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

With realistic shot at 53-man roster, undrafted Myke Tavarres feels he fits Eagles' scheme well

With realistic shot at 53-man roster, undrafted Myke Tavarres feels he fits Eagles' scheme well

Some scouts and draftniks were surprised Myke Tavarres' name had not been called after the dust settled and all seven rounds were complete in May's NFL draft. At that point, the Eagles weren't about to let a potential diamond in the rough show up on another club's 90-man roster.

The Eagles reportedly gave Tavarres $95,000 in guaranteed money to sign, one of the highest sums awarded to an undrafted free agent in the NFL in 2016, and it wasn't difficult to understand why. Linebacker is a position of need for one thing, so much so there's an excellent chance a lesser-known prospect out of an FCS program like the University of Incarnate Word has an excellent shot at making the team.

Yet Tavarres is an impressive individual as well, both as an athlete and a person. You can learn a lot about his character based alone on the mantra he has tattooed on his arm.

"In high school I used to wrestle, and my coach before every big match, he would read me this quote, and this quote has gotten me through everything," Tavarres said at training camp this week. "It says, 'If you do not try, then you do not do, and if you do not do, then why are you here?' Pretty self explanatory."

And while Tavarres is serious about playing football, it's clear he has his priorities straight. While he declined to get into why exactly he transferred from Arkansas to Incarnate Word after one season, it certainly wasn't because he worried about being drafted or a career in the NFL at the time. It was what he felt was best for him.

"I actually had a close friend that played corner out there," Tavarres said, "and he said, 'You'd love it out here, the coaches are pretty relaxed. It'll be a good opportunity for you to go out there and just have fun and play the game.' So after that I decided to go there.

"Honestly, I wasn't even worried about the NFL when I got to Incarnate Word. I was more focused on getting my degree, finishing school. Then toward the middle of the season, they were like, 'Hey, you've got a pretty good shot to play in the NFL.' After that, I was like, 'Alright, let's go ahead and go for it.'"

It's also telling of his personality what Tavarres' attitude is toward going undrafted.

"I'm not too upset and I wasn't really that worried," he said. "I knew I was going to get an opportunity somewhere, and that's all I ever asked for was an opportunity."

As impressive as his determination is, you can learn a lot about Tavarres' physical ability just from looking at the numbers, too. As a senior — his only season with the program — he posted 110 tackles, 22½ tackles for loss and 8½ sacks. He was so versatile, he even saw a limited number of touches as a running back and kickoff returner.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Tavarres also mentions he actually came into camp up to 240, not to mention he might be even faster than people think. At least he claims a trick of the stopwatch may have caused a sizable discrepancy in his 40-yard dash time compared to what is on the books from his pro day.

"It was a 4.7, but," Tavarress said, "realistically I found out after I was running, I moved my hand before I started running, and what my trainer and my agent had was a 4.4."

Not that he ascribes too much importance to the actual time anyway.

"People spend so much time worrying about 40-this, 40-that," he said. "If you can play ball, you can play ball."

The challenge now for Tavarres is picking up a defense he's never played in before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he also says that's part of what attracted him to the Eagles. While he was used primarily as a pass-rusher in college, Tavarres believes his skillset is better suited for playing linebacker in a 4-3.

So far, Tavarres feels the most comfortable at strongside, where his speed and strength are valuable attributes for covering tight ends.

"It's been a lot harder for me than it would be for most guys because they've all played in a 4-3 scheme," Tavarres said. "I played in a 3-2, which is pretty much just a standard defensive end rushing the passer, so it's all been relatively new to me, but I'm adjusting and acclimating as much as I can.

"For a linebacker like me, I can play side-to-side, so that would be really good for me. That was really the most reason why I decided to come here."

The Eagles' lack of depth at linebacker didn't hurt either. Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham seem set as the starters, but the only backups with NFL experience currently on the roster are Najee Goode and Deonate Skinner. That leaves seventh-round pick Joe Walker, Tavarres and fellow undrafted rookies Quentin Guase and Don Cherry likely competing for at least one, possibly two spots.

All Tavarres wanted was an opportunity, and he has one here. He's also confident he knows what he has to do to take advantage of what's in front of him and make the 53-man roster.

"Hard work. Dedication. Special teams," Tavarres said, with the latter being what he hopes will help set him apart.

"My goal on every single special teams play is to be the first one down there and not just to get down there, but make the play, make the tackle."

Obviously, special teams will be a huge factor in the Eagles' decision, although the organization may have tipped its hand a bit with the nice bonus it paid Tavarres as far as what it thinks of his chances. Undeniably a bit raw, he has the talent and right attitude to play at the next level, which makes for one intriguing prospect to watch this summer.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg shut down Cleveland for seven innings and bounced back from his only loss this season, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday.

Strasburg (14-1) began the season with 13 straight wins before he was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21. The powerful right-hander shook off that blemish, holding the Indians to only three hits as the Nationals recovered after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth and losing on Tuesday night.

Washington rookie Trea Turner drove in three runs and Daniel Murphy hit his 20th homer off Carlos Carrasco (7-4), who nearly matched Strasburg but was done in by one bad inning.

Nationals reliever Blake Treinen stopped Cleveland's threat in the ninth, getting a game-ending double play for his major league save.

Strasburg walked one and struck out seven (see full recap)

Cardinals snap Familia's saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4
NEW YORK -- Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia's streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn't blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker's comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia's franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save (see full recap)

Padres hit 3 HRs to extend streak, beat Blue Jays 8-4
TORONTO -- Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots and the San Diego Padres beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

San Diego extended its club-record streak of games with at least one home run to 25. It's the longest run since the 2002 Texas Rangers set a major league record by homering in 27 straight.

Luis Perdomo (5-4) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Wallace reached base three times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on Rosales' homer in the third, connected off R.A. Dickey in the fifth and hit an RBI single off Joe Biagini in the sixth.

Dickerson homered for the fourth time in four games when he connected off Franklin Morales in the eighth. He is first Padres rookie to homer in four straight games.

Dickey (7-12) allowed seven runs, six earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer is winless in three starts and has allowed six home runs in that span (see full recap).

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”