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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Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored in the second period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Jason Chimera and Scott Mayfield also scored at the Barclays Center to help the last-place Islanders improve to 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 28 saves. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in regulation in their last eight games.

Halak beat Lundqvist for the ninth time in their last 10 matchups. Halak had won eight straight -- including the last five after joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season -- before Lundqvist ended the streak in the Rangers' 5-3 win in the season opener Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is now 1-6-1 in his last eight against the Islanders (see full recap).

Schwartz lifts Blues over Canadiens in OT
ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz got his second goal of the game in overtime, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis, which has won four of five. The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit and have a point in their last 13 home games.

Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron scored for Montreal, which completed a five-game trip 2-3.

Goalie Jake Allen made 28 saves to improve to 13-3-3.

Schwartz lifted a backhander past goalie Al Montoya with 1:22 left in overtime.

Stastny and Schwartz scored in a 2:51 span in the third period to tie it at 2 (see full recap).

Blackhawks blank Coyotes to snap modest skid
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals, Scott Darling made 22 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday night to snap a two-game slide.

Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen also scored to help Chicago maintain a three-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division.

Darling made a handful of tough stops but wasn't heavily tested in his first shutout this season and third of his career. He started his third straight game in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Hossa scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals in his 27th game -- surpassing his total of 13 last season in 64 contests (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Elfrid Payton scored 22 of his season-high 25 points in the first half and the Orlando Magic overcame John Wall's 52-point performance to beat the Washington Wizards, 124-116 on Tuesday night.

Wall had the highest-scoring game of his career and kept Washington in it with 33 points in the second half as the Wizards cut the lead below 10 in the fourth quarter. The guard made 18 of 31 from the field and added eight assists.

Payton went 8 for 8 from the field and 3 for 3 from the line off the bench in that first half, nearly matching his previous season best of 23 points in the first two quarters alone. Payton finished 9 for 12 and handed out nine assists.

Orlando won its third straight game and its 124 points were a season high (see full recap).

Spurs trounce Timberwolves to reach 13-0 on the road
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and the San Antonio Spurs improved to 13-0 on the road this season with a 105-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Leonard hit 11 of 15 shots after not scoring at all in the first quarter and Patty Mills scored 15 points off the bench for the Spurs (18-4), who played without Tony Parker after he bruised his left knee against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. San Antonio overcame a slow start to shoot 52.7 percent.

The Spurs moved past the 1969-70 New York Knicks to take sole possession of the second-best road start to begin a season in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors started 14-0 last year.

Zach LaVine scored 25 points for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points and 14 rebounds, but shot just 3 of 16 (see full recap).

Anthony, Knicks blow past depleted Heat
MIAMI -- Carmelo Anthony matched a season high with 35 points, and the New York Knicks beat the injury-ravaged Miami Heat 114-103 on Tuesday night.

Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York, which is three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season. The Knicks lost Derrick Rose to back spasms in the third quarter.

Goran Dragic scored 29 points and Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat, who fell to 2-8 at home.

The teams were tied at 68 late in the third quarter, when the Knicks went on a 27-13 run over the next eight minutes to take control. Anthony finished 13 for 27 from the field, and Porzingis and Joakim Noah combined for 22 rebounds (see full recap).