Union Head West Looking to Go to the Top of the Eastern Conference Table

Union Head West Looking to Go to the Top of the Eastern Conference Table

The Major League Soccer schedule makers did Peter Nowak's team no favors when they decided to send the Union cross country for a Sunday night game on the heels of a midweek match at home against D.C. United. Fresh off of their 3-2 win over D.C. on Thursday, the Union visit the Home Depot Center where they'll face Chivas USA (8PM/The Comcast Network).

These two teams last met June 25th, when the Union topped Chivas USA 3-2 at PPL Park. Each team has made a significant change to its crop of fowards since that late June game in Chester. Carlos Ruiz, who scored the second Union goal that day, is no longer with the team. Juan Pablo Angel, who was a member of the L.A. Galaxy that day, now wears the red and white striped Chivas kit.

Angel has rediscovered his form since joining the Goats. He's coming off of consecutive two-goal games. He's scored six goals in six games since being traded to Chivas in mid-August. Angel is not the only goal scorer riding a recent hot streak into this game.

Sebastien Le Toux has been nothing short of ridiculous over the last month and half, scoring nine goals over his last eight games - including two goals on Thursday against D.C. Le Toux's confidence is apparent with every touch of the ball. Combine that confidence with his off the charts work rate and you've got one of the more dangerous players in MLS right now.

Speaking of in-form players, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the recent play of Michael Farfan. Whether it's lofting long balls over the opposing back line, or burying game-winning shots from outside the box, Farfan has been fantastic. True, he did a poor job of marking United's Dwayne De Rosario on a corner kick, but Michael Farfan brings a ton to the table. He's responsible defensively, and is creative going forward.

Including tonight, the Union only have four games left in the regular season. With a win tonight the Union can take sole possession of first place in the East.

Lineup I'd Like to See Tonight: Zac MacMath, Gabriel Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres, Michael Farfan Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic.

Final Score Prediction: This is an incredibly difficult spot for the Union. A cross-country flight following a mid-week game? The Union are just 3-6-5 on the road this season. Three points would be nice, but I see this one ending 2-2.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely to See Red: They've been so well behaved recently. I am not sure where to go with this one. I'll say MacMath pulls down Angel on a clear goal scoring opportunity.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).