Watch: Things Get Ugly in Union-United Draw

Watch: Things Get Ugly in Union-United Draw

Just
a few days after the Union and DC United exchanged a pair of players in
the trade of Lionard Pajoy for Danny Cruz, there was little in the way
of pleasantry exchange when the teams met in a Eastern Conference match
with playoff implications. The three points on the line were critical to
the Union's chances at a playoff run, but at the very least, they
wanted to leave DC with a draw. In large part due to a very visible
second half by referee Mark Geiger, the match was marked by
score-altering calls, bookings, and activity at the penalty stripe. Some
were justified and tough calls to make, but Geiger, who was a ref at
the Summer Games in London, sent off three players and disallowed a pair
of United goals in a calamitous second half. 

The Union would escape with a point in the 1-1 draw,
but no individual on the field featured more prominently than the man
wearing bright yellow. 

Getting started, each
team deployed its new attacker, with Pajoy up top alongside Dwayne De
Rosario for United and Danny Cruz handling the right side of a forward
trio including regulars Freddy Adu and Jack McInerney in the Union's
4-3-3. 

The Union struck early, converting on an Adu
freekick that pinballed across the line of United keeper Bill Hamid. The
long service by Adu was perfect, dropping into the box right in front
of the net, where Amobi Okugo was far forward and put a head on it.
Fellow centerback Carlos Valdes got a piece of the ball too, but his
attempt was blocked by a United defender. It took a fortunate carom, and
Brian Carroll got just enough to guide it into the net. 

Exactly how they drew it up… 
That lead
would hold until the 72nd minute, when Okugo was again on the receiving
end of a freekick in the box. Unfortunately, Okugo was "credited" with a
score on the play, charged with an own goal on a miscommunication
between the CB and his goalkeeper. Branko Boskovic had come on as a
second half DC sub for Pajoy, and he laced a strong service into the box
that the Union once again could not handle. One of these days… 

While the ball found the net behind Zac MacMath
twice more in the half, neither would count. Before the goal on the
freekick, DC had a goal disallowed due to a foul called on Hamdi Salihi.
United played skillfully in getting the ball into the Union third, with
nice leading passes and a dummy ball execution. Boskovich and De Ro
sliced through the Union defense with quick one-touches, and De Ro put a
sharp shot on MacMath. The Union keeper stopped it, but he couldn't get
it under wraps. Salihi more or less fell over the curled up MacMath,
not really making any attempt to brace himself away while going limply
to the ground, but not exactly slamming into him either. Gabe Farfan
tried to clear the ball, swiping it out of the reach of MacMath, but it
wound up on the foot of DC's Nick DeLeon, who put it on the open target.
The goal was disallowed due to referee Geiger's belief that Salihi
interfered with MacMath, and the Union dodged a major bullet. It
wouldn't be the last. 

More often than not, a well-dressed Roger Torres can
be found in the Stadium Club at PPL Park during home games. He has
rarely seen the field since returning from injury, but he dressed Sunday
and was brought on as a sub for Jack Mac in the 80th minute. The
skillful playmaker gets his name in the game coverage for an unfortunate
reason though, as a clear foul on Chris Pontius in the box during the
85th minute led to penalty kick that could have meant a loss for the
Union. Instead, it sparked an odd series of events that would see a goal
disallowed and a United player sent off. 

The dangerous Dwayne De Rosario lined up for the
kick, and buried it. However, Geiger whistled United for encroachment
and ordered the kick retaken.

 In the confusion immediately following the first
PK, there were some physical exchanges as the heat escalated. Players
from both sides pled their cases to the crew in yellow, and Geiger went
to his pocket. DC's Boskovich, who tussled with Torres, drew a red card
from Geiger while Garfan and Torres each got a yellow. 

When De Ro lined up to take the second attempt, he skied it. 
Though the crisis was over, the chaos wasn't yet through. 
In
extra time, two more bookings would come. You know how when you're
playing FIFA and you feel like you're getting robbed by the computer
side or your buddy is just taking it to you and it's late in the game?
Mmmmaybe you just start hitting that foul button despite the obviousness
of your tactic? That's what it looked like when DC's Emiliano Dudar
tackled Antoine Hoppenot in the 91st minute. Again, Geiger went to the
card, dismissing Dudar from the match. 

