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.

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.

The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.

Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville's stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The best way to sum up Subban's approach? C'est la vie.

"I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way," Subban said. "I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way."

The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban's offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.

The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.

"When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win," Subban said (see full story).

Penguins: Team rides maturity, resilience back to Cup Final
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

"Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim," Crosby said. "We've just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We've done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength" (see full story).

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has had a lot of time on his hands this week while sitting at home on his Kentucky ranch as his team went through optional practices in the Twin Cities.

Zimmer was under strict orders to leave the team and rest his right eye, which has needed eight surgeries to try to repair a detached retina. The lingering issues have led some to wonder if he would be forced to shorten his career.

Zimmer has heard the speculation all week long. The hard-nosed coach said he has reached out to some of those doubters personally this week.

"I'll be back shortly," Zimmer vowed in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "One eye or two, it doesn't matter. I'll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly."

Zimmer missed one game last season due to the problems with his eye . He tried to work through the issues, but said on Friday that he was told to skip this week's practices and go home to allow his eye to recover.

"It's not much fun," he said. "Usually I love it down here in my place here. But I don't love it too much this week. It was kind of a forced situation. But for the long run it's the best thing for me."

Giants: Smith trying to resurrect career
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Geno Smith didn't catch a break in his final two seasons with the New York Jets, and it seems his chances of resurrecting his career with the Giants are facing obstacles.

Not only does Smith have to beat out incumbent Josh Johnson for the backup quarterback job to Eli Manning, his prospects of making the team took another hit in the NFL draft when the Giants selected Davis Webb with their third-round draft pick.

The 26-year-old Smith doesn't seem concerned.

Speaking after the Giants organized training activities Thursday, Smith sounded confident for a player who had a promising rookie season four years ago and then regressed, in large part due to inconsistency.

"Honestly, I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone other than myself," said Smith, who has played in only three games in the past two seasons, starting one. "I am just trying to be my best every single day, focusing on trying to be perfect. I know that is a far goal to try and reach, but just trying to be perfect every day and understanding what is required of me once I step onto the field, and then trying to get it done."

Redskins: Injured Moreau final draft pick to sign
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have signed the final member of their 10-player draft class, third-round pick Fabian Moreau.

The team announced the deal Friday.

The cornerback out of UCLA tore a pectoral muscle at his pro day in March. He was projected to be a first- or second-round pick before the injury and went 81st overall to the Redskins.

Moreau says doctors told him it was a five-month recovery, putting him on track to be ready by late in the preseason. The 23-year-old was at Washington's practice facility for rookie minicamp and the first sessions of organized team activities.

Coach Jay Gruden says the team is playing by ear the injury situations of Moreau and fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson and hopes they learn the schemes for the secondary as they rehab.

NFL: Judge tosses lawsuit over cheerleader wages
SAN FRANCISCO -- A lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The suit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

"To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only `ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'" Alsup said. "The complaint must answer the basic questions of `who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'"

An email to an attorney for the 49ers cheerleader, Drexel Bradshaw, was not immediately returned. The cheerleader was only identified in the suit as "Kelsey K."

Alsup gave her an opportunity to amend the lawsuit and refile it by June 15.

The lawsuit was among a spate of legal actions in recent years accusing NFL teams of failing to pay cheerleaders for hours they spent practicing and making public appearances.