
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Jeff Mathis, C
8. Miguel Rojas, 2B
9. Tom Koehler, P

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Wayne, Pa. -- Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q+A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime.