Watch: Things Get Ugly in Union-United Draw

Watch: Things Get Ugly in Union-United Draw

Just
a few days after the Union and DC United exchanged a pair of players in
the trade of Lionard Pajoy for Danny Cruz, there was little in the way
of pleasantry exchange when the teams met in a Eastern Conference match
with playoff implications. The three points on the line were critical to
the Union's chances at a playoff run, but at the very least, they
wanted to leave DC with a draw. In large part due to a very visible
second half by referee Mark Geiger, the match was marked by
score-altering calls, bookings, and activity at the penalty stripe. Some
were justified and tough calls to make, but Geiger, who was a ref at
the Summer Games in London, sent off three players and disallowed a pair
of United goals in a calamitous second half. 

The Union would escape with a point in the 1-1 draw,
but no individual on the field featured more prominently than the man
wearing bright yellow. 

Getting started, each
team deployed its new attacker, with Pajoy up top alongside Dwayne De
Rosario for United and Danny Cruz handling the right side of a forward
trio including regulars Freddy Adu and Jack McInerney in the Union's
4-3-3. 

The Union struck early, converting on an Adu
freekick that pinballed across the line of United keeper Bill Hamid. The
long service by Adu was perfect, dropping into the box right in front
of the net, where Amobi Okugo was far forward and put a head on it.
Fellow centerback Carlos Valdes got a piece of the ball too, but his
attempt was blocked by a United defender. It took a fortunate carom, and
Brian Carroll got just enough to guide it into the net. 

Exactly how they drew it up… 
That lead
would hold until the 72nd minute, when Okugo was again on the receiving
end of a freekick in the box. Unfortunately, Okugo was "credited" with a
score on the play, charged with an own goal on a miscommunication
between the CB and his goalkeeper. Branko Boskovic had come on as a
second half DC sub for Pajoy, and he laced a strong service into the box
that the Union once again could not handle. One of these days… 

While the ball found the net behind Zac MacMath
twice more in the half, neither would count. Before the goal on the
freekick, DC had a goal disallowed due to a foul called on Hamdi Salihi.
United played skillfully in getting the ball into the Union third, with
nice leading passes and a dummy ball execution. Boskovich and De Ro
sliced through the Union defense with quick one-touches, and De Ro put a
sharp shot on MacMath. The Union keeper stopped it, but he couldn't get
it under wraps. Salihi more or less fell over the curled up MacMath,
not really making any attempt to brace himself away while going limply
to the ground, but not exactly slamming into him either. Gabe Farfan
tried to clear the ball, swiping it out of the reach of MacMath, but it
wound up on the foot of DC's Nick DeLeon, who put it on the open target.
The goal was disallowed due to referee Geiger's belief that Salihi
interfered with MacMath, and the Union dodged a major bullet. It
wouldn't be the last. 

More often than not, a well-dressed Roger Torres can
be found in the Stadium Club at PPL Park during home games. He has
rarely seen the field since returning from injury, but he dressed Sunday
and was brought on as a sub for Jack Mac in the 80th minute. The
skillful playmaker gets his name in the game coverage for an unfortunate
reason though, as a clear foul on Chris Pontius in the box during the
85th minute led to penalty kick that could have meant a loss for the
Union. Instead, it sparked an odd series of events that would see a goal
disallowed and a United player sent off. 

The dangerous Dwayne De Rosario lined up for the
kick, and buried it. However, Geiger whistled United for encroachment
and ordered the kick retaken.

 In the confusion immediately following the first
PK, there were some physical exchanges as the heat escalated. Players
from both sides pled their cases to the crew in yellow, and Geiger went
to his pocket. DC's Boskovich, who tussled with Torres, drew a red card
from Geiger while Garfan and Torres each got a yellow. 

When De Ro lined up to take the second attempt, he skied it. 
Though the crisis was over, the chaos wasn't yet through. 
In
extra time, two more bookings would come. You know how when you're
playing FIFA and you feel like you're getting robbed by the computer
side or your buddy is just taking it to you and it's late in the game?
Mmmmaybe you just start hitting that foul button despite the obviousness
of your tactic? That's what it looked like when DC's Emiliano Dudar
tackled Antoine Hoppenot in the 91st minute. Again, Geiger went to the
card, dismissing Dudar from the match. 

The Union will be without a player in their next
match as well though. Sheanon Williams had drawn a yellow for delaying
on a throw in during the first half, and he got another in the 95th
minute when he was booked for what was actually a brilliant ball-first
tackle. Geiger was fooled by the angle, which saw Williams make the play
from behind on a sprinting player. It looked cleanly done, but perhaps
at spot that was tough for a running ref in real time to accurately
call. 

More pushing and shoving ensued, and Bill Hamid was the next to draw yellow. 
After
the match, a clearly and understandably frustrated United side started
pushing each other. A surreal night in DC ended with a fortunate point
for Philadelphia. 