The Union will be without a player in their next
match as well though. Sheanon Williams had drawn a yellow for delaying
on a throw in during the first half, and he got another in the 95th
minute when he was booked for what was actually a brilliant ball-first
tackle. Geiger was fooled by the angle, which saw Williams make the play
from behind on a sprinting player. It looked cleanly done, but perhaps
at spot that was tough for a running ref in real time to accurately
call. 

More pushing and shoving ensued, and Bill Hamid was the next to draw yellow. 
After
the match, a clearly and understandably frustrated United side started
pushing each other. A surreal night in DC ended with a fortunate point
for Philadelphia. 

Notes:Ray Gaddis will likely start in place of Sheanon on Friday night, when the Union host Real Salt Lake. 
Hoppenot
is a force. Rev pointed out to me that the supersub has now drawn as
many red cards (2) as he has scored goals in his rookie season. 

Both sides had some thrilling chances in a
well-contested first half. The second half devolved quickly, first for
the Union, who saw the lesser end of play, but then United for all the
reasons detailed above. The Union were lucky to escape with the draw. 

I only plucked a video or two from the many that
exist over at MLSsoccer.com. Every play described above and more are
available there, and here's the full video recap. Pretty entertaining in
short form. 

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks in the 2017 NHL draft, on Saturday afternoon added some CHL hardware to their trophy case.

Patrick won the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award, beating out Hischier and Windsor's Gabriel Vilardi, while Hischier edged Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi and Guelph's Ryan Merkley for the CCM Rookie of the Year Award.

Injuries forced Patrick to play just 33 games this season, but he still produced at a point-per-game pace for Brandon. He finished with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Hischier scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Mooseheads, his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Switzerland.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. If the draft goes as projected, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier, whoever the New Jersey Devils do not pick.

The 2017 NHL draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

Missing history
Flyers prospect Carter Hart had a chance to become the first goalie in CHL history to win the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Year Award twice, but this year's award went elsewhere.

Owen Sound goalie Michael McNiven on Saturday afternoon took home the 2016-17 CHL Goaltender of the Year Award. McNiven was 41-9-4 for the Attack this season. He posted a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with six shutouts.

McNiven led the Ontario Hockey League in save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied with Windsor's Michael DiPietro for the league lead. His 41 wins were tops in the OHL.

Hart, 18, posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17. His 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and nine shutouts were all ranked No. 1 in the WHL.

Despite missing out on the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award this year, Hart previously did win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. He was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week and had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 48 seconds during the regular season.

Hart was one of three second-round picks by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft.

Union-Real Salt Lake 5 things: Rolling Union carry 4-game win streak to Utah

Union-Real Salt Lake 5 things: Rolling Union carry 4-game win streak to Utah

Union vs. Real Salt Lake
8:00 p.m. on CSN
 
Hitting the road with a club record four-game win streak at their back, the streaking Union (4-4-4) will face a cross-country test on Saturday (8:00 p.m., CSN) as they take on Albert Rusnak and inconsistent Real Salt Lake (3-8-2) at Rio Tinto Stadium.
 
Here are five things to know:
 
1. Keeping Momentum
With four-straight wins and six unbeaten to catapult them up the Eastern Conference standings and nearly in playoff position, the Union are rolling. 
 
But despite the hot streak, Union manager Jim Curtin doesn’t want his club’s demons returning.
 
“The biggest thing we’ve tried to stress how hard we had to work to get out of that hole and the feeling we had while we were in that hole, we don’t want that back ever against,” Curtin said, with regards to the Union going winless in their first eight games of the 2017 season. “The good run of games helps that and the performances have been really good, but you’re guarding against that ever creeping back in and kicking it down when it does.”
 
Curtin shouldn’t have to worry about that. His players have proven to possess a steady mental quality, one they put on display throughout the eight-game winless streak to start the season. There wasn’t infighting or finger-pointing, the club went to work and are now fighting for a playoff position.
 
