Union Head West Again, Face Champs

Union Head West Again, Face Champs

The Union (1-4) travel to Utah to face defending MLS Cup
Champions Real Salt Lake (2-3-1) (4PM/6ABC). This is the second cross country
trip in as many weeks for the Union, who were completely outclassed last week
in a 3-1 loss to the Galaxy in Los Angeles. Once again the Union will be
without the services of a starter, as midfielder Stefani Miglioranizi will
serve a one game suspension for his careless straight red card against LA last
week.

Goalkeeper Chris Seitz will be facing his former team for
the first time. Prior to joining the Union he served as the back-up to RSL’s
MLS playoff hero Nick Rimando. It remains unclear whether Sebastien Le Toux
will return to the lineup following the left knee injury he suffered a couple
of weeks ago in the US Open Cup loss to New York. It was obvious just how much
they missed Le Toux against LA. They sorely missed his tireless running and
finishing ability. If Le Toux’s unable to go will young Jack McInerney, fresh
off scoring his first MLS goal last week, get the starting nod?

RSL features a handful of recognizable players. Midfielder
Kyle Beckerman is probably their most complete player. Beckerman is their
string-puller in the middle of the field. He teams up in the central midfield
with Javier Morales, who leads RSL in goals scored with three. Up top RSL
“features” Robbie Findley, who did nothing with the extended chance USMNT Bob
Bradley gave him to impress as a potential replacement for Charlie Davies.
Simply put, Findley was invisible in his time with the USMNT. Apparently his
lack of form has continued as he has yet to find the back of the net for his
club side.

What should you look for from Peter Nowak’s boys? Well, a
simple goal (again) is to finish the game with eleven men on the field.
However, until they show they can stay away from the booking s on a consistent
basis I am rolling out a new feature in these game previews. I am going to
choose one player each game who I think is going to be sent off.

This week’s player
most likely to see red: Andrew Jacobson. Congrats, Andrew.

What else will I be looking for? Well, if Le Toux is unable
to go I want to see if his replacement is able to establish something
resembling the chemistry he has with Alejandro Moreno and Fred. Those three
guys combine incredibly well and always seem to have a sense as to what the
others are going to do in terms of the runs they’ll make, or balls they’re
likely to play. Also, who steps in and plays in place of Miglioranzi? I’d like
to see Kyle Nakazawa get some playing time. He was one of the lone bright spots
against LA. More likely though we’ll see a midfield of Fred, Jacobson, Shea
Salinas, and Roger Torres. The back four should remain unchanged with Jordan
Harvey, Danny Califf, Michael Orozco, and Cristian Arrieta.

My goals for the game? Keep eleven men on the field, do a
better job defending corners, let Torres play more than 50 minutes, and
continue to see what you can get out of Jack Mac.

Final Score
Predcition: 2-1 RSL

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”