Crew Thick...Union host Columbus

Crew Thick...Union host Columbus

The Union face Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew
tonight at PPL Park (8PM/ESPN2) in the first ever match
between these two teams. Peter Nowak’s team looks to rebound from a
disappointing 1-1 draw with New England last
Saturday. The Crew, who “boast” one of the more unfortunate logos in American
professional sports, are coming off a 3-1 loss to Chivas.

Columbus arrives in Chester with one the most
productive designated players in league history. In the course of leading the
Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup Guillermo Barros Schelotto was named the 2008 MLS Most
Valuable Player, MLS Cup 2008 MVP and was a member of the 2008 MLS Best XI team.
He brings a wealth of experience, having appeared in 211 games for Boca
Juniors. He also brings a bit of a nasty streak as he was suspended for a game
earlier this season for throwing an elbow at Chivas USA defender Michael Umaña.

The Crew also feature a few players familiar to anyone who’s
followed the USMNT over the years. Although he did not play against Chivas the
ageless and tireless Frankie Hejduk remains a viable option for the Crew as an
outside back. You think Sebastien Le Toux can run all day? Hejduk, who turns 36
today, never stops running. Ever.

Eddie Gaven, who signed with MLS at the age of 16, is in his
eighth year in the league. Despite looking like he should be playing guitar
next to Chris Robinson with the Black Crowes Gaven was once seen as a potential
cornerstone for the USMNT. Although he has not lived up to expectations on the
international level he has found a niche with Columbus as a midfielder who is able to get
forward and flash in the offensive third. He leads the Crew in minutes played.

Finally, Chad
Marshall holds
things down in the middle of the Crew backline. At 6’4” Marshall provides an imposing presence in the
back. He’ll also pose a challenge for the Union
on set pieces.

What did we learn about the Union from their draw against New England? Well, we learned that Le Toux has no
problems cracking bending balls from the top of the eighteen into the back of
the net. We also learned that goalie Chris Seitz did not do such a great job
setting up his wall on New England’s goal off
of a free kick.

I thought newcomer Eduardo Coudet acquitted himself quite
well in his first MLS game. He provided creativity and passing ability from the
center of the park. He often came back into the defensive third to receive the
ball and jumpstart the Union attack. Although he’s not wearing the #10 shirt he
certainly played like a traditional #10 - at least more so than any other Union
midfielder has so far.

Aside from Coudet’s introduction into the lineup I thought
the Union dominated possession for long stretches of the New
England game. Soccer is just a cruel sport in that the Union seem to continually be punished for their mistakes.
Their inability to get out of their own way has really been the story of the
season thus far.

What, if anything, would I change if I was filling out the
lineup card tonight? Well, assuming he’s healthy I would insert Shea Salinas
into the right back spot Cristian Arrieta has been occupying. Nowak’s been
implementing a get-forward-or-get-out-of-the-way-style all season. Why not then
insert Salinas
into the lineup and let him run at people? He certainly has the pace.

One other change I would make would be to sit down Alejandro
Moreno. Yes, he brings veteran savvy to the field. Yes, he has a wonderful
ability to hold up play and draw fouls. However, he’s shown an inability to put
the ball into the net. The Union have a glut
of midfielders. Why not pair Le Toux and Danny Mwanga up top and go with a
midfield of Fred, Stefani Miglioranzi, Coudet, and Justin Mapp (or any other
midfield combination for that matter)? I’d like to see Nowak shake up his
forward pairing.

The Crew present a serious challenge for the Union. While they’ve been tremendous at home this will be
the stiffest home test they’ve faced thus far. They’ve shown they can play with
anyone. They’ll need to keep things tight in the back and stay away from that
one devastating mistake.

One final note before I throw my final score prediction out
there. The Union announced they’ve come to
terms with Colombian defender Juan Diego Gonzalez Alzate. He’s played in Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico.
No word on when he’ll make his debut, but he brings some much needed depth to
the Union’s central defense.

 

Final Score
Prediction:
Schelotto and his Mitch Albom haircut are too much for the Union as the Crew win it 2-1.

Hakstol intrigues with pairing, potential of Konecny, Couturier, Voracek

Hakstol intrigues with pairing, potential of Konecny, Couturier, Voracek

VOORHEES, N.J. — Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek styled matching green jerseys during Friday’s practice at Flyers Skate Zone.

Together, they whipped around the ice in what head coach Dave Hakstol called a “physical, grinding, competitive day, probably the most competitive of camp … and that was for a purpose.”

Flyers fans are likely crossing their fingers, hoping the trio in green holds a purpose, as well.

