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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College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

Villanova headlined Philly college basketball action today with a 78-68 win over Providence, led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins (see full recap). The win is dampened with the news that Phil Booth is increasingly unlikely to return this season as he still deals with knee discomfort (see story).

Here's a snapshot from the rest of area hoops today.

Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The way it played this week, No. 21 Purdue is acting like a team that is determined to be in the race for the Big Ten championship all the way to the end of the regular season.

Caleb Swanigan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Purdue built an 18-point halftime lead and coasted to a 77-52 victory over Penn State on Saturday, four days after shooting 60.4 percent in a 91-68 victory against Illinois.

Against Penn State, the Boilermakers (16-4, 5-2) got 13 points from freshman guard Carsen Edwards and 10 each from Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards.

"I would just say we were coming out ready to play," said Vince Edwards, who added seven rebounds and three assists. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten. Our focus is to take care of business."

Josh Reaves led Penn State (11-9, 3-4) with 12 points. The Nittany Lions made only 20 of 64 field goal attempts (31.3 percent) and were outrebounded 39-30. Purdue shot 56.6 percent (30 of 53) (see full recap).

Drexel drops road game at CAA-leading UNC Wilmington
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Devontae Cacok scored 12 points and set a Colonial Athletic Association record with 24 rebounds, helping UNC Wilmington stay perfect in conference with an 87-74 win over Drexel on Saturday.

Cacok, whose previous career-high rebounding was 16, broke the school record (21) and conference record (22) late in the second half as the Seahawks cruised to their ninth straight home win, tying the best mark in program history.

UNC Wilmington (19-2, 8-0) led 53-51 with 15:01 left before four players combined to rattle off 12 straight points. Cacok capped the run with one of his 11 offensive rebounds and a dunk to give the Seahawks a 65-51 lead with 11:23 remaining.

UNC Wilmington is off to its best start ever and has won 24 of its last 26 conference games, including 12 straight. Chris Flemmings led the Seahawks with 17 points.

Sammy Mojica had 15 points and Rodney Williams added 14 for Drexel (7-13, 1-6), which has lost seven of eight (see full recap).

Delaware swept in season series with Towson
NEWARK, Del. -- Mike Morsell and Arnaud William Adala Moto pulled down a dozen boards as Towson won its fourth straight and a season sweep of Delaware with a 75-58 win on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers are fresh off a win over Hofstra that saw them erase a 16-point first-half deficit, and momentum carried over when they built a 17-point lead at halftime.

Alex Thomas and John Davis added 13 and 12 points, respectively, but Towson saw its streak of three-straight games shooting better than 50 percent end. The Tigers hit 26 of 55 shots from the floor (47.3 percent), including 6 of 15 from deep.

Delaware snapped a six-game losing streak Thursday with a win over Northeastern. Ryan Daly scored 21 points for Delaware and became the first freshman in school history to post six 20-plus efforts in a season. He reached double-digits for the 12th time in 13 games (see full recap).