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

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

ATLANTA – The final score was a little lopsided and the game was sloppy at times, but after beating Philadelphia, 110-93, Saturday night, the Hawks said they see promise in the rising young Sixers.

The Sixers didn’t have the legs on the tail end of back-to-back games to keep up with another hot team, and Joel Embiid did not play, as Atlanta (26-18) won for the 11th time in 13 games to move within a half game of Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Yet if not for the Sixers' 21 turnovers and a second quarter where Atlanta seemed to make every shot, the Sixers (15-27) looked enough like the team that had won eight of 10 games before arriving in Philips Arena that the Hawks see differences.

The biggest change in the Sixers between Saturday and the first two meetings of the season between these two teams — one played with Embiid and one without — is T.J. McConnell starting at point guard rather than Sergio Rodriguez.

McConnell had a game-high 11 assists against the Hawks in addition to his eight points, and the Sixers had 27 assists on a night where they hit 12 of 29 three-pointers.

“They have an identity,” said Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore, who scored 16. “McConnell is playing really well, putting pressure on the defense and their floor spacing is very good. Very disciplined group.

“Guys are in the right spots, if a guy drives, they have a plethora of options: a guy in the corner, a guy on the jumper, a guy on the wing. They kept us honest for a chunk of the game.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points on 15 shots and Robert Covington added 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Sixers were gassed in the second quarter, as the Hawks hit 16 of 23 shots in a 37-point period.

Atlanta stretched a 62-54 halftime lead to 18 points late in the third quarter, but the Sixers cut the deficit to 94-87 with 6:46 left in the game on a pair of free throws by rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers whipped the Hawks, 20-11, in fast break points.

“They were getting some threes in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was on the Spurs' staff for years with Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Right now, they’re pushing the pace.

“T.J. McConnell does a great job of getting outlets, getting up the court and finding shooters quickly and they’re letting it fly. Covington and Ilyasova and those guys are collapsing us early and shooting early threes.”

The Sixers had problems on the boards in Atlanta, where Dwight Howard grabbed 15 and Paul Millsap added 10 as the Hawks built a 48-38 rebounding edge. Those numbers were every bit as important as Millsap’s 21 points and the 13 added by Howard.

That disparity on the boards and the Sixers' collective loose handle did in the visitors. Atlanta scored 17 points off the Sixers’ 21 turnovers.

Embiid was scheduled to rest Saturday anyway. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against the Clippers, who will be without guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, or Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Embiid suffered a knee contusion in Friday night’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers and Brown said he’d be further evaluated Sunday.

Get him back in the mix, and The Sixers have a shot at starting another winning streak.

“We did a good shot of holding them to one shot,” Howard said after the Hawks outscored the Sixers, 14-0, in second-chance points. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball and find the open man. They have a good group of young guys.

“It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of Philly teams. You have to respect them.”

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

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USA Today Images

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former major leaguer Andy Marte died in separate traffic accidents early Sunday in their native Dominican Republic.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. It was not clear if Ventura was driving.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when the Mercedes Benz he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.

Ventura, 25, burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound.

He went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time since 1985. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts, though the Royals would ultimately lose in seven games.

Marte, a 33-year-old infielder, played for several Major League teams, including Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona, and was most recently playing in the Korean league.

Both were playing in the Dominican winter league with the Aguilas Cibaenas team.

"We have awoken this Sunday with this sad news that we have lost a special being," club president Winston Llenas said in a statement about Marte that was issued before Ventura's death became known.