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

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.