Union have real chance to make it hurt for rival Red Bulls tonight

Union have real chance to make it hurt for rival Red Bulls tonight

The Union's Leo Fernandes, left, and Maurice Edu, right, congratulate teammate Andrew Wenger (9) who scored during the second half against Real Salt Lake at PPL Park last Saturday.

First thing's first: Because of the Sixers and Phillies, the Philadelphia Union game tonight against the rival New York Red Bulls is on something called WACP TV-4 (7:30 p.m).  It sounds like a channel you probably don't get, but you definitely do:*

*UPDATE: Apparently the game is also on The Comcast Network, which I was unaware of. I'm assuming this plan was set into motion in case the Flyers opened their playoff series tonight and we had Phillies/Flyers/Sixers/Union overload. But, if you have Verizon FIOS, then you should find the channel below since you don't get TCN in HD (yet).

  • XFinity - Channel 789 (HD) or Channel 4 (SD)
  • FIOS - Channel 504 (HD) or Channel 4 (SD)
  • DirecTV and Dish Network - Channel 4
  • BONUS: It is also designated as the MLS Free Stream of the Week online.
  • NOTE: It seems to not be showing up on my FIOS guide, so if you plan on DVRing the game, you might have to set it manually by time.

Now that that's out of the way: the Union have never had much luck in the swamps of New Jersey against the Red Bulls. The Union have lost five times and drawn once at Red Bull Arena -- a frustrating stat that doubles down on the team's frustrating 1-1-4 start. In all four of the team's draws so far, they've allowed a goal in the final ten minutes.

Tonight' game poses a major opportunity for the Union to not only put that start behind them, but also send their archival into a panic button-worthy tailspin.

The Red Bulls have yet to win a game, posting two losses and four draws. As one of the Eastern Conference favorites entering the season, things are getting pretty dicey for last year's league darling, New York head coach Mike Petke. A loss at home to your nearest rival wouldn't help that cause any.

It appears it'll be all hands on deck for the Union tonight, which is a good thing considering the team has a quick turnaround before Saturday's home date with Houston. Cristian Maidana should be back in the starting lineup after coming on in the second half against RSL and delivering a perfect assist on Maurice Edu's equalizer. And newcomer Andrew Wenger, who was mighty impressive in his Union debut, at least has a few training sessions under his belt.

The real question mark tonight won't be the midfield or attack, it'll be if the back line can get it together. For the first time all year, the Union trotted out what has to be considered their preferred defensive lineup on Saturday, with Austin Berry and Amobi Okugo in the center and Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis on the outside.

Berry did not exactly bathe himself in glory. First he surrendered an early penalty, then failed to cover on the ensuing penalty kick, negating an amazing save by Zac MacMath as Luke Mullholland came in untouched for the rebound. In the second half, he botched a challenge in the penalty area that led to Kyle Beckerman's go-ahead goal.

Berry will obviously have some growing pains this early with a new team, but he and Okugo need to figure things out fast, or Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls will make him regret it tonight.

The consensus prediction seems to be a draw tonight, especially considering the two teams have combined for eight draws in 12 games. Sadly (or not, if you go by the accuracy of most of my predictions), I think New York gets it together and prevents the Union from getting their first win in Harrison.

PREDICTION: Red Bulls 2, Union 1

 

5 things to know about new Sixers big man Tiago Splitter

5 things to know about new Sixers big man Tiago Splitter

Whether or not the Sixers keep Tiago Splitter after acquiring him from the Hawks for Ersan Ilyasova has not been determined (see story). In the meantime, get to know the newest member of the team.

Splitter already knows his coach
Brett Brown was working on the Spurs’ coaching staff when Splitter began playing for the team in 2010. Splitter was a member of the 2013 Spurs squad that won the championship the year after Brown departed to coach the Sixers. 

Another international addition
This season, half of the Sixers’ roster is comprised of international players. Splitter is from Brazil and played on the national team. He was unable to compete in the Olympics last summer because of hip surgery. Splitter also played overseas in Europe before coming to the NBA. The location on his Twitter profile is “Smwhere in Usa or Brazil.” 

First-rounder in ‘07
Splitter did not play his rookie season until 2010, but he was drafted in 2007. The Spurs selected Splitter with the 28th overall pick. He was chosen one pick after Arron Afflalo and one before Alando Tucker. That is the same draft in which the Sixers chose Daequan Cook at No. 21 and traded him to the Heat for Jason Smith. 

