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Top of the Table on the Line as Union Face Crew in Columbus

Top of the Table on the Line as Union Face Crew in Columbus

I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you looked at the MLS schedule at the beginning of the season you likely did not think first place would be on the line during a late August match between Columbus and Philadelphia. Well, here we sit in late August and the Union travel to Crew Stadium with first place in the Eastern Conference at stake (8PM/The Comcast Network - the game was originally scheduled to begin at 7:30, but due to travel issues the Union did not arrive in Columbus until 2PM this afternoon).

Coming off of their inagural season there was little to suggest the Union would challenge for the conference crown. Similarly, after gutting their roster most experts believed this would be a rebuilding season for the Crew. How did these two teams find themselves in this position? In a word - defense.

The Union and Crew are one-two in the East in goals against - with the Union having conceded just 22 goals in 23 games, and the Crew 23 goals in 24 games. Both teams rely heavily on the combination of a strong goalkeeper and versatile center back.

The Crew back line is led by two-time MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall, who was selected second overall, one spot behind current Union player Freddy Adu, in the 2004 MLS Superdraft. At 6'4" Marshall is an absolute monster in the back. Good luck winning a ball in the air against him. Goalkeeper Will Hesmer, who recently returned from injury, leads MLS with a 0.72 save percentage.

A year after giving up 49 goals the Union shored up its defense by acquiring goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and center back Carlos Valdes. All Mondragon has done is assume the captain's armband, provide a much-needed veteran presence between the sticks, and help to organize one of the stingiest defenses in the league.

Valdes has provided an athletic presence alongside Danny Califf in the center of the Union back line. He's been so solid the Union front office moved quickly to secure his rights on a permanent basis from former club Independiente Santa Fe.

Both teams have also struggled offensively. The Union are 12th in the 18-team league in goals scored with 29, while Columbus has scored just 27, which is good enough for 14th in the league.

Designated Player Andres Mendoza leads the Crew with seven goals. Here's hoping Union keeper Mondragon is not left screaming "Mendoooozzzza" a la McBain.

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Emilio Renteria, who is listed as probable with a quad strain, is the Crew's second leading goal scorer. Eddie Gaven, who made his MLS debut at age 16, has contributed four goals this season, but is listed as doubtful with a leg contusion.

The Union, whose struggle to score goals has been a season-long storyline, did score two last week against F.C. Dallas - although both came from the penalty spot. As a Union fan you have to hope that Sebastien Le Toux, who converted both PK's, gained some confidence from simply seeing a ball he kicked hit the back of the net.

Freddy Adu, who played just over 60 minutes last week, should feel slightly more comfortable with his new team having had the opportunity to actually practice with his teammates for a full week. Last week Danny Mwanga came in off the substitutes bench and replaced Adu.

Perhaps this week we'll see both Adu and Mwanga get starting nods. It'd certainly be nice to see Adu, Le Toux, and Mwanga develop some sort of chemistry.

Finally, Brian Carroll, who is listed as questionable with a foot contusion, returns to Columbus where he helped the Crew win the 2008 MLS Cup. Carroll, who tirelessly disrupts plays from his defensive midfield position, has certainly fit in well with the Union. You could argue that acquiring Carroll has been just as important to the Union defensive turnaround as were the signings of Mondragon and Valdes.

This is obviously a huge road test for the Union. These are the sort of matches - on the road against a conference opponent with first place on the line - Union players and fans have wanted to see. Hopefully the travel issues the Union encountered en route to Columbus do not interfere too much with their pre-game routine.

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Califf, Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Justin Mapp, Brian Carroll (if he can't go you'll likely see Stefani Miglioranzi), Le Toux, McInerney, Mwanga, Adu.

Final Score Prediction: I see it 1-1 as the Union tie for the ninth time in their last 13.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See Red: I'll go Califf for persistent fouling against Mendoza.

