You Go Call Your Crew

You Go Call Your Crew

Two months. It's been two months since the Union last won a league game. They are in the midst of an eight game winless streak. Somehow they sit third in the Eastern Conference. Amazingly, if the season ended today they'd qualify for the MLS playoffs.

Tonight they face the Columbus Crew, who sit atop the Eastern Conference, five points clear of the Union (7:30PM/The Comcast Network).

Peter Nowak's side will face a shorthanded Crew team. Tony Tchani, Eddie Gaven and Emilio Renteria are out due to injury. Emmanuel Ekpo is out due to a red card suspension. Chad Marshall, although likely to play tonight, is coming off of a hip injury which forced him out of Wednesday's 2-2 tie against Houston.

[Update: Starting Lineup Released and Listed After The Jump...]

If ever the Crew were susceptible, it's tonight. The question remains whether the struggling Union can take advantage and pick up their first ever win against Columbus.

As Yogi Berra said, it's getting late early for the Union. After tonight the Union have just five games left on the schedule. They need to figure things out and get a move on.

Can they finally play a complete game? They'll need to if they hope to gain ground on the conference leader. Many people are calling this the biggest game in franchise history.

What can they do to win tonight? Well, finishing their chances would be nice. They certainly had the better of play last week against Portland, but were unable to score and settled for a 0-0 tie.

They'll also need their midfield to be active and actually be a conduit from the back line to the forwards. Their midfielders will need to provide some width and play dangerous balls into the box. Finally, they'll need to show a killer instinct in the final third.

The Union are running out of time to figure things out. Someone needs to step up and take ownership of this team. Sebastien Le Toux has been their most dangerous player offensively. Someone, anyone, needs to raise their game and take over.

It may be a bit much to ask of him considering he only joined the team a little over a month ago, but Freddy Adu needs to provide that creative attacking presence. The back line needs to play like they did last week in front of rookie keeper Zac MacMath.

The margin of error in Major League Soccer is not that great. In order to win you need to do the little things. Doing the little things is what made the Union so successful early in the season. If they have any hope of making it to the postseason they desperately need to get back to doing those little things.

Lineup I'd like to see tonight: Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabe Farfan, Brian Carroll, Freddy Adu, Kyle Nakazawa, Roger Torres, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga

Final Score Prediction: Desperationc carries the day as the Union finally earn the three points with a 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely To See Red: Brian Carroll. Because why not?

UPDATE: The Union announced their starting lineup. It looks like this: MacMath; G. Farfan, Califf, Valdes, Williams; Carroll, Adu, Torres, Pfeffer; Le Toux, M. Farfan.

Yes, Peter Nowak is starting 16 year old homegrown player Zach Pfeffer in one of the most important games in the young history of the franchise. Wow. No pressure, Zach. Also, Michael Farfan is getting the starting nod up top ahead of Danny Mwanga and Veljko Pauno. Okkkkkkk, experimenting with the lineup.

 

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

In his first month in the NFL, Carson Wentz's trophy case was filling up quickly. 

He won two NFL Rookie of the Week awards to go along with being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 3 and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

It's hard to believe all of that happened this year. 

Since September, the Eagles have gone 2-7 and Wentz has looked like a rookie. Sure, the Eagles have some major deficiencies on offense that haven't made his life any easier, but it's no longer possible to simply overlook the regression of the No. 2 overall pick. 

Could this tough stretch negatively affect Wentz long term?  

"I don't think it's going to affect Carson going forward," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "I just don't think it's going to affect him at all, because he's really a pro's pro and he's learning how to handle adversity for the first time, probably, in his career. It's something that we get to the OTAs and we get a full offseason in and we just continue to work on it."

It's fair to say the 2016 season was probably never really about this year and making the playoffs. It's clear the more important thing is to develop Wentz into the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. But the one thing the team probably didn't want to see was regression. It seems like that's what has happened. 

In the first four games of the season, Wentz had a passer rating over 100 three times and hasn't done it since then. Take a look at the difference in the first quarter of his season compared to the next two. 

First four games: Completion percentage of 67 percent, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, passer rating of 103.5. 

Next eight: Completion percentage of 61 percent, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, passer rating of 70.1. 

The Eagles will enter their final quarter of the season when they host Washington on Sunday. The best way to avoid any long-term issues stemming from a tough rookie season is to end on a stronger note. 

"Well, you avoid it by trying to win a football game, and you try to win as many as you can now with these last four that we've got," Pederson said. "If you're looking towards next season, you always want to go out with a bang and try to win as many as you can down the stretch."

Way back in training camp, the plan was for 2016 to be a redshirt year for Wentz. He was supposed to sit behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Bradford was traded and the Eagles elected to start their prized quarterback from the onset. 

Wentz went from a redshirt season to being on pace to throw 603 passes, which would shatter the Eagles' record for a single season. 

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made that if there was going to be some growing pains, these were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through," Pederson said. "And just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Wentz and Pederson seemingly had a disagreement after Sunday's game, when Pederson attributed Wentz's struggles to mechanical problems, while Wentz denied that was the case. Pederson held firm to his belief that those mechanical issues can be corrected and it's probable Wentz spoke out of frustration on Sunday night. 

If Wentz is frustrated, it would be understandable. It hasn't been an easy couple of months. 

"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "These are discussions that we will have, myself, [Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], Carson [Wentz], as we talk to him, because we've played obviously at this level, and my experience, even in this city playing and knowing what that's all about, we can really help him. It’s our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days.