Union select goalie with No. 1 pick, who says Philly is 'the place for cheesesteaks or something'

Union select goalie with No. 1 pick, who says Philly is 'the place for cheesesteaks or something'

When you trade up and take the consensus best player in the draft, it's hard not to call it a successful day.

Whether that player turns into a top notch pro talent is another story. Hi, Mr. Bennett!

The Philadelphia Union traded up in today's MLS SuperDraft to select goalkeeper from the University of Connecticut and the consensus best player available, Andre Blake.

The team swapped the second overall pick plus allocation money for the opportunity to select Blake number one overall.

Blake was the first goalkeeper ever taken in the No. 1 slot at the MLS draft. Here's the scouting report on him from the league site:

A Jamaican youth international, the 6-foot-4 Blake was impressive at last week’s MLS Player Combine in Florida after a junior season with the Huskies that saw him win the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year award and win his third consecutive nod to the NSCAA All-American team. He allowed just 15 goals in 20 matches last season while leading the team to the Elite 8 for the third straight year.

Current Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was believed to be in attendance at the draft today in Philadelphia.

A goalie battle is sure to develop down in Chester. One area in which MacMath has a clear edge is knowledge of Philadelphia and its idiosyncrasies.

But hey, he may be the LeBron James of goalies. That's interesting if not hard to wrap your head around:

First tease of Sixers' new Nike uniforms pops up on Twitter

First tease of Sixers' new Nike uniforms pops up on Twitter

Nike kicks off an 8-year exclusive partnership with the NBA and will be the official provider of all jerseys, shorts, and basically the classic parts of the basketball uniform.

A number of team's have already released what their new jerseys with a Nike swoosh will look like. The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings have shared images of their new jerseys.

Chris Heck, the Sixers' Chief Sales and Marketing Officer best known for tweeting images with only a #OnBrand hashtag, shared what appears to be the first look at the new Sixers' gear with a Nike logo.

As you may or may not be aware, Nike is doing away with a traditional "home" and "away" uniform, instead producing four different uniforms for each team that they can choose from. Here's how NBA.com describes it:

Another significant change coming this fall involves adjusting the nomenclature of what were formerly known as “home” and “away” uniforms. Beginning with the 2017-18 season, home teams are not automatically assigned to wear white uniforms, and instead will be allowed to choose which uniform they want to wear for each home game. Visiting teams will then choose a contrasting uniform from their available options.

Nick Williams giving Phillies missing ingredient — a feared hitter — early in career

Nick Williams giving Phillies missing ingredient — a feared hitter — early in career

MIAMI -- Nick Williams has been a major-leaguer less than three weeks and his progress has accelerated so swiftly that the Phillies are already trying to pump the breaks.

“I’m not going to say a whole lot about him right now,” manager Pete Mackanin said of his 23-year-old rookie right fielder. “I don’t want to jinx myself.”

Williams, elevated to the three-hole in the batting order on Tuesday, is batting .316 with four doubles, three triples and two homers — including one grand slam — in just 16 games.

In the past six games, Williams has 11 RBIs. And he is one of just four Phillies in more than 100 years to produce multiple RBIs and multiple hits in four straight games, a list that includes Greg Luzinski (1977); Chuck Klein (1932) and Lefty O’Doul (1929).

Williams is also one of just three Phillies with an OPS north of .800. Williams leads the team in OPS at .963. He is followed by Aaron Altherr (.898), who figures to be out multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury; and Howie Kendrick (.879), who is on an injury rehab assignment at Double-A Reading.

Kendrick, who is in the last year of his contract, will likely be gone soon, perhaps by the July 31 trading deadline, if he can prove he is healthy enough to contribute to a playoff contender.

Meanwhile, Altherr and Williams have both played right field this year. Assuming Williams continues to play well, Mackanin will have to sort it out, and, presumably, one of those two players shifts to left.

For now, the Phillies need the quiet Williams to continue making noise with his bat because this is a team that ranks second-to-last in the majors with 365 runs scored.

And that’s after taking two out of three games from the Miami Marlins this week in a breakout offensive performance by the entire team. The Phillies scored 20 runs in the series, their second-best showing in a three-game set all year.

The Phillies had five players come through with multi-hit games in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Marlins. Seven players turned that trick in Wednesday’s 10-3 victory in which the Phillies set a season high with 20 hits (see story).

“Hitting is contagious,” Williams said in advance of Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, which starts a 10-game homestand. “When you see so many guys do it, I always think of it as, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ ”

Mackanin this week talked up Maikel Franco, who has been used as the cleanup batter 38 times this year and has hit fifth and sixth 20 times each.

Franco, according to Mackanin, leveled off his swing in a productive batting-practice session on Tuesday, and the manager predicts a big second half from him.

Perhaps Franco can settle in as the full-time cleanup hitter.

Perhaps Franco can provide quality protection for Williams in the three-hole.

Perhaps this can become a thing, Williams and Franco.

Fact is, age-wise, they are well-positioned to grow together with the Phillies. Franco is 24 — he just seems older because he broke into the majors in 2014 — and Williams is 23.

And although Williams is younger, he seems mature. These thrilling three weeks do not appear to have fazed him. He is not, for example, trying to pull everything.

“Growing up,” said Williams, who is from Galveston, Texas, “I always heard, ‘Hit it where it’s pitched.’

“If (pitchers throw) away, hit it that way. If they come in, pull it. … I just trust my hands.”

At 32-61, the Phillies are miles away from contention, and further still from their 2008 team that won the World Series.

Progress has been slow, but finding some hitters that will strike fear in the hearts and minds of opposing pitchers and managers will be a fine start.

Intentional walks are often a show of respect. Right now, no one on the Phillies has drawn more than four intentional passes.

If you look back at the ’08 Phillies, Ryan Howard was walked intentionally 17 times. Chase Utley was walked intentionally 14 times.

That’s what happens when you hit 48 homers like Howard did that year.

That’s what happens when you hit 41 doubles like Utley did that year.

That’s what happens when you’re dangerous.

The Phillies are hoping that Williams, a former second-round pick and part of the package received from the Texas Rangers in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, can be anywhere near that dangerous one day.

For now, though, Mackanin would prefer less talking and more hitting.

“I just want to watch him continue to play,” Mackanin said, “(continue to) be aggressive at the plate.”