Union Take on Kansas City in Final Road Tune Up Before Opening PPL Park

Union Take on Kansas City in Final Road Tune Up Before Opening PPL Park

Our man Rev brings the Union preview:

The Union (2-6-1), who have
started their inaugural season with eight of their first ten games on
the road, face Kansas City (2-5-3) tonight (7:30PM/Live Well HD) in
their final road game before opening PPL Park June 27th
the World Cup break. The Union hope to rebound from Saturday’s 2-1
loss at Chicago.

Speaking of which, I’ve had
a difficult time erasing the disgraceful affront to free-flowing soccer
the Fire employed last week. If MLS Commissioner Don Garber ever wanted
to sabotage his league and make certain that MLS gains zero momentum
following the World Cup then he’d simply make sure the Fire played
on national television each week. Have I mentioned it was a disgrace?

What can the Union take from
their most recent loss into the game against K.C.? Aside from the
that it’s near impossible to break down ten men who are behind the
ball not a whole lot. Perhaps Peter Nowak changes things up and
Roger Torres, who is one of his more creative players, into the starting

lineup. The suggestion is not a knock against Shea Salinas, who has
been excellent in a starting role. I just think with the pace Salinas
brings he’d be a more dynamic and dangerous player coming off the
substitutes bench. Either that or sit down right back Cristian Arrieta,
who has struggled recently, and slide Salinas into that spot as a pacey
player coming forward from the back.

As I mentioned in the last
postgamer I’ve been impressed with the maturation of Chris Seitz.
He’s seemingly bounced back from an awful beginning of the season.
He looked assertive and confident against Chicago, which is nice
how physically imposing he is. His back four needs to eliminate the
one or two devastating lapses they suffer each game.

Offensively the Wizards are
led by Kei Kamara, who leads the squad with five goals. Josh Wolff,
who looks like he should be hanging out at the Peach Pit, gives KC an
attacking presence out of the midfield. While he’s a solid MLS player
I still have no idea how Bruce Arena included him in his World Cup
back in 2006. The KC backline is anchored by Jimmy Conrad, another USMNT

veteran. In addition to being a capable defensive presence Conrad has
emerged as a thoughtful and engaging writer for espn.com. Granted, some of his
ideas were a bit off the wall, but it’s nice to see a player take
a genuine and very public interest in the state of affairs of US Soccer.

Assuming they’ve not already
checked out in anticipation of the World Cup break this should be a
very winnable game for the Union. It’d be nice if they ended their
exodus away from Chester by picking up the three points. Perhaps Danny
Mwanga will be the stoppage time hero once again, as he looks to extend
his three game scoring streak. Speaking of Mwanga, he’s done a fine
job of keeping Jack McInereny on the bench. I’d imagine Jack Mac will
get some time in the upcoming friendly at Reading
United A.C. on June 23rd.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt if Alejandro Moreno, who leads the team in
assists with five, opened his goal scoring account.

Finally, the Union will be
rocking their alternate gold shirts for the first time in franchise
history (pictured above).  

Union Player Most Likely
to See Red
: Fred – who may freak out at just how narrow the pitch
is at CommunityAmerica Ballpark (soccer in a baseball stadium…awesome!)

Final Score
– Union pick up the win 2-1

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

For the first 40 yards of Josh Huff’s kick return touchdown on Sunday, he went untouched.

When he got to the Eagles’ 42-yard line, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was the only guy left in his way.

Huff ran through him.

“Yeah, I can’t let a kicker tackle me,” Huff said. “If he would have tackled me, I really would have been pissed at myself.”

The 170-pound Walsh couldn’t make the tackle and was sent spinning as Huff ran through. Fifty-six yards later, Huff took off from the 2-yard line, flipping into the end zone to give the Eagles their first lead in an eventual 21-10 win over the Vikings (see Instant Replay).

Huff said he knew he was scoring as soon as he saw that he had just the kicker to beat.

With the Eagles’ down 3-0 and with their offense sputtering through the first quarter and change, Huff’s play was a game-changer (see 10 Observations).

“Josh did a great job on the return,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “[Special teams coordinator] Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every single week. You need those things. You need special teams scores.”

After Wendell Smallwood’s kick return touchdown last week, this is the first time in franchise history the Eagles have had kick return touchdowns in back-to-back games. They also have the NFL’s only two kick return touchdowns of the season (see Standout Plays).

“It’s super cool,” Smallwood said. “Now teams have to pick their poison. They can’t go away from one. They can’t say they’re not going to kick to Smallwood, then they kick to Huff and he takes it. I think we’re going to get a lot of teams’ attention.”

