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Wenger, McInerney face (immediate) pasts Saturday as Union head to Montreal

Wenger, McInerney face (immediate) pasts Saturday as Union head to Montreal

Montreal Impact's Jack McInerney celebrates his goal against the the Chicago Fire on April 12.

In general, storylines revolving around players facing their old teams are drenched in clichés.

The player wants to prove himself … the player is excited to see old friends … the player isn’t sure what kind of response he’ll get from his old fans … the player cares more about winning than doing well personally in his return … blah blah blah.

But because Saturday’s MLS game between the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo (4 p.m., The Comcast Network) comes just three weeks after the blockbuster trade that sent Jack McInerney from Philly to Montreal in exchange for Andrew Wenger, this one feels different.

It feels, well, juicier.

Sure, Wenger did his part to fill in the clichés during a press conference from PPL Park on Wednesday, saying some version of all of the above lines.

But good ol’ honest Jack told Matt De George of the Delaware County Daily Times that “if I scored three goals and we won 3-0, that would be an ideal scenario.” He also echoed what he told me three weeks ago about “wanting to prove they made a big mistake” when he takes the field opposite his old coaches and teammates - still a cliché but slightly more ominous.

Of course, we’re not going to know who “won” the trade based on Saturday’s game. Both Wenger and McInerney have already scored since the deal and seem to be relatively good fits with their new teams. And even though McInerney already had his breakout season last year while Wenger is still looking for his, it’s probably fair to say that both young players can be potential stars in this league if they figure a few things out.

But with the Union (1-2-5) winless in their last six games and without a goal from the run of play in their last two, you can bet that fans will start clamoring even more than they have been if the Union lose to a winless Montreal team. And if McInerney scores in an Impact win, you can probably DEFINITELY bet on a full-fledged freakout back in Philly.

Dave's prediction sure to be wrong: McInerney and Wenger both score in a 2-2 draw as the Union continue their quest for setting the MLS record for most ties in a season. We’ll give the other goals to Union-killer Marco Di Vaio and Cristian Maidana, who seems due to open his MLS scoring account for Philly.

Now here’s Steve Moore’s take and his prediction that will probably be less wrong than mine:

* * *

The Union's streak of draws and overall record are certainly rubbing fans the wrong way. But it's more than that, at least right now. It's the lack of attacking chances (John Hackworth both shrugged off the team's low "shots on goals" total, and also said they have to pull the trigger more often). But it's also Hackworth's seeming acceptance of draws instead of frustration over missing out on a win. Especially at home.

There is no reason the Union should have accepted a 0-0 draw with Houston last weekend. When playing at home -- especially against a team that is struggling, like Houston -- the last 15 to 20 minutes of a tie game should be treated as if you're behind. Make attacking subs, take chances going forward. That's not what we saw last weekend. And that's not what we heard this week from Hackworth:

We legitimately feel as though we should’ve won five of our eight games for sure at a minimum. … What I will say though is that within our team, we’re very confident about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And my experiences as a coach is that the more you continue to play that way, the chances will turn. The tide will turn and we will see the results start to come our way."

Just as the Union -- who entered the season with high expectations -- should not accept draws at home, they should not be OK with playing for a draw Saturday in Montreal against a winless club. Stade Saputo is a tough place to play (this is actually Montreal's first game there this season after a few home dates at Olympic Stadium), but the Union are flat-out better than the Impact.

Also, judging from Hackworth's comments this week, we'll likely see striker-turned-centerback Aaron Wheeler yet again, instead of former MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry. Let's just say I don't agree, and leave it right there for now. We'll address it some more next week, especially if Wheeler loses track of Di Vaio once or twice in the penalty area.

I agree with Dave that Wenger gets on the board against his old club. But I'll go with another goal from Vincent Nogueira and a third from Maurice Edu. The Union finally break their endless string of draws in an entertaining tilt north of the border.

