The U Who Play the Fire

The U Who Play the Fire

To paraphrase the great 80’s
sitcom"What's Happening" - No Carlos, no Sheanon, no points? We'll find
out tonight (9PM/CSN) whether the Union can overcome the loss of their
leading goal scorer (Carlos Ruiz, who has completed a transfer to
Mexican side Veracruz) and the temporary loss of their most effective
outside back (Sheanon Williams, who is out after picking up a red card
against Colorado on Saturday).

If
the Union could hand-pick an Eastern Conference opponent to face under
these circumstances it would undoubtedly be Chicago, who sit in last
place in the conference. The Fire have certainly earned their spot at
the bottom of the table, accumulating a nightmarish 2-6-12 record.

Not
only will the Union be facing a bad team, but due to a scheduling quirk
they’ll be facing a team that has not played an MLS game since July
16th (they lost a friendly with Manchester United 3-1 on July 23rd).
What do you make of the long layoff? It’s hard to say. If nothing else
the Fire will be well rested – although a bad team is a bad team
regardless of the extended time off.

Perhaps
Fire coach Frank Klopas used the time off to integrate new signing
Pavel Pardo into his lineup. The circumstances surrounding Prado’s
arrival in Chicago are straight out of one of those amazingly ridiculous
soap operas you see on Mexican television.

Pardo, a former Mexican international, is involved in a child-support
dispute with his ex-wife Cristina. Cristina, who obviously is the
biggest fan in the world of aging former Mexican internationals, decided
to keep things within the El Tri family and is reportedly now in a
relationship with former Fire and Mexican star Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Pardo,
who apparently is loathe to give his ex any money, is now faced with
the reality of his ex-teammate exchanging one-touches with his ex-wife.
Is there no man code south of the border?

Speaking of goings on south of the border, the Carlos Ruiz to Veracruz rumors have been confirmed.
If Union coach Peter Nowak is to be believed Ruiz has moved on due in part to Union fans being too tough on him. Wait, what? Here’s a quote
from Nowak addressing the Ruiz situation following the loss to the
Rapids on Saturday:

“A lot of fans
even in the stands have a pre-bias toward Carlos and make bad comments
about him being a diver, being that, being that, not working hard, all
these little things, and it was getting tired to us,” Nowak said. “I
always believed fans in the stands will stand behind us and are going to
cheer for us and all the players we have on the roster, and not having
something against a single player. As I said, it’s an unfortunate
thing.”

If the Union fans really
had any influence over personnel decisions then Chris Seitz would’ve
been released in the middle of last season, Shea Salinas would never
have been left unprotected in the MLS Expansion Draft, and Jordan Harvey
would still be a member of the team.

The
notion that fans ran Ruiz out of town is absurd and insulting. Why
would fans of a team that struggles to score want the team’s leading
goal scorer gone? Sure, the guy was on a mission to send every linesman
in the league in for rotator cuff surgery due to repeated lifting of the
offside flag, but results are results. The guy was a poacher. He was
dangerous on free kicks. He scored some incredibly timely goals.

Look,
if the Union received an offer they couldn’t refuse then so be it. All
Nowak had to do was say that the organization appreciated Ruiz’s
contributions, wish him luck with his new team, and discuss how the team
will be relying on Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux to rediscover the
chemistry they enjoyed last season. In other words, simply state that
it was a business decision.

Ok,
with that out of the way let’s look at the game tonight. The big
question is who will step in and start for Williams at right back?
Remember, Gabriel Farfan replaced Harvey as the starting left back. Does
he slide Keon Daniel out there? Will Michael Farfan get the nod? Do you
possibly move Carlos Valdes outside and play Stefani Miglioranzi in the
middle alongside Danny Califf? Or, does local product Ryan Richter
start his first MLS game at right back?

One person who will not be on the technical area tonight is head coach Peter Nowak, who according to the Union is recovering from a minor back surgery. Perhaps Union fans are responsible for that too? I kid, I kid. Here's wishing Nowak a speedy recovery.

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight:
Mondragon, M. Farfan, Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan, Mapp, Okugo, Carroll,
Paunovic (they’ll likely need his attacking ability), Le Toux, and
Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction: I am worried
the Union will struggle to score. Combined that with the fact that
Chicago is the master of the tie and I fear we may be looking at a 0-0
draw.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See Red:
Seemingly every single time I threaten to retire this a Union player
goes ahead and picks up a red card. Kudos, Sheanon. For tonight I’ll go
with Valdes, who could possibly make some ex-wife jokes at Prado’s
expense in Spanish and get into a shoving match.

Jahlil Okafor trade watch: Bulls reportedly unwilling to trade first-round pick

Jahlil Okafor trade watch: Bulls reportedly unwilling to trade first-round pick

With the NBA trade deadline nearly upon us — 3 p.m. Thursday — here is the latest on Jahlil Okafor. (We'll update this with news on Okafor throughout the afternoon.)

• The Bulls are still pushing to acquire Okafor, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Chicago has been one of the rumored destinations for weeks — in fact, the Bulls were reported as a suitor for Okafor before the Pelicans, Blazers and Pacers.

• What's the hold-up? According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls "have shown no inclination to this point of including" their first-round pick, along with a player, which is what the Sixers have been seeking for Okafor.

Johnson notes that forward Nikola Mirotic is available. Mirotic, 26, is a restricted free agent after the season. With Ersan Ilyasova traded to Atlanta Wednesday night, perhaps the Sixers could look at Mirotic as a backup four to Dario Saric. 

Mirotic's value is in his outside shooting — he's a 6-foot-10 forward who made 39 percent of his threes last season. But his numbers have dipped across the board this season and he's shooting just 38 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.

• According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Okafor's preferred landing spot is Chicago, his hometown.

• Obviously, it's not up to Jah — the Sixers will go with whichever offer is best.

Eagles wise to bring Jason Peters back, even with full salary

Eagles wise to bring Jason Peters back, even with full salary

This isn't a big surprise, but Jason Peters will be back with the Eagles — big salary and all — for the 2017 season.

While the Eagles approached the veteran left tackle about his contract in January, Peters has not restructured his deal, according to a league source. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport on Thursday morning reported that Peters will be back next season on his normal contract. 

Yes, Peters is expensive in 2017. His base salary after hitting another Pro Bowl escalator written into his contract is up to $10.45 million for next season (plus a $250K workout bonus), which comes with a big cap hit of $11.7 million. That cap hit is the highest on the team, but not outlandish for a high-caliber left tackle. 

The Eagles could have very well cut Peters and moved on. It would have saved them significant cap space to use elsewhere. They just wouldn't have found any player more valuable to pay with that money. 

Peters, 35, is still their best option to protect Carson Wentz's blind side. He made his ninth Pro Bowl in 2016 after playing all 16 games. The team hasn't been shy about wanting him back and Peters toward the end of the season said he wanted to return for another year. 

"We certainly want to have him back," Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said of Peters in early January.

“I love him. I want him on the team,” head coach Doug Pederson said with two games remaining this past season. “I don’t want him to go anywhere."

With Peters back, it means Lane Johnson's eventual trip to left tackle will be held off for another year. Eventually, he'll take over that spot … just not right now. 

During the season, Peters opened up about his future, saying he hopes Wentz can be the guy who finally gets him a Super Bowl ring (see story).