Notes:Ray Gaddis will likely start in place of Sheanon on Friday night, when the Union host Real Salt Lake. 
Hoppenot
is a force. Rev pointed out to me that the supersub has now drawn as
many red cards (2) as he has scored goals in his rookie season. 

Both sides had some thrilling chances in a
well-contested first half. The second half devolved quickly, first for
the Union, who saw the lesser end of play, but then United for all the
reasons detailed above. The Union were lucky to escape with the draw. 

I only plucked a video or two from the many that
exist over at MLSsoccer.com. Every play described above and more are
available there, and here's the full video recap. Pretty entertaining in
short form. 

Phils lose LHP in Rule 5 draft, exit winter meetings balancing present with future

Phils lose LHP in Rule 5 draft, exit winter meetings balancing present with future

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The winter meetings ended Thursday morning with the Phillies sitting out the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies’ roster was at the 40-man limit and that prohibited the team from making a pick.

The Phils did lose one player in the draft as reliever Hoby Milner was selected by the Cleveland Indians. 

Milner, who turns 26 in January, is a left-hander who recently switched to a side-arm delivery. He had a 2.49 ERA in 49 games at Double A and Triple A in 2016.

Milner was eligible for the draft because he was not protected on the 40-man roster last month. The Indians selected him for $50,000. He must stay in the big leagues all season or be offered back to the Phillies for $25,000.

Andrew Pullin was a player the Phillies feared losing, but they hung on to the lefty-hitting outfielder. Pullin, 23, hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

The Phillies selected one player, infielder Jorge Flores, in the minor-league phase of the draft. Flores had been in the Toronto system.

The Phils lost one player, 25-year-old pitcher Jairo Munoz, to Tampa Bay in the minor-league phase. Munoz pitched in the low minors in 2016.

With the winter meetings behind them, Phillies officials will head back to Citizens Bank Park to complete the construction of their 2017 roster. So far this winter, the Phils have re-signed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and added outfielder Howie Kendrick and relievers Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and David Rollins.

Remaining on the Phillies’ to-do list is adding a backup infielder – Andres Blanco could return – and deciding whether to pursue a veteran hitter to play a corner outfield spot or give an opportunity to a young tandem such as Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr. 

General manager Matt Klentak spoke often during the week about that balance he is trying to strike between improving the 2017 club while keeping intact long-range goals.

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside – that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

Time will tell which way the Phillies go on this matter. 

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

There were just two things on Paul Turner’s mind as he sprinted across the field early during the third quarter on Sunday, anticipating his first career NFL catch. 

Turner relayed them on Wednesday: 

1. “Make sure you get in [Carson Wentz’s] vision.” 

2. “You better catch this ball.” 

He did both. 

Turner, the 23-year-old undrafted receiver from Louisiana Tech, who has become a fan favorite since his stellar training camp and preseason, caught his first NFL pass during Sunday’s loss to the Bengals and it went for a big gain of 41 yards. 

On his first catch, the Eagles used the play-action to tilt the defense and Wentz threw a dart into a small window to hit Turner on an over route. Then, the rookie turned upfield with a ton of space in front of him. 

By the end of the afternoon, he caught six balls for 80 yards. It was the best receiving day for an Eagles rookie since Jordan Matthews in 2014 and was a better day than last year’s first-round pick, Nelson Agholor, has ever had. 

“It's always good to catch a few balls,” said Turner, who has been on the 53-man roster and active for just the past two games. “It gets your motor going and gets your confidence going. It just gets you more into the game and gets you excited. I think it does a lot for a person's confidence.”

Turner played 41 snaps against the Bengals in large part because Matthews was out with an ankle injury. Matthews predominantly plays in the slot, which is where head coach Doug Pederson and his coaching staff like Turner. 

“Honestly, that wasn't really my mindset going into the game,” Turner said when asked if he knew how much opportunity he’d have with Matthews out. “My mindset was to go in there and if my number was called, just go out there and make a play. Even if my number was called, just take care of my assignment and take care of the little details and I knew everything else would just take care of itself. I knew that if I got the ball, I'd be excited. But even if I didn't, just to go out there and just block, and give up myself for my teammates. That was my goal coming into the game and just try to stay focused on that.” 

It appears as though Turner has done enough to warrant keeping his playing time. As Matthews returned to practice on Wednesday — as a limited participant — Pederson said there will still be opportunities for Turner. 

“There are, there are,” Pederson said. “And these are things we talked about the last couple of days as a staff — getting Paul in there, even with Jordan coming back. I think it can be a benefit to the offense to have both of those guys ready to go.”

The Eagles still haven’t had more than four receivers active for any game this season. During the last two weeks when Turner has played, either Agholor or Matthews were out. 

“It means a lot that the coaching staff has confidence in me,” Turner said. “My biggest thing is just to come in here and just work each and every day in practice and just prepare in practice so I'm prepared when I go out there in the game.”