Union Youth Make Most of Everton Opportunity

Union Youth Make Most of Everton Opportunity

It was just a friendly. Neither side fielded their full complement of players. The Union are in midseason form, while Everton are touring the US in pre-season mode. All appropriate disclaimers acknowledged, it still felt good to see the Philadelphia Union beat Everton FC at PPL Park last night.  

The final score read 1-0, but the Union controlled most of the game, and had a few golden opportunities narrowly miss on a night when pristine finishing eluded them. Their younger players had a chance to play hard against an esteemed English side, and they played their asses off.

The friendly was a good opportunity to see some international players and also some of the Union's own young talent on display. Roger Torres, 20, played big minutes and controlled the Union attack. Later in the game, we got to see the likes of Zach Pfeffer and Christian Hernandez, who are 16 and 17 years of age, respectively, and facing off against Everton. Fellow Union Academy stud Jimmy McLaughlin and local product Ryan Richter also played well.  

Pfeffer has received his share of acknowledgement already, but Hernandez took home the headlines last night, scoring the game's only goal. Hernandez, the U-17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year, entered the game in the 71st minute and broke its scoreless tie in the 87th. He knocked home a ball that Everton failed to clear after Pfeffer took a dangerous shot.  

The MLS teams haven't been faring well in the European invasion this week, so a Union loss would have been understandable. Instead, they probably should have won this by a goal or two more, missing out a few "Awww"-inspiring opportunities.  

With Faryd Mondragon joining Tim Howard in sitting this one out, Zac MacMath and Thorne Holder (awesome name) kept the sheet clean for the Union. Holder made an amazing save to keep the game level in the 74th minute. 

[watch video highlights from the Union-Everton match here]

The Union had an edge to them in the game, and despite the low stakes and a lack of much offensive motivation, so did some of the Everton players. John Heitinga earned an ejection, perhaps inspired by Benny Feilhaber in the previous match footage he saw. The Union wouldn't let themselves be bullied though, with the kids and the veterans standing pushing back as needed.  

So, as I began… it wasn't a high-stakes match, and we saw a lot of reserves and youngins get significant PT. But both the depth and the future of the Union were on display last night, and each looked good.  

The write-up on Everton's own page doesn't water down the result, and friendly or no, this is on the front of their page right now:

Photos by Nick Waters

Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman is going all WWE on the NFC East. 

Washington's outspoken cornerback is featured in a lengthy Q&A with Bleacher Report and he's, well, outspoken. 

He starts in the story by saying crazy things like this: "I feel like King Leonidas leading an army into battle, leading troops into defending your territory."

Yeah, off to a good start. 

He then goes after his nemesis Odell Beckham Jr. hard, calls Dez Bryant "just a guy" and even has some thoughts on new Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery. 

Norman praised receivers Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, saying there aren't those types of challenging players in the NFC East. He was asked if there was any player he has circled on his schedule. 

Jeffery was the one that came to mind. 

"Alshon [Jeffery] is going to be with us this year," Norman told Bleacher Report. "He's a big guy. He uses his body. And I enjoy going against big guys because they think they can get physical with me. They think that. That's quite the contrary."

Norman will get his shot against Jeffery in the opener, when the Eagles travel to Washington on Sept. 10. 

Comparatively, Jeffery got off easy. Norman was much less complimentary when speaking about Beckham, with whom he has an infamous history, and Bryant, the Cowboys' top receiver. 

On Bryant: "That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy."

Norman might have a little point with Bryant, who has failed to go over 800 yards in either of his last two seasons. In 2016, he caught 50 passes for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. From 2012-14, Dez was over 12,000 yards with at least 12 touchdowns in each of the three seasons. 

He even called Bryant a "fake tough guy" for his behavior on the field.  

But even Bryant got off easy. 

There's no secret about the way Norman feels toward Beckham. And Norman didn't hold anything back. Based on his comments, the WWE speak may turn into WWE-type action during the 2017 season. 

Here's a part of the Q&A about ODB: 

You get Beckham twice a year now.

Yeah, and that game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. You know what I'm saying? It's like when it becomes bigger than the game. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!

So when you think of Odell, what is his game?

He tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other. He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy.

How so?

When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man.

Like messing around with a kicker's net.

When you really, really want to see what a person's really like, you get in their face, you smell what they ate and you take their soul from them. How do you do that? You put your fist right into their chest and you see what they're made out of.

And you did exactly that with him. What did you see in Beckham?

You see a person who's actually not what they're made out to be. Because they come back at you. And that's not him. They come back at you in a way like, "He's not going to punk me! He's not going to sissy me out!" All right! But then when you go and you do things you're not accustomed to doing, that's pretty much what it is.

This is going to be fun. 

Throughout the whole thing, Norman speaks like a classing wrestling heel. If nothing else, the trash talk is going to make the NFC East more fun. 

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."