Photo Credit: Greg Bartram, US PRESSWIRE

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

NFL Notes: Court sets hearing over blocked suspension of Ezekiel Elliott

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NFL Notes: Court sets hearing over blocked suspension of Ezekiel Elliott

FRISCO, Texas -- A federal appeals court has set oral arguments for Oct. 2 in the NFL's bid to reinstate Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic case in Ohio, meaning the star Dallas Cowboys running back will play at least two more games.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans posted the notice Friday, clearing the way for last year's NFL rushing leader to play Monday night at Arizona and at home Oct. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams.

The court is seeking briefs from both sides by Wednesday on the issue of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant's jurisdiction. The Texas judge granted Elliott's request for an injunction that blocked the NFL's suspension.

The NFL sought an emergency stay of Mazzant's injunction, hoping to put the suspension back in place while Elliott's case is in the courts.

Giants: Goodson, Hart out against Eagles
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Middle linebacker B.J. Goodson and right tackle Bobby Hart are going to miss the New York Giants game Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Goodson is out for the second straight game with a shin injury. Hart sprained his right ankle in the opener against Dallas. He started against Detroit but re-injured it.

Coach Ben McAdoo said Friday that backup linebacker J.T. Thomas also is out with a groin injury.

Tight end Evan Engram (concussion) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) are questionable for the Giants (0-2).

Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is not mentioned on the injury report, which means that he will play. He missed the season opener with a sprained left ankle and was limited against the Lions.

Vikings: Bradford ruled out against Bucs
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings say quarterback Sam Bradford will not play against Tampa Bay because of his ailing left knee.

Bradford was not at practice Friday after taking part in a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday and reporting progress from the week before.

ESPN reported that Bradford was traveling to seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who performed ligament reconstructions on the quarterback's knee in 2013 and 2014. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer declined to comment on the report.

Case Keenum will start Sunday against the Buccaneers, as he did last week at Pittsburgh when Bradford was ruled out right before the game. The Vikings lost 26-9 (see full story).

Titans: Murray limited at practice, questionable vs. Seahawks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray returned to practice, but his status for Sunday's game against Seattle remains undecided because of a hamstring injury.

Murray was listed as questionable after being limited on Friday. He had missed two straight practices with the injury.

The running back who led the AFC in rushing last season has been off to a slow start this season with just 69 yards rushing in two games. He gave way in the second half to Derrick Henry, who had 92 yards and a touchdown in a 37-16 victory at Jacksonville.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey says the Titans are being careful with Murray. They already declared rookie receiver Corey Davis and strong safety Johnathan Cyprien out with hamstring injuries.

Murray declined to comment after practice (see full story).

Browns: Garrett 'doubtful' to play Colts but nearing return
CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns rookie defensive end Myles Garrett might be close to making his NFL debut.

The top overall pick in this year's draft has missed Cleveland's first two games because of a high right-ankle sprain. Coach Hue Jackson has not yet ruled him out of Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

Garrett made significant progress this week after hurting his ankle during practice Sept. 6. Jackson said Friday the team will continue to be "cautious," but the fact that he remains a possibility to play against the Colts is encouraging. Garrett is listed as "doubtful" on the injury report.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder has stressed he won't come back too early. He missed two games during his junior season at Texas A&M, pushed himself to return and then didn't play up to his standards.

Garrett had an impressive training camp and exhibition season (see full story).

Redskins: Norman, Reed game-time decisions vs. Raiders
ASHBURN, Va. -- Cornerback Josh Norman, tight end Jordan Reed and running back Rob Kelley are among five Washington Redskins players who will be game-time decisions Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden says Friday that Norman, Reed, Kelley, linebacker Mason Foster and safety Montae Nicholson are all questionable for the game.

Norman, Foster and Nicholson have shoulder injuries, Reed has chest and rib problems, while Kelley is dealing with injured rib cartilage.

All five were hurt during last weekend's 27-20 victory at the Los Angeles Rams.

Gruden said there is a chance the Redskins (1-1) would have running back Mack Brown and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle on the active roster against the Raiders (2-0) (see full story).