Huff also had a role in the Eagles’ offense against the Vikings. He caught four passes for 39 yards, including two that picked up first downs. His 14-yarder in the third helped set up the touchdown that sealed the win for the Eagles.

This season hasn’t been great offensively for Huff. He is clearly the Eagles’ fourth wideout and came into Sunday with just eight catches for 24 yards.

“Obviously, I want to play good on offense, but we have three great guys in front of me,” Huff said. “I’m doing what I can to stay ready and I’m at my best when those guys do need me. At the end of the day, as long as I’m doing my job and as long as I stay ready, today was evident. Whenever they call my number, I’m going to make the most of my opportunities.”

Huff finished off his 98-yard kick return touchdown the same way he finished off his 41-yard receiving touchdown in New England last year: With a flip.

Huff took off from the 2-yard line and did a front flip, landing in the middle in the black end zone on his backside.

“It’s just something that happens,” Huff said. “Everybody says I should have stuck the landing, but I’m not a gymnast.”

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

The Eagles’ defense had two challenges on its mind Sunday. First, there was the challenge of outplaying Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ offense. Just as important was the challenge of outplaying the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.

“We wanted to be the better defense out there,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We wanted to match their intensity. That was the whole thing. That’s all we talked about — let’s be the best defense out there today. We wanted to make sure we were the most dominating defense in the game.

“We wanted to get more sacks, get more turnovers … that was our whole goal.”

In a clash of two of the NFL’s top defensive units, the Eagles beat the previously undefeated Vikings 21-10 Sunday at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

The Vikings defense was very good. It held the Eagles to 14 offensive points and forced four turnovers, but also had no sacks.

The Eagles’ defense was better. It held the Vikings to 10 offensive points, forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.

If you watched this game and had to guess which defense is No. 1 in the NFL, you’d guess Eagles.

They were that dominating.

They outplayed the best defense in the game.

“We think we’re the best defense, but they’ve been playing great, and they were the best defense coming in,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. “We knew it would come down to whichever defense played the best.

“You could see that the first quarter. We’d make a play, they’d make a play. But you’ve just got to keep on chopping. After the last two games, we wanted to get back to playing Eagles defense, and I feel like we did that.”

McLeod, linebacker Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and Graham led a ferocious defensive effort that saw the Eagles batter former teammate Sam Bradford, who absorbed his first loss as a Viking (see 10 Observations).

The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, intercepted him twice and mauled him snap after snap after snap. By the time the Vikings got in the end zone, with half a minute left, it was already a three-possession game.

Neither team had an offensive play longer than 29 yards.

“We think we’re the No. 1 defense in the league,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We think we can be that and should be that if we go out and play the way we’re supposed to.

“We have to do that every week. But we think we can hang with any defenses out there. And we have a lot of respect for that defense across the field, and we knew we would have to show up for us to even have a chance to be in this game. Because that defense is ranked No. 1 coming into this thing.

“But we also feel we’re the best defense in the league, even though we haven’t played like it. But this is the opportunity you want. On the main stage, you’re coming into our home, and this was our opportunity to face the best defense in the league, and I think we showed our worth.”

The Eagles, who looked nothing like a top defense the last two weeks in losses in Detroit and Washington, improved to 4-2 and dropped the Vikings to 5-1.

Six games in, the Eagles’ defense is allowing just 13.5 points per game. That’s No. 2 in the league, behind only … who else … the Vikings at 12.8 per game.

“For us, it’s a battle of the defenses,” Hicks said. “And we always want to be the best defense on the field and put our team in a position to win.”

Bradford has been sacked more only once in his career, back in 2011 with the Rams, when the Redskins got him seven times.

And after opening the season with no interceptions in four games, the Eagles picked him off twice.

Whatever it takes to get motivated. If it works, it works. And this Eagles' defense was clearly motivated by that No. 1 ranking the Vikings brought to town.

“It motivated everybody,” Fletcher Cox said. “We knew in order to win this game we had to be good up front, and the last two weeks we weren’t very good up front. But we got back to basics and went out and played a physical football game.”

Hicks had 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two pass knockdowns in his finest game of the year. McLeod became the first Eagle since Quintin Mikell in 2007 with a sack, forced fumble and interception in the same game and added seven tackles. And Graham picked up his fourth sack to go with five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble (see Standout Plays).

The Eagles got back to the way they played defense the first three games of the season. They’ve now held their opponents to 14 or fewer points in four of six games and won them all. In their two losses, they’ve allowed 24 and 27.

“Pride … call it what you want, we knew we had to play well today,” Hicks said. “This defense has a certain standard, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else does, it matters what we do, and ultimately if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to be a top, top, top defense.

“For me, it’s not about them. It’s about us and what we do.”