The line of Konecny, Couturier and Voracek was a new wrinkle to 2016 training camp, a day before the team’s fifth preseason game. Maybe an experiment of sorts by Hakstol, but one that exudes all kinds of potential leading up to Saturday night’s contest against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

“It’s one day of practice,” Hakstol said. “They were fine. I wasn’t keying on that line in any way, I was keying on a lot of our team play. They were fine, they worked hard. To really see what kind of chemistry they have and how productive they can be, we’ll have to wait until the game [Saturday] if they’re together.”

Will we see that?

“You might,” Hakstol said. “I don’t have anything set yet.”

Konecny played left wing Friday, next to Couturier at center and Voracek on the right. If that is in fact the case Saturday, the 19-year-old Konecny will see another golden opportunity to woo management in his push for a roster spot. The Flyers purposely paired Konecny with NHL forwards Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl in Wednesday’s 2-0 preseason win, and the 2015 first-round pick responded with a goal and an assist.

Friday marked a new day with new possibilities.

“It felt good,” Konecny said. “Just like the game [Wednesday] night, you’re playing with good players and it makes the game easier. I was just trying to keep things simple and work hard.”

Couturier and Voracek are two of the Flyers’ most skilled passers and playmakers. Combine them with Konecny — a prized prospect with the same traits — and it’s hard to measure the upside.

“It opens up a lot of space,” Konecny said. “Those guys are big out there, so when they’re going to the corners, it creates a little room for me. I’ve just got to find the holes and find the spots and the puck kind of just comes to you.”

Left wing is Konecny’s best shot at making the team’s roster and snagging a top-six role. The Flyers are heavy at right wing while light at left. Among the Flyers’ group of forwards, it’s the position of greatest need.

Like Hakstol said, Friday’s practice had purpose. So Konecny’s trying out left wing had substance, too.

“I think it’s a possibility,” Hakstol said. “I wouldn’t say that’s an absolute, but that’s one area that we’re looking at — not just for him, but for other players. So that’s one possibility.”

Konecny, more of a right winger and/or center, has no qualms with playing left. Really, a player of his ilk can make an impact regardless of position.

“I’ve played all positions through junior,” he said. “I’ve played right, middle and left, so wherever I fit in, I’d play there. I’m trying not to look too far ahead, though, just trying to play every day, and wherever I am that day, I’ll focus on that position and get the job done that day.

“I usually end up on the left wing when I’m coming across the ice anyway. I enter the zone on that side of the ice, so it helps me. I actually think I see the ice better when I play on that side of the ice.
 
“I got another day to play today. It’s just about earning each and every day.”

Voracek and Couturier, both of whom have yet to play in a preseason game because of World Cup of Hockey competition, looked at Friday as just another practice with new elements — such is life in training camp.

“It needs some work, obviously we need to get used to each other but if we skate and play with the puck, we should be fine,” Voracek said.

“Even last year along with this year, every game [Konecny has] been very solid. He’s a hard-working kid for his size. He’s very greedy, he’s not scared and he’s skating well. For a 19-year-old, he’s looking very, very sharp.”

Roster talk
According to a report by generalfanager.com, the Flyers waived forwards Petr Straka, Andy Miele, Chris Conner and Greg Carey, as well as defenseman and South Jersey native T.J. Brennan. None of the five were seen practicing Friday and the Flyers did not have an announcement. If they clear waivers — which seems likely — they’ll report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

With the reported moves, the Flyers’ roster stands at 34, including injured players Nick Schultz, Mark Alt and Cole Bardreau. The Flyers will have to be at 23 by the season opener Oct. 14.

Goalie situation
Hakstol said whomever is in net Saturday will play the entire game. He would not say if it would be Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth. An announcement will be made Saturday morning. Neuvirth is back from the World Cup and has yet to play a preseason game.

Gudas update
Defenseman Radko Gudas (wrist), who said Wednesday he’s “pretty close” to 100 percent, will “definitely” play in a preseason game, Hakstol said. The coach would not say whether it would be Saturday or next week.

Carson Wentz named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

Carson Wentz named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

As Carson Wentz rolls out of bed, he wins an award. Brushes his teeth, wins an award. Eats breakfast, award.

This time, the Eagles' rookie quarterback has been named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Steelers in a 34-3 Week 3 win.

Against the Steelers, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a 125.9 passer rating. He beat out Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, Browns CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun and teammate Wendell Smallwood.

This is the second time in three weeks that Wentz has been named the NFL Rookie of the Week.

Here are the awards Wentz has won so far this season:

- NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 1
- NFC Offensive Player of Week 3
- NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for September
- NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 3

Wentz won't have any chances to win more awards this weekend as the Eagles are on their bye. They'll play again on Oct. 9 in Detroit.