Union Put First Game In The Books, Lose 2-0

Union Put First Game In The Books, Lose 2-0

The Rev shares his Union debut thoughts.

So,
initially I planned on writing a traditional post-match write-up whereby

I’d grade each Union player on a scale of 1-10 based on their
performance. However, after watching the game unfold, ultimately a 2-0 Union loss, I didn’t think that sort of analysis would be fair. Why? The simple answer to that would be
perspective,
or perhaps more appropriately lack thereof. How do you grade the
performance
of an expansion side playing their first game, on a ridiculously wet
and fast track (shockingly it rained in Seattle…didn’t see that
one coming), in front of 35,000+ fans, in a stadium where the Sounders
only lost twice last season? Again, this was the first time the Union
players were on the field with one another in a regular season game.
So, with that being said how could I fairly and accurately assess their
performance by handing out grades? Further complicating things was the
fact that they played over half of the game down a man thanks to Toni
Stahl, who amazingly picked up two yellows in the first 40 minutes.
This was not the night to fully grade out each player. Below are
my thoughts/observations/comments on the first game in franchise
history.

I
suppose I should first mention that the Sounders are good. Very good.
They are a professional outfit with a class goalie, ball winners in
the central midfield, and creativity on the flanks. Simply put they
outclassed the Union. That is not intended as a slight against the home
side. It’s just the reality of the situation, and the quality of
opponent
they were up against.

The
only thing that did not surprise me about Peter Nowak’s starting lineup
was the fact that he put eleven players on the field. Yes, we sort of
assumed they’d come out in a 4-4-2, but there was no way I could have
foreseen the way he deployed his players. Toni Stahl at center back
alongside Danny Califf? Michael Orozco and Danny Mwanga as central
midfielders?
Definitely not what I expected. I assumed Orozco would play next to
Califf in the back. I didn’t think Stahl would play, but if he did
I assumed he’d play in a defensive midfield role. And Mwanga? 
The No. 1 overall pick who scored 18 career goals at Oregon State as
a striker was trotted out to the center of the pitch? Didn’t see that
one coming. As for the game itself? Here goes…

  • Califf sees yellow 30 seconds
    in. Always good to get that first booking out of the way early. It was

    as if Califf channeled Scott Hartnell for a moment there.

  • I was not as in love with
    Roger Torres as was color analyst John Harkes. Yes, you can see his
    obvious skill on the ball and ability to work out of tight spaces, but

    for an outside midfielder he drifted inside far too much for my
    liking.
    A couple of his corner kicks were McNAbbian – dribblers into the
    ground.
    To be fair though Torres is only 18. He showed a lot of ability and
    a willingness to go at people. To use an annoying scouting term, he
    “flashed”.

  • David Myrie had a very rough
    night trying to deal with Steve Zakuani. He earned a much deserved
    yellow
    for tacking Zakuani in the 62nd minute. No, not slide
    tackling.
    He actually launched himself – in the air – and threw some sort
    of flying body block. Wow. What’s something positive from his
    performance?
    Hmm, he’s 6’1”. That’s good.
  • Toni Stahl, after already
    having been booked, cannot make the sort of challenge, in the middle
    of the field, which earned him his second yellow. I didn’t think the
    challenge was that bad, but he has to know he cannot do that. Good to
    get that first sending off out the way early. Also, he looked nervous
    for the entire 40 minutes he was on the field, which I suppose is
    understandable.
  • Sebastien LeToux’s work
    rate was excellent. As advertised he was the Union’s most dangerous
    offensive weapon. He worked back to support the midfield defensively.
    If forced to pick a Man of the Match I’d pick LeToux.
  • Alejandro Moreno spent the
    majority of the game either on the Qwest Field turf, or picking
    himself
    up off of the Qwest Field turf. He also managed to pick up a yellow
    – by forcing someone else to the Qwest Field turf. He was nothing
    if not consistent.
  • Mwanga looked uncomfortable
    in the midfield. He was taken off at halftime (for Stefani
    Miglioranzi).
    I would have liked to have seen Moreno taken off and Mwanga shifted
    up top, but having to play down a man sort of forced Nowak’s hand.
  • Overall Chris Seitz played
    well in net. I cannot fault him on either goal. He was screened by
    Stahl
    on the first goal, and Jordan Harvey, who was caught in no-man’s land
    holding the post after Seitz punched out a corner, kept Fredy Montero
    onside enabling him to bury a pretty header for the second goal. It
    appeared Seitz struggled to get his wall set following the Califf card

    in the first minute. Otherwise, he was very aggressive coming off his
    line. I didn’t think his distribution was all that great, but big
    picture-wise I thought he played well.

