"We traded who?!?": Why you shouldn't panic about the Union trading Jack McInerney

"We traded who?!?": Why you shouldn't panic about the Union trading Jack McInerney

Andrew Wenger, right, lunges for the ball as Seattle Sounders' DeAndre Yedlin looks on.

Even if you're the most casual Union fan, the name you know is young striker Jack McInerney. I'd guess if you asked any Philly sports fan to name one Union player, he's the name you'd get 90 percent of the time.

As of today, he's no longer a Union player.

On Friday, the Union shipped the 21-year-old striker to the Montreal Impact in exchange for 23-year-old striker Andrew Wenger.

McInerney bid a heartfelt farewell to Union fans, with a perfect understanding of how he expects to be received upon his return (August 9).

 

On the surface, this seems like a strange move to many Union fans. At this time last year, McInerney was scoring at will, on his way to a team-high 12 goals for the year. Things were very different, though, at the end of the season. McInerney scored just twice after June 1, and only started four of the last nine Union games. McInerney finished with 25 goals in his Union career, but...

 

Wenger (on Twitter @andrewwenger), who is from Lancaster and played for Reading United (now a minor league affiliate of the Union), was the first overall pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and tallied six goals in 18 starts.

(The Union now have three No. 1 overall picks on the roster: Wenger (2012), Maurice Edu (2007) and Andre Blake (2014)).

Those numbers won't wow you, but Wenger also was never "the man" in Montreal, often playing alongside Marco Di Vaio, who doesn't exactly love sharing the ball.

You may be upset with McInerney leaving, and I'm not saying it's a total "win" trade yet either. But let's put it this way, fans have been begging for years for the Union to live in the now and stop always focusing on the future.

That's exactly what they're doing with this trade. Anyone who tries the "typical Union, getting rid of a player everyone likes" argument is not paying attention. Hackworth was quite candid in his call with the media on Friday (quotes from our friend Dave Zeitlin).

"It’s one of those days that this business requires, that’s the way i’ll put it. You don’t like some of the moves you have to make in order for your team to be successful. But if you believe you’re doing the right thing, you have to do it. We want to wish Jack well in everything he does in the future and at the same time we’re excited. We have a player in Andrew Wenger that we feel will be really good for us now and in the long term.

The move has everything to do with the "right here, right now" attitude that John Hackworth is operating under this season. This is it for him, and he knows it. He doesn't have to win a title this year to keep his job, but he can't wait around for McInerney to figure out whatever has ailed him for the last 10 months, or learn to play in the team's new 4-3-3 formation.

For the first time in the Union's short history, the team has a steady formation and relatively set lineup that seems to be working. The only part that isn't working is the finishing in the final third. Wenger won't score 20 goals this year, but it was time for a change.

After years with an evolving midfield, the Union are now midfield-centric. With Edu, Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana on the squad, it's now time to build around them. And the 4-3-3 formation is generating possession in the midfield and chances on the attack. In fact, many of the good chances in the last few games have come from midfielders like Nogueira.

Even before the season started, I (and many others) wondered if McInerney could work in the 4-3-3 formation. After four games, that worry has only grown stronger. I don't pretend to know much about Wenger, but people who do seem to think he could be a better fit in the 4-3-3. Hackworth clearly agrees

Right now we it as a straight swap -- forward for forward. He is more of a prototypical No. 9 than Jack was or is. That’s where we see him. But he is versatile enough, which we really like. You could put him on the left or right, or drop him into the midfield and he’d be effective. I’ve watched him for a long time.

FYI: Wenger is suspended this week after a red-card tackle last week. So you'll likely see Casey start against Chicago on Saturday (5 p.m. - Comcast SportsNet). Amobi Okugo gave him a gentle ribbing Friday for the tackle.

 

Finally, there seem to be many who think McInerney already had his eyes on bigger and better things, even if his recent play doesn't scream "Europe." It was also understood by those "in the know" that McInerney was going to ask for a hefty raise to stay here when his contract was up.

The longer McInerney tried to play in the 4-3-3 formation, the more his flaws (at least in that formation) were going to be exposed. And the more his flaws were exposed, the more his value was going to plummet. In fact, if Conor Casey is truly fully healthy, I was about to call for McInerney to be left out of the starting XI. Not that I think Casey is ideal in the 4-3-3, either, but it was time for a change of pace.

So, Friday's trade may not be a popular move, especially with many casual fans, and I'm not 100 percent sold just yet. But it's nice to see the Union living in the now, instead of angling for more allocation money.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout of Mets

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout of Mets

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.

Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

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Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

TORONTO -- With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays' repeated comeback efforts on Saturday were starting to look like they might come up agonizingly short.

But with Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Devon Travis all facing consecutive two-strike counts against Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, an unlikely thing happened.

They all cashed in, and the Blue Jays walked off with a 10-9 victory, their fourth straight against Boston and their third walk-off win of the year.

"With the potency in our lineup, I feel like no lead is really big enough," said Martin, who went 3-for-5 and hit his third home run in four days in the sixth inning. "We can always find a way to get runners on and also if the other team makes a mistake, capitalizing on those mistakes. I think that was the key for us today. I think there was a couple miscues on defense for them and we were able to take advantage of that."

Martin kick-started the rally in the eighth that led Toronto back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at 8. But he really got things going in the ninth, with Ezequiel Carrera on as a pinch-runner for Smoak, doubling a fastball into left field to tie the game at 9 (see full recap).

Royals score 7 in 9th to beat White Sox; Perez hurt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brett Eibner wondered whether anything could surpass the Kansas City Royals' rally Friday night, when they overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut.

He did not have to wait long to find out.

Eibner singled to cap the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Royals history, a seven-run rally off David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle that lifted the World Series champions over the Chicago White Sox 8-7 Saturday.

"I didn't think I could beat yesterday and, sure enough, we come around and do this," said Eibner, who also doubled to helped spark the inning. "It's super fun. There's nothing like it. I don't think I've ever experienced that."

Kansas City's Salvador Perez was injured in the ninth when third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slid with a forearm and elbow into the left thigh of the All-Star catcher, who called off Chien-Ming Wang (3-0), settled under Adam Eaton's foul popup about 30 feet from the plate near the third-base line and snagged the ball just before he was hit.

Perez was taken for a MRI after the game and the extent of his injury was not announced. The preliminary diagnosis was a bruised left thigh (see full recap).

Braves beat Marlins to lock up first home series win
ATLANTA -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker says Gordon Beckham is "bouncing around like he's a teenager."

That makes sense, because the return to his childhood hometown has helped Beckham add new life to his career.

Beckham hit a three-run homer, Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins 7-2 on Saturday to secure their first home series win of the season.

Beckham, 29, an Atlanta native and former University of Georgia standout, spent most of his first seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox before signing with the Braves as a free agent. He is hitting .317 while earning more starts at third base and second base than was expected at the start of the season.

"I feel good," Beckham said. "I enjoy putting on this uniform every day. It's a lot of fun for me, being from Atlanta."

The Braves improved to a still-dismal 4-20 at Turner Field by winning the first two games of the three-game series. Atlanta rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second straight day (see full recap).