“We’re not going to get too high or get too low,” Curtin said. “We’re going to stick with what we believe in.”
 
Along with mental strength, Union leading scorer C.J. Sapong, who has eight goals on the season, believes it’s positive vibes that will help the Union continue their streak in Utah.
 
“It’s the collective energy of the group,” he said. “Through our rough spell, we still had belief in ourselves. We finally got that one win and have been flying high since then.”  
 
2. Haris on Fire
Playing quarterback of the Union’s offense and spearheading his club’s recent hot streak, Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin is quickly warming up to MLS.
 
“Haris has been excellent for us,” Curtin said. “There’s a couple statistics now where we’re at the top of the league and he has one -- it’s called usage percentage. Fourteen-percent of our touches are distributed by him, so if you want him to be a quarterback, point guard, he’s third in the league in that. We want him on the ball as much as possible and that’s including restarts where he’s proven to be lethal.”
 
Lethal is right. After registering three assists in his first nine MLS games, the veteran defensive midfielder is pacing the Union’s attack, scoring two goals and two assists over the Union’s last four wins. That includes the game-winner against the Colorado Rapids last Saturday, where he ripped a free kick through the Rapids’ defensive wall to beat Tim Howard from just outside the box.
 
And while Medunjanin is known as an adept playmaker, it’s that free-kick scoring ability that takes his game, and the Union offense, to another level.
 
“He has an ability to serve a ball to get an assist and the shooting he possesses to win a game for you, it’s huge,” Curtin said. “Other teams have to be cautious in and around the box which leads to us being more dangerous around the box.” 
 
3. RSL Trusting the Process
The Union and RSL have a lot in common this season. Both teams went winless from August onward to finish the 2016 season and both clubs suffered losses in the early going of 2017, falling to the bottom of their respective conferences.
 
The difference is while the Union have recovered from that depressing ordeal, RSL hasn’t.
 
“The process is going,” said RSL coach Mike Petke, who took over the team in late March. “It takes awhile and you have to be willing to go over a lot of speed bumps. We’re working through some stuff and we’ll be better off in the end.” 
 
While RSL has five losses in their last six matches, the players do feel that tide turning. 
 
“You gotta keep pulling out the positives of every game we play and keep building on them,” said RSL’s Luke Mulholland. “We have to keep working on the positives, shooting and hopefully we’ll find the back of the net here.” 
 
With a 2-1 home win over New York City FC on May 17, RSL traveled to CenturyLink Field last weekend, where they stood toe-to-toe in a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders. They were not outmatched, which should give the Union pause. 
 
“I consider it a loss on paper but we gained so much in there,” Petke said. “To look at the game and rewatch it again, the players did 95% of what we wanted. It was ugly, we dumbed it down because that’s what we had to do. We were bleeding goals so we wanted to limit certain things. It’s an incredible stepping stone. But it’s all for nothing if they don’t carry it into the Philadelphia game.” 
 
4. Keep an eye on
Albert Rusnak: While RSL doesn’t have much going for it offensively, it’s not for lack of trying from Rusnak. The 22-year-old first-year MLS midfielder has three goals and four assists in 11 games. He’s the player the Union will have to stop on Saturday.

Haris Medunjanin: The midfielder will look to keep his hot streak alive on Saturday, as he goes for his fifth point in five games. It’s becoming abundantly clear that as Medunjanin goes, so does the Union.

5. This and that
• In the Union’s history, they have never defeated RSL. The club is 0-3-6 all-time against the Western Conference side.

• During the Union’s 4-0-0 streak, they have outscored opponents 11-1. The lone goal against came in the first half of the Union’s come-from-behind win over the Rapids on Saturday.

• Despite a very success past few weeks, the Union are picking up injuries. Midfielder Fabian Herbers strained his hip/groin against the Rapids. He’s out 2-to-4 weeks. Roland Alberg is also expected to be out with a quad injury. Defender Josh Yaro is healthy and training with the team but is a conditioning track. 

• For the hosts, MLS veteran Tony Beltran is expected back in the lineup against the Union. The defender missed 10 matches with back and calf injuries.