Wait a Minute, the Union Could Finish the Weekend in First Place!

Wait a Minute, the Union Could Finish the Weekend in First Place!

If you’ve been following The 700 Level over the past couple of days, you’ve seen Steve Moore’s excellent writeups on how Philly fans can pick an English Premier League to root for. (If you haven’t, stop reading this and go do that immediately.)

Honestly, it’s hard not to get excited for the start of the English Premier League, which is undoubtedly one of the best leagues in the world, in any sport. But as the EPL season is about to begin, the MLS season is finally kinda sorta winding down as a little more than two months remain. And here’s one aspect of MLS that I think is more fun than the EPL, where the same three or four teams win every year: the parity.

If you look at the Eastern Conference standings right now, there are seven teams within nine points of each other, all of them battling to earn one of the conference’s five playoff spots. And when you factor in games in hand, the top five teams are in a virtual dead heat.

One of those teams is none other than your Philadelphia Union, who currently sit in third place, one point behind the second-place New York Red Bulls, who they just happen to be playing tonight in a nationally televised showdown at Red Bull Arena (8 p.m., NBC Sports).

Leading up to the big game, Hackworth was asked about the parity this season. Here's what he said:

“It’s a little scary. You can’t ever rest on what you did the last game, even if it’s a positive game. … We know we’re in a good spot but we also know how vulnerable we are right now. And if we take it for granted that we’re in a good spot, I think we can be hurt really quickly. That’s what happens right now. You’ve got so many teams that are bunched together and some teams have games in hand, it’s difficult to look at those standings and sort out where everyone’s going to end up at the end of the year.”

With 10 games left in the season, Hackworth admitted he’s started to do some math in his head to figure out how many points the Union need to get into the playoffs. “And it’s difficult math,” he noted. Well, here’s something that’s simple: If the Union beat the Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City loses to San Jose on Sunday, Philly will be in first place in the Eastern Conference at the end of the weekend.

So after going to the pub this morning to watch the EPL kick off Saturday, make sure to also watch one of the most important games in the New York-Philadelphia soccer rivalry this evening. The good part is Steve Moore won’t need to tell you who to root for.

Phillies take offense to Nationals' use of jawn, tell them to deactivate their Twitter account

Phillies take offense to Nationals' use of jawn, tell them to deactivate their Twitter account

Max Scherzer on Tuesday night made easy work of the Phillies in Washington's 3-2 win.

On Wednesday morning, the Nationals decided to have some fun with some Philly lingo on Twitter celebrating Scherzer's gem.

Check this jawn out.

Rest assured, the Phillies weren't going to let the Nationals' social media team get away with this one.

Check out the new 50th anniversary Flyers jerseys with gold numbers

flyers-50th-jerseys.jpg

Check out the new 50th anniversary Flyers jerseys with gold numbers

If you fancy yourself a traditionalist, these new Flyers jerseys probably aren't going to be for you. That's because these sweaters aren't orange and black. They're orange and... gold?

True, the franchise is celebrating 50 years of its existence this upcoming season, or the golden anniversary as its often known. At the same time, the use of that color on a uniform that, despite undergoing many changes through the years, has always stuck with the tried and true orange and black.

But hey, don't knock them until you've see them. Here's Flyers captain Claude Giroux modeling the new duds at the big unveiling on Wednesday.

The Flyers will wear the jerseys 12 times during the 2016-17 campaign, and it's said late team owner Ed Snider was involved in their design.

Beau Allen, Taylor Hart prove they’re scheme fits, outlast competition

Beau Allen, Taylor Hart prove they’re scheme fits, outlast competition

Plenty of people outside the Eagles’ organization — and probably a few inside — doubted that Beau Allen and Taylor Hart would be able to play in Jim Schwartz’s aggressive 4-3 defense. 

But Allen and Hart never doubted themselves. 

“I think for whatever reason, we got brought in to two-gap and I think we got labeled as two-gappers, and for whatever reason, that kind of stuck,” Allen said. “And when people think of two-gappers, they think, ‘This guy will stay on blocks and aren’t as athletic.’ I guess what I’m trying to say I think there’s a different perception between guys that two-gap and guys that play in the defense we play. 

“We’ve known all along that we can do this. And I think all the guys in the locker room have known that. It’s just kind of flipping that switch in your brain and getting used to a new mentality and scheme and being comfortable in it.”

Over the past month, they’ve shown they can indeed fit in Schwartz’s defense. 

Allen and Hart were drafted in the seventh and fifth rounds, respectively, in the 2014 draft. Allen was seen as a prototypical nose tackle and Hart a 3-4 end. While Allen played in an attacking defense in college, Hart had never played a 4-3 tackle in college or the pros. 

Still, they have both seemingly earned spots on the Eagles’ 53-man roster. 

“I hope that the play I’ve done out here in these three preseason games has shown that I’m not just a 3-4 guy,” Hart said. “I can play both schemes.”

For a long time, veteran free agent pickup Mike Martin was considered not just a roster lock, but also a rotation player on the defensive line. He worked as the third tackle for a lot of the offseason before hurting his knee. He missed a couple weeks and was recently cut. 

So how did Martin go from being a contributor to off the team?  

“The knee just never came back,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It just never bounced back, and it is hard. It's tough for players and veteran players like that. You're making decisions that are kind of out of his control.”

With Martin gone, the top two backup tackles appear to be Allen and Hart, while undrafted rookies Destiney Vaeao and Aziz Shittu appear to be on the outside looking in.

With a roster spot already likely locked in, Allen will play in the preseason finale against the Jets, where he joked he hopes to pad his stats. Hart’s preseason is already over. He has knee and ankle injuries that will keep him out for the Jets' game, but Pederson said Hart will be ready for the opener. 

Ready for the opener? That sounds like Hart has already won a job. 

“I didn’t hear that,” Hart said. “Well, we’ll see what happens.”

Allen and Hart roomed together during their rookie seasons and remain close friends. They also worked incredibly hard this offseason to pickup a new defense and shed that “two-gapper” label. 

One guy who might not be as surprised about Allen and Hart’s success in the defense is the guy in charge of it. Back in early August, before the pair showed what they could do in a game, Schwartz was asked about them and said, “Don’t sell those guys short. Just because that's what they were asked to do doesn't mean [that’s] the only thing [they’re capable of doing].

Turns out he was right. 

Was there ever really that preconceived notion that they couldn’t play in this defense? 

“Maybe from you guys (media),” Hart said with a smile. “I believed in myself.”

It looks like that belief is paying off.