Union v. United - Who U Got?

Union v. United - Who U Got?

To say that things are tight in the MLS Eastern Conference would be an understatement. Only six points separate first place Kansas City and sixth place D.C. United. The Union, who sit in fourth place in the conference, four points off the top of the table, host D.C. United tonight at PPL Park (8PM/ESPN2) in a game with major playoff implications.

Both teams are coming off of impressive results. The Union picked up a crucial road point in Kansas City on Friday. D.C. smoked Real Salt Lake 4-1 at home. United is 2-2-1 over its last five, while the Union are 1-1-3 over that same stretch. The Union only have four games left after tonight. They need to start picking up three points at a time if they hope to make the playoffs.

Freddy Adu, who missed the Kansas City game due to an ankle injury, should hopefully be fit enough to face his former team for the first time. Adu joined D.C. as a 14 year old, the first overall pick in the 2004 MLS Super Draft.

United is now coached by Adu's former teammate, local boy Ben Olsen, who played his club ball for local powerhouse FC Delco.

The game will feature two of the hottest players in MLS. Sebastien Le Toux has scored seven goals in his last seven games. United's Dwayne De Rosario, who came to D.C. in a trade from New York, is coming off of a hat trick against Real Salt Lake. He's played so well that he's garnering MLS MVP consideration despite not joining United until mid-season.

In addition to Le Toux and De Rosario the game will showcase two of the league's best young playmaking midfielders. Both Roger Torres and Andy Najar possess the unique ability to pick out and complete passes in tight spaces and tough angles. They bring a ton of creativity to the game.

The Union will again be without Faryd Mondragon, who continues to recover from a broken finger. Sheannon Williams will also likely be out again (UPDATE: Williams is starting). Michael Farfan filled in for Williams in Kansas City and was responsible for setting up Le Toux's tying goal.

Lineup I'd Like to See Tonight: Zac MacMath, Michael Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabe Farfan, Brian Carroll, Kyle Nakazawa, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction: The Union have finally gotten back to what made them successful in the early going - defense. They need to keep things locked down in the back in support of the young MacMath. The home crowd pushes the Union to a 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely to See Red: Assuming he gets the starting nod, I'll go with Okugo. He'll be matched up with D-Ro, which could be a nightmare.

Photo from @UWISHUNU

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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AP Images

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.