First Kick: Philadelphia Union in Seattle for Inaugural Game

First Kick: Philadelphia Union in Seattle for Inaugural Game

Like the rest of you, we really have no idea what to expect when the Union take the pitch for the first time tonight at Qwest Field in Seattle. An expansion franchise in the first game of its inaugural season playing in front of a loud, raucous, packed house, against a team that will contend for the MLS Cup this year.  

Qwest Field is unique in its architecture, like a huge clamshell that captures crowd noise and rains it down on the field. The fans there have set the bar high for new MLS franchises, which is a great thing for the league. Soon it will be our turn here in Delco, and there is a large contingent out in Seattle right now. Make us proud, SoBs & Co.  

Aside from the hoopla of this huge first game, here's what our man Rev will be watching to see:

Formation - Apparently Peter Nowak is going to play a 4-3-3. How does this shape fit the talent on the team? On paper the Union's biggest strength is in the back. So, having Danny Califf, Michael Orozco, Shavar Thomas, and presumably Jordan Harvey in the back four should be their greatest strength. 

  • With Fred unavailable due to picking up a red card in the season finale last year who controls the midfield? It looks like Roger Torres, Amobi Okugu, and Stefani Miglioranzi will patrol the midfield. Torres and Okugu are both 18 years old. How do they hold up playing in a hostile stadium and having to cope with a veteran European star/underwear model like Freddie Ljungberg? 
  • Finishing - They did not score in their final two preseason matches.  Who steps up amongst Alejandro Moreno, Sebastien Le Toux and Nick Zimmerman? Everything written about their training camp and preseason games indicate that Le Toux has been their most dangerous attack option. Le Toux, who is returning to Seattle, where he played last season, would obviously love to return and put one past all-time US great Kasey Keller, who will be between the sticks for Seattle. 
  • Keeper - Chris Seitz will start in goal for the Union. He's a 6'3", 230+ pound 22 year old who has vast international experience at the U-20 level. Nowak coached him in the last Olympics. How does Seitz control his area? Technically, does he set up his walls effectively? It'll be interesting to watch him mature over the course of the season. 
  • Youth - The Union have 9 players on the roster who are 22 or younger - including first overall pick Danny Mwanga, who is 18. How do they acquit themselves in their first professional game/season. I'd be mildly surprised if he sees the field tonight, but I am most looking forward to seeing 17 year old Jack McInerney play. To use a soccer term he seems "cheeky" - having scored a goal from 40+ yards out against UNC in their preseason opener. 
  • Set Pieces vs. Run of Play - It'll be interesting to see whether their presumed defensive posture translates to offensive chances on the counter attack. Can they generate offense from the run of play? How is the service from the flanks? How aggressive will they be in having their outside backs join the attack? In the alternative, how dangerous are their set pieces? Who is going to take corners and free kicks? Does Fred's absence affect their ability to execute on free kicks? For a team that will likely struggle to score goals they'll have to generate quality scoring opportunities on dead ball situations. While with the 76ers Larry Brown was a master at designing inbounds plays out of timeouts. Can Peter Nowak do the same and potentially steal a goal this way?

Here's a look at the roster, if you want to put names to faces. 

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images.

Rev will be along with a post tomorrow looking back on the Union's first game. Good luck to our boys out there tonight! Chances are we'll hear this at some point:

 

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Canada wins World Cup, rallying to beat Europe 2-1

Canada wins World Cup, rallying to beat Europe 2-1

TORONTO -- Brad Marchand scored a short-handed goal with 43.1 seconds left and Canada beat Team Europe 2-1 on Thursday night to win the World Cup of Hockey.

The Canadians won the best-of-three finals 2-0.

Patrice Bergeron tied it with a power-play goal with 2:53 left in the third, and Marchand won it with a shot from the slot.

Canada has won 16 straight games, including two Olympic gold medals, since losing to the U.S. in the 2010 Olympics.

Carey Price made 32 saves for the Canadians, who started slow before ending the tournament with a furious rally that fired up a once-quiet crowd.

Zdeno Chara scored early for Europe, and Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves for the eight-nation team.

Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament with three goals and a World Cup-high 10 points.

After getting that award, he was presented with a silver World Cup of Hockey trophy and he skated with it around the ice just months after hosting the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career.

He set up the tying goal, passing the puck off the boards to Brent Burns, whose shot just inside the blue line was redirected by Bergeron's raised stick.

Crosby was stewing after each of the first two periods.