Splitter on the mic
Nik Stauskas isn’t the only member of the Sixers with a broadcasting resume anymore. Splitter made appearances on the Hawks’ television broadcast this season and also for a Brazilian network during 2016 Summer Olympics. 

#RAISETHE …?
Will Splitter raise the cat? He’s already raised his five-month-old puppy in this recent Instagram post. 

Será que esta grande o Buddy? #5meses #dog He keeps growing 😱

A post shared by Tiago Splitter (@tgo_splitter) on

Another solid effort for Flyers not enough in loss to NHL-best Capitals

Another solid effort for Flyers not enough in loss to NHL-best Capitals

BOX SCORE

You see it in their faces. Feel it in their voices.
 
And you wonder how it affects them night after night.
 
The Flyers played another pretty solid loss, as they say, Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals at Wells Fargo Center.
 
A lot closer than 4-1 makes it appear (see Instant Replay). It was a lot like that solid loss last week in Calgary, too.
 
“Maybe a little bit similar,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Our effort was good start to finish. There’s always a couple mistakes you make you want to clean up and do better. I thought tonight we had more opportunities than we did in the Calgary game.”
 
They had more goals, too. Except two got taken away.
 
One for goalie interference. The other hit the crossbar and even after a long celebration and delay, was ruled no good.
 
That’s been the Flyers’ no-luck this season. It’s all gone wrong for them as their wild-card aspirations slip further away.
 
“It’s very frustrating,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “Same story. We need to find a way here. We say the same thing after each game. I like the way we’re playing.
 
“We played a good hockey game, not good enough. We have a challenge in front of us. In the past, we’ve been a team that doesn’t back down. We have to keep our heads high and battling.”
 
The Flyers had the right approach, coming out fast and aggressive on the Caps. In fact, Jakub Voracek scored 23 seconds into the game during a net scrum.
 
Thing was, Caps coach Barry Trotz correctly saw goalie interference as Dale Weise actually pushed Braden Holtby aside. It was an easy coach’s challenge to overturn the goal and that’s what happened.
 
Weise was beside himself after the game.
 
“What I was trying to do was brace myself so I didn’t bowl him over and it comes back the other way,” Weise said.
 
“I don’t know what else to do there. I’m trying to poke the puck with one hand and brace myself so I don’t hit him.”
 
Naturally, six minutes later, Brandon Manning turned a puck over along the boards with T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin and it resulted in Nick Backstrom getting a great setup in the high slot for a 1-0 Caps’ lead.
 
“Even after that, we came back and played well and had good chances,” Weise said. “It’s the same story every night. We don’t capitalize on it and give up a few chances and they score on their opportunities.”
 
That’s when frustration seeped in on the Flyers and the penalties began to mount. Sean Couturier tried to get away with an elbow. Didn’t work.
 
The Caps dazzled the Flyers with brilliant puck movement, culminating with Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal to make it 2-0 at 16:28. He had two goals in the game.
 
While that could have ruined them, the Flyers came out hard in the second as Ivan Provorov appeared to score in the opening minute. However, replay confirmed his shot hit the crossbar. Two near-goals for the Flyers.
 
“I shot it and saw that [the puck] went up and I didn’t hear a sound,” Provorov said. “I thought it went in.”
 
No matter. Manning atoned for his first-period miscue by saving a puck from leaving the zone and then firing on net where Brayden Schenn scored a rare five-on-five goal by batting the puck out of the air to cut the Flyers’ deficit in half.
 
Of Schenn’s 19 goals, 14 have come on the power play.
 
Giroux’s line with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds consisted of the Flyers’ only players on the right side of the plus-minus category. And to show how deceiving that can be, Voracek worked his tail off, too, but was minus-3.
 
That’s how it goes these days for this group.
 
“It’s been a lot of games where it’s been one- or two-goal hockey games and it’s tough to do,” Schenn said. “We’re generating shots, but I don’t know if we’re generating enough chances.
 
“At the end of the day, you feel you play hard and a pretty good hockey game and end up scoring one goal again. Whether it’s 3-1, 4-1, you score one goal, you won’t win many hockey games.”
 
The Flyers are 3-6-1 since coming out of the All-Star break. Of those seven total losses, including overtime, they have scored more than one goal just once.
 
“We’ve got to rise above it, each and every one of us,” Hakstol said. “Get back at it. And that is what this group has continually done. We have to do that one more time here.”