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

Report: Phillies calling up prospect Jorge Alfaro

Report: Phillies calling up prospect Jorge Alfaro

It appears prized catching prospect Jorge Alfaro is coming to the Phillies.

But not for long.

According to a report late Thursday night by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, Alfaro will be promoted from Double A Reading to the Phillies and join the team Friday in New York.

Alfaro, already on the Phillies' 40-man roster, is not expected to stay for long. He gets the call now with the Phillies' trade of Carlos Ruiz on Thursday night and veteran catcher A.J. Ellis, a part of the Ruiz deal, not yet with the team but expecting to join it this weekend against the Mets.

Alfaro is a strong candidate to be a September call-up of the Phillies once Reading is finished with the Eastern League playoffs.

The 23-year-old was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade at last season's non-waiver deadline. With the Fightin Phils this season, Alfaro is hitting .279 with 13 home runs, 61 RBIs and 60 runs scored. He's ranked as baseball's second-best catching prospect by MLB.com Pipeline and is known for his big throwing arm and power potential.

Best of MLB: Alejandro De Aza drives in 5 runs in Mets' win over Cards

Best of MLB: Alejandro De Aza drives in 5 runs in Mets' win over Cards

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright lost his glove trying to tag out Yoenis Cespedes and lost the game, too, when Alejandro De Aza homered and drove in five runs to send the New York Mets over St. Louis 10-6 Thursday night.

Seth Lugo (1-2) pitched five scoreless innings for his first big league win. The Mets took two of three to win their first series at Busch Stadium since 2008.

Brandon Moss hit two home runs for the Cardinals and Jedd Gyorko and Stephen Piscotty also connected.

The Mets led 3-0 in the fifth when Wainwright (9-8) and Cespedes were involved in a bizarre play.

Cespedes tried to go from first to third on a bloop single by James Loney. When several Cardinals chased the ball, Wainwright covered third base. Cespedes slid and his cleat pinned Wainwright's glove to the bag -- he would've been out, but when Wainwright pulled away his hand, the mitt stayed stuck under Cespedes' foot.

Because Wainwright didn't control the ball, Cespedes was called safe in a ruling upheld by replay. Moments later, De Aza hit a three-run homer to make it 7-0 (see full recap).

Scherzer's arm, Harper's bat help Nats blank O's
WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer allowed two hits over eight innings and Bryce Harper's two-run double helped the Washington Nationals avoid a four-game home-and-home sweep with a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

Scherzer (14-7) struck out 10 and did not walk a batter. He retired 12 straight after Adam Jones's fourth-inning double and 21 of 22 before Mark Trumbo's leadoff single in the eighth.

Jayson Werth's solo home run staked Washington to a 1-0 lead. Daniel Murphy's RBI double in the eighth came before Harper's second hit helped the Nationals pull away.

The Nationals had lost four straight including three in a row to the Orioles, who won twice in Baltimore before the teams shifted to Washington.

Ubaldo Jimenez (5-11) allowed one run and five hits over six innings (see full recap).

Escobar pushes surging Royals past Marlins
MIAMI -- Alcides Escobar homered and drove in two runs to lead the surging Kansas City Royals past the Miami Marlins 5-2 on Thursday night.

Salvador Perez and Kendrys Morales also drove in runs for the Royals as the defending World Series champions have won 15 of 18 to pull within four games of the second AL wild card spot.

Kansas City starter Edison Volquez (10-10) pitched five innings and allowed two runs, both unearned, and three hits.

The Royals' bullpen, which has been a successful formula for the reigning two-time AL pennant winners, pitched four scoreless innings to push their franchise-record scoreless streak to 38 2-3 innings -- the best in the majors since 2002-03 when San Francisco tossed 39 1-3 straight.

Kelvin Herrera pitched a flawless ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.

Tom Koehler (9-9) allowed four runs, three earned, and seven hits in six innings for the Marlins (see full recap).

Matt Klentak: Trade was about doing the right thing for Carlos Ruiz

Matt Klentak: Trade was about doing the right thing for Carlos Ruiz

The Phillies’ decision to trade beloved catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday was ultimately made by Ruiz himself.

“This was about doing the right thing for Carlos because he has meant so much to this organization,” general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday night.

“Once Carlos cleared trade waivers last week, we started thinking about it. The Dodgers expressed some interest. Pete [Mackanin] and I talked to Carlos over the weekend. We discussed whether he wanted to finish the year with us or get the chance to chase another championship ring.

"He took a few days to discuss it with his family and got back to us Wednesday in Chicago and said that he'd be interested in exploring the opportunity and we finalized things with the Dodgers today.”

As a veteran of 10 seasons in the majors and five consecutive with the same team, Ruiz, 37, could have vetoed the deal. He chose to accept the deal because he wanted another chance to play in the postseason. He will serve as a backup to catcher Yasmani Grandal with the Dodgers, but is expected to get playing time. Ruiz's .368 on-base percentage from the right side of the plate could be a nice complement to the lefty-hitting Grandal.

The Phillies acquired the Dodgers’ backup catcher, veteran A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitching prospect Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later in the deal. The Phils will not decide on the player to be named until after the minor-league season ends in mid-September. The Phils also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to the Dodgers. Ruiz is owed about $2 million in the form of salary and a contract buyout for 2017. Ellis, 35, is finishing up a one-year deal that pays him $4.5 million.

"This deal was not motivated by cash,” Klentak said. “It was about doing the right thing for Carlos, giving him the chance to get another ring.”

Klentak said he was "adamant" about getting Ellis back in the deal. The Phillies have two catching prospects in the upper minors in Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, but the club would like to see them finish their minor-league seasons.

“Carlos has been such an important leader for so long, we knew we had to fill a role on and off the field,” Klentak said. “There is a reasonably good chance one of our young catching prospects will be in the big leagues before the season is over. Both our Double A and Triple A teams are in pennant races and we believe it's important for them to continue to get meaningful at-bats and play in meaningful games.”

Ellis is expected to join the Phillies in New York this weekend. It’s not easy going from a first-place team with legitimate World Series hopes to a rebuilding club.

“I talked to A.J. this afternoon,” Klentak said. “He is a true professional. It's never easy for a guy who has been in one place his whole career to be told out of the blue that it's time to go. A.J. is determined and excited about contributing to the Phillies.”

Bergjans, a 23-year-old right-hander, pitched at Haverford College. He was an eighth-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2015 and is 3-13 with a 4.98 ERA for Single A Rancho Cucamonga this season. He has 133 strikeouts and just 29 walks in 130 innings.

"Tommy was an excellent college performer,” Klentak said. “He has controlled the strike zone well in a tough league. We're always looking to add starting pitching and we had a chance to do it. He strikes out better than a batter an inning and limits walks which was appealing.”