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.

 

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

It appears that Carson Wentz' fanbase in North Dakota is still pretty strong. Before North Dakota State’s game against Illinois State Saturday afternoon, fans were seen walking around the parking lot in Carson Wentz Eagles’ jerseys. 

Wearing Eagles gear at the tailgate was not all, however. A large group of people begun chanting “Carson” over and over to show their love and support for the Eagles quarterback. 

This is not the first time we have seen North Dakota State fans showing how much they adore Carson Wentz. Going back to the NFL Draft, fans were seen on the red carpet wearing North Dakota State Wentz jersey’s and waving flags.

On Sept. 19, when the Eagles played the Bears, North Dakotans traveled to see Wentz play in person.

Clearly, Wentz has a lot of love from his fans back at home, but it is safe to say that Eagles fans love him just as much after he has led them to a 3-0 start.  

It doesn't hurt that Wentz' cousin, Connor, plays for North Dakota State. Connor is a redshirt junior tight end.

John Clark with Connor Wentz

A photo posted by Rob Kuestner (@rkuestner23) on

Expect Sixers to take cautious approach with Ben Simmons

Expect Sixers to take cautious approach with Ben Simmons

Expect the Sixers to take a cautious approach when determining Ben Simmons’ return to the court.

Simmons will undergo surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, according to a league source. No date has been set for the surgery. On Friday, Simmons rolled his ankle during the final training camp scrimmage. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Sixers believe Simmons has an acute injury that is not related to his weight, which is up to 250 pounds.

The Sixers placed a heavy emphasis on maintaining health and preventing re-injuries during camp. That focus will continue into the regular season. They implemented load management, in which they allocate the best use of a player’s designated minutes. 

The approach was applied to Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, as they entered the preseason coming off of injuries. Embiid, who is nearing his NBA debut, had been sidelined the past two years with foot injuries. Okafor underwent season-ending right knee surgery last March. Both are slated to play Oct. 4 in the preseason opener. Gerald Henderson also followed load management for rest.  

“There are more variables going on pre-practice,” Brett Brown said Friday. “Before we design our practices and figure out how we’re going to maneuver through the day, the first thing we always do is we put on a digital projector a depth chart and we have the medical staff behind us talking about the circumstances of each player and the restrictions that each player has. 

“Once you understand that world, then you go over to the practice plan and you say, ‘How do you want to spend your money?’ I don’t want to use Joel’s minutes up in a lot of small drills when I could spend it easily and more wisely playing.”

Following this plan, Embiid, Okafor and Henderson did not participate in all of the scrimmages. When they did, Brown utilized Embiid and Okafor in spurts instead of long stretches. 

“Four-minute clumps and really trying to test themselves,” Brown said. “Let’s learn a little bit before we play the Celtics. Let’s just go as hard as you possibly can, let’s see what that means.”

The mapped-out formula allows the players to gauge how they assert their energy on the court. The Celtics took a similar approach with Kevin Garnett during the 2011-12 season. Doc Rivers implemented a “5-5-5” plan in which Garnett played in three five-minute spurts. 

“You kind of know the rhythm you are going to have,” Okafor said. “I think that’ll make it easier for myself and I’m sure for Jo as well knowing that we have four minutes to go as hard as we can, to make an impact on the game, and then we have a sub.” 

The Sixers assessed the length of these segments by comparing them to real-game situations. They want the scrimmage setting to simulate the flow regular season contest. The Sixers are looking to feature an uptempo this season and ranked first in the NBA last season with a total of 1,427.4 miles run. 

“With our sports science program, we’re designing our practice on trips,” Brown said. “How many trips does a normal NBA game have before there’s a stoppage in play? You see, it’s about six, seven trips. You’ve got to go for that … We’re very calculated on how we design our practice to reflect the true pace of a game.”

While there is the eagerness of players to make a comeback as quickly as possible, following the team’s carefully constructed recovery timeline is critical to prevent the reoccurance of injuries. Embiid better understands the importance of waiting after undergoing two surgeries. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab … the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor told me you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to people have to say.”

The Sixers drafted Simmons to be a centerpiece of their team for the future, not just this season. It is worth being careful early on to help him be healthy down the road.