  • In looking at my notes I
    wrote “70th Minute: A SWITCH!!!”, which was my way of
    saying that for the for the first 70 minutes of the game the Union
    never
    changed the point of attack. The first Sounders goal was a perfect
    example
    of what I was hoping to see. Freddie Ljungberg made a diagonal run
    from
    right to left, switched the ball to Fredy Montero (who by the way
    rocked
    not one, but two shaved-in parts on the side of his hair…amazing!),
    who played the ball to Zakuani on an overlapping run and set up Brad
    Evans for the Sounders first goal. Osvaldo Alonso also played a
    beautiful
    35+ yard ball across the field for Seattle. We need more of that.
  • Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney
    both came in as second half subs, and I thought both played well in
    limited time. I was really impressed with McInerney in his brief
    debut.
    His runs off the ball were calculating, and he did not look the least
    bit out of place for a 5’8” 17 year old playing against grown men.
    He’s got poise.
  • Neither Andrew Jacobson
    nor Jordan Harvey stood out at all. Looking back I had no idea they
    were both on the field for the full 90.
  • The Seattle fans were outstanding.
    Their passion came across on television, so I cannot imagine what it
    must have been like in person. I could have sworn at one point I heard

    them chant “let him die, let him die” when the Union trainers came
    out to work on an injured Myrie. I suppose the rain makes them surly.

  • I loved the corner the Union
    played in the second half when they played a quick ball on the ground
    to towards the edge of the box for a shot. That was the sort of
    creative
    play I was hoping to see on a set piece.

Well, there you
have it. Philadelphia has now officially made its Major League Soccer
debut. Too bad they were forced to play down a man for so long. As I
mentioned to Enrico, it was not the most aesthetically pleasing game
ever, but it is a start. Next up is D.C. United at the Linc on April
10th. I look forward to being there in person and getting
a firsthand look at our local side. That right there, the fact that
we have a local side, is what I’ll try to focus on throughout this
inaugural campaign.

What were your
thoughts on the game? How much did you love Seattle’s flopping? Did
I miss anything? Who was your Man of the Match? [video highlights]

Can the Sons of Ben convert her?

Photos by Tom Hauck / Getty Images

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers (16-10-3) vs. Stars (11-11-6)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Remember when it was a fight for the Flyers to simply sew together back-to-back wins?

Prior to this run, they had done it just twice in the first 22 games.

Now, they’re the hottest team in the NHL, winners of seven straight and trying to make it eight on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. The great eight?
Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.

Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.

These are just some of the players that were wearing Flyers jerseys when the team last won eight consecutive games, back on Jan. 6-19, 2002.

It’s worth mentioning, before the 2004-05 season, winning streaks were a bit more challenging with a tie being the result if overtime went scoreless. The extra session was also not 3-on-3, like it is now.

Still, what the current Flyers are doing is impressive. They’ve gone to the shootout only once over the seven-game spurt and have outscored the opposition by 10 goals, 27-17.

2. Raffl winners
Dave Hakstol has called Michael Raffl a big-bodied, straight-line forward, which is certainly not off the mark.

But from time to time, Raffl will show the deceptive skill side of his game.

He did it Thursday night to win the Flyers’ 6-5 affair over the Oilers in the final minute and a half of regulation for his second game-winner over the last three contests.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," Steve Mason said postgame Thursday (see story). "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl is quietly making teams pay. The Flyers are 4-0-2 in games that he scores a goal. Despite missing eight games because of injury, the 28-year-old Austrian is on pace for around 20 goals.

That’s much-valued secondary scoring and complementary play.

3. Not so bright
Before reeling off seven straight wins, the Flyers were in a similar spot to which the Stars are in now.

Dallas, which finished 50-23-9 last season — best in the Western Conference — after starting 19-5-0, can’t find consistency through 28 games this season. The Stars have won back-to-back games just once thus far and goaltending has been an issue as Dallas is surrendering an NHL-worst 3.18 goals per game.

The Stars do not lack offensive firepower, however. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for second in the NHL with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), while linemate Jamie Benn isn’t far behind at 24 (eight goals, 16 assists).

Also, veteran forward Jason Spezza is coming off a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in Dallas’ 5-2 win over the Predators.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ve got to go Jakub Voracek after the winger’s one-goal, three-assist performance on Thursday night. Voracek has been an absolute monster on the seven-game winning streak, posting 11 points with three goals and eight assists for a plus-6 rating.

Stars: It’s hard not to say Seguin, a dynamic player who always gives the Flyers trouble. His 21 career points (nine goals, 12 assists) against the orange and black are his second most versus any team.

5. This and that
• Mason is on a career-best six-game winning streak in which he’s posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Since Nov. 12, Mason is 9-3-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

• Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is a dreadful 1-10-3 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, while backup Antti Niemi is 4-1-0 with 1.48 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

• Dallas has won its last three meetings with the Flyers by a combined score of 7-3.

• The Stars have lost 11 of 15 on the road.

• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games.

Penn State fan surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in heartwarming video

Penn State fan surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in heartwarming video

It's been a long road back to relevance for the Penn State football program. 

The Nittany Lions surprised just about everyone this season by finishing 10-2, winning the Big Ten title and claiming a spot in the historic Rose Bowl against USC on Jan. 2. 

For one fan, the surprise season went one step further.

Per ESPN's Instagram account ...

But wait, there's more. 

Not only was he surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in what could be the most touching video of the year, but he even got a personal call from Penn State head coach James Franklin thanking him for his support. 

Not a bad way to close out 2016.