Wenger, McInerney face (immediate) pasts Saturday as Union head to Montreal

Wenger, McInerney face (immediate) pasts Saturday as Union head to Montreal

Montreal Impact's Jack McInerney celebrates his goal against the the Chicago Fire on April 12.

In general, storylines revolving around players facing their old teams are drenched in clichés.

The player wants to prove himself … the player is excited to see old friends … the player isn’t sure what kind of response he’ll get from his old fans … the player cares more about winning than doing well personally in his return … blah blah blah.

But because Saturday’s MLS game between the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo (4 p.m., The Comcast Network) comes just three weeks after the blockbuster trade that sent Jack McInerney from Philly to Montreal in exchange for Andrew Wenger, this one feels different.

It feels, well, juicier.

Sure, Wenger did his part to fill in the clichés during a press conference from PPL Park on Wednesday, saying some version of all of the above lines.

But good ol’ honest Jack told Matt De George of the Delaware County Daily Times that “if I scored three goals and we won 3-0, that would be an ideal scenario.” He also echoed what he told me three weeks ago about “wanting to prove they made a big mistake” when he takes the field opposite his old coaches and teammates - still a cliché but slightly more ominous.

Of course, we’re not going to know who “won” the trade based on Saturday’s game. Both Wenger and McInerney have already scored since the deal and seem to be relatively good fits with their new teams. And even though McInerney already had his breakout season last year while Wenger is still looking for his, it’s probably fair to say that both young players can be potential stars in this league if they figure a few things out.

But with the Union (1-2-5) winless in their last six games and without a goal from the run of play in their last two, you can bet that fans will start clamoring even more than they have been if the Union lose to a winless Montreal team. And if McInerney scores in an Impact win, you can probably DEFINITELY bet on a full-fledged freakout back in Philly.

Dave's prediction sure to be wrong: McInerney and Wenger both score in a 2-2 draw as the Union continue their quest for setting the MLS record for most ties in a season. We’ll give the other goals to Union-killer Marco Di Vaio and Cristian Maidana, who seems due to open his MLS scoring account for Philly.

Now here’s Steve Moore’s take and his prediction that will probably be less wrong than mine:

* * *

The Union's streak of draws and overall record are certainly rubbing fans the wrong way. But it's more than that, at least right now. It's the lack of attacking chances (John Hackworth both shrugged off the team's low "shots on goals" total, and also said they have to pull the trigger more often). But it's also Hackworth's seeming acceptance of draws instead of frustration over missing out on a win. Especially at home.

There is no reason the Union should have accepted a 0-0 draw with Houston last weekend. When playing at home -- especially against a team that is struggling, like Houston -- the last 15 to 20 minutes of a tie game should be treated as if you're behind. Make attacking subs, take chances going forward. That's not what we saw last weekend. And that's not what we heard this week from Hackworth:

We legitimately feel as though we should’ve won five of our eight games for sure at a minimum. … What I will say though is that within our team, we’re very confident about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And my experiences as a coach is that the more you continue to play that way, the chances will turn. The tide will turn and we will see the results start to come our way."

Just as the Union -- who entered the season with high expectations -- should not accept draws at home, they should not be OK with playing for a draw Saturday in Montreal against a winless club. Stade Saputo is a tough place to play (this is actually Montreal's first game there this season after a few home dates at Olympic Stadium), but the Union are flat-out better than the Impact.

Also, judging from Hackworth's comments this week, we'll likely see striker-turned-centerback Aaron Wheeler yet again, instead of former MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry. Let's just say I don't agree, and leave it right there for now. We'll address it some more next week, especially if Wheeler loses track of Di Vaio once or twice in the penalty area.

I agree with Dave that Wenger gets on the board against his old club. But I'll go with another goal from Vincent Nogueira and a third from Maurice Edu. The Union finally break their endless string of draws in an entertaining tilt north of the border.

Steve's prediction sure to be wrong: Union 3, Impact 2.

* * *

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the untimely death of Sons of Ben founding member Eric Shertz. If you're unfamiliar with the story, Dave wrote eloquently on the subject this week.

I didn't know Eric very well, but I did know him, as did nearly every single Union fan. If you never met him, you knew him as that long-haired pony-tail guy at the front of the River End screaming and waving his scarf (he cut the pony tail off in recent years).

If you walked within 10 feet of Eric, chances are he introduced himself, and likely remembered your name. He walked me around my first Sons of Ben tailgate back in 2010, when it seemed like everyone already knew everyone else and I knew no one. He organized a season-long baggo tournament that was more put-together than most youth soccer leagues.

Eric's death at the far-too-young age of 38 has shaken up the Sons of Ben, who are as tight-knit as any fans can be. To non-soccer people, a group of fans who sing and drink and raise money for charity and hang out together away from the stadium might seem a little strange. But if you saw the outpouring of support last week from not only Union fans, but fans and supporters groups from nearly EVERY other soccer club in the United States, you realize that while you might think it's a little weird, Eric and the rest of the SOBs embrace it.

Eric's funeral was slated for Friday and a wake is scheduled for Saturday at Stoney's Pub in Delaware. You can donate to help with funeral costs and to help his family, including his 16-year-old son Gabe, at this link.

And you can bet on a moving tribute in The River End come May 10, when the Union next play at home against D.C. United.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/niCi2Pjx7_I width=620 height=349]

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”