When the game was over, he was sporting an ear-to-ear smile.

The Canadians closed the game in impressive fashion after a lackluster start.

In front of an unenthusiastic crowd and a lot of empty seats in the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadians started flat and the Europeans made them pay for their apparent apathy.

Unlike the last two times Canada trailed briefly to the U.S. and Russia, it could not come back against Europe quickly.

It looked as if it wasn't going to be Canada's night when John Tavares had a wide-open net to shoot into, but hit the right post from the bottom of the right circle. Earlier in the same shift, the New York Islanders forward missed the net on a one-timer opportunity.

Canada averaged 4.4 goals over the first five games of the tournament, giving Price plenty of support. It didn't score as much in the final game of the tournament, but two goals were enough to win thanks to Price.

Chara, a Slovakian and Boston Bruins defenseman, scored from the left circle with a wrist shot through traffic two teammates created in front of the net off a short, soft pass from Andrej Sekera in the slot.

Crosby was part of a scrum at the end of the first period in which his helmet was knocked off near Europe's net at the end of the first period. After the horn sounded to end the second, Crosby lingered on the ice to shot at Swiss defenseman Roman Josi.

Crosby was clearly frustrated, playing with a pair of Boston Bruins, Marchand and Bergeron, who had combined for 22 points through the first five games.

Europe outshot the Canadians 12-8 after the first period and 27-21 after the second.

The Canadians had three power plays over the first two periods and failed to take advantage, falling to 2 for 17 with an extra skater. On one of their power plays, they needed Price to make stops on breakaways.

Canada had a man advantage again early in the third period, but only got one shot on Halak, a Slovak and Islanders standout, on the possibly pivotal power play.

Crosby had a chance to score with 7-plus minutes left, but Halak kicked the shot away with his right skate.

Europe seemed as if it had a chance to score late when Drew Doughty was called for high-sticking with just under 2 minutes left, but Canada was the team that took advantage when Marchand got the puck into open space and beat Halak with a shot to win the first World Cup since 2004.

Instant Replay: Braves 5, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Braves 5, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Jeremy Hellickson’s final start of the season — and possibly his final one with the Phillies — was cut short by a sprained right knee Thursday night (see story).

Hellickson left the game against the Atlanta Braves after 3 1/3 innings.

The Phillies ended up losing, 5-2, in their final game at Turner Field. The Braves swept the three-game series. The Phillies have lost six of their last seven and are 70-89.

The Phillies went 82-91 over 20 years of visiting Turner Field. The Braves will move into a new stadium next season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson gave up just one hit and no runs in his 3 1/3 innings. He walked none.

The right-hander finished the season 12-10 in a career-high 32 starts. He tied a career high with 189 innings. His final ERA of 3.71 was his best since he recorded a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts for Tampa Bay in 2012.

Hellickson is eligible for free agency this winter. The Phillies would like to get draft-pick compensation if Hellickson signs elsewhere, but they must extend him a $17 million qualifying offer for 2017 and he must reject the offer in order for the club to get that pick.

Atlanta’s Josh Collmenter pitched seven innings and held the Phillies to one run. He gave up six hits, walked none and struck out four.

Bullpen report
Struggling Jeanmar Gomez entered a tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning. He gave up a walk and a tie-breaking double as the Braves took the lead. The Braves scored three more times against Gomez in the frame to put the game away.

At the plate
Odubel Herrera’s RBI single in the third inning gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead. It was the Phillies’ 600th run of the season. They were the last team in the majors to get there.

Aaron Altherr cut the Braves' lead to three with a two-out RBI single in the ninth.

Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson tied the game at 1-1 with a solo homer against Colton Murray in the sixth.

Swanson walked and scored the go-ahead run on Matt Kemp’s double against Gomez in the bottom of the eighth.

Up next
The Phillies return home Friday night for the final three-game series of the season. They will play the New York Mets, who are battling for the National League wild card. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday night — RHP Alec Asher (2-0, 1.66) vs. RHP Robert Gsellman (3-2, 2.56)

Saturday afternoon — RHP Phil Klein (0-0, 12.15) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (14-8, 3.42)

Sunday afternoon — RHP Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60)

Sunday afternoon’s season finale starts at 3:05 p.m. The team will make a special on-field presentation to Ryan Howard at 2:30.

Howard did not play Thursday night. He is expected to start all three games against the Mets. The Phillies will not pick up Howard’s contract option for 2017 and he will become a free agent.

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