Steve's prediction sure to be wrong: Union 3, Impact 2.

* * *

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the untimely death of Sons of Ben founding member Eric Shertz. If you're unfamiliar with the story, Dave wrote eloquently on the subject this week.

I didn't know Eric very well, but I did know him, as did nearly every single Union fan. If you never met him, you knew him as that long-haired pony-tail guy at the front of the River End screaming and waving his scarf (he cut the pony tail off in recent years).

If you walked within 10 feet of Eric, chances are he introduced himself, and likely remembered your name. He walked me around my first Sons of Ben tailgate back in 2010, when it seemed like everyone already knew everyone else and I knew no one. He organized a season-long baggo tournament that was more put-together than most youth soccer leagues.

Eric's death at the far-too-young age of 38 has shaken up the Sons of Ben, who are as tight-knit as any fans can be. To non-soccer people, a group of fans who sing and drink and raise money for charity and hang out together away from the stadium might seem a little strange. But if you saw the outpouring of support last week from not only Union fans, but fans and supporters groups from nearly EVERY other soccer club in the United States, you realize that while you might think it's a little weird, Eric and the rest of the SOBs embrace it.

Eric's funeral was slated for Friday and a wake is scheduled for Saturday at Stoney's Pub in Delaware. You can donate to help with funeral costs and to help his family, including his 16-year-old son Gabe, at this link.

And you can bet on a moving tribute in The River End come May 10, when the Union next play at home against D.C. United.

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

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Inside Doop: Andre Blake stars but Union offense lifeless again

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Inside Doop: Andre Blake stars but Union offense lifeless again

Under normal circumstances, finding a way to earn a point at Red Bull Arena would be a decent accomplishment for a Union team that’s won only one time there in 10 trips.

But considering where they are in the standings and how little excitement came from the game — except for the performance of one player — you’ll have to forgive Philly fans for not getting fired up about Sunday’s nationally televised scoreless draw vs. the New York Red Bulls.

Here’s a closer look at the game — and more — in this week’s Inside Doop.

Three thoughts about Sunday’s game
1. What more can you say about Andre Blake at this point? The star goalkeeper has been the team’s brightest star over the past two years, winning the Union points in games in which they had no business winning points. Sunday’s game was the latest example as Blake made eight sparkling saves, including seven in the first half, to keep the Red Bulls off the board. And Union fans can exhale after the goalie went down with what looked like a neck injury before popping back up. This was easily his best game since returning from his Gold Cup injury and a good sign heading into the offseason next month.

2. The team’s center back pairing has been in flux for much of the season, and on Sunday, Richie Marquez made his first start since April, alongside rookie Jack Elliott. Perhaps the most interesting part of this pairing is that Elliott, a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, has been the best and most reliable center back of a group that also includes veteran Oguchi Onyewu and Joshua Yaro, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft. And Marquez, a former late-round pick himself who emerged as one of the team’s top young players in 2015 and 2016, had fallen off the map until this weekend. So the biggest question now is whether Elliott continues his upward trajectory — the rookie put in another strong shift vs. the Red Bulls — or if he plummets on the depth chart like Marquez, who likely didn’t do enough to win back a starting role when everyone is healthy and available.

3. There was nothing doing offensively for the Union, who have generated very little in that department in road games this season. Against the Red Bulls, they had only two shots on target, missed a lot of passes, won only two corner kicks, and had less than 40 percent of the possession. The problems? Ilsinho getting yanked after playing only the first 45 minutes and Roland Alberg not getting on the field is another example of their inconsistency at playmaker. And over on the wings, Chris Pontius remains stuck on zero goals this season, Fafa Picault was absent with an illness, and Fabian Herbers’ injury absence continues to be a noticeable void. Aside from striker CJ Sapong, who’s enjoying a career year, which offensive player can you really count on going into 2018?

Three thoughts for the week ahead
1. What will the reception be like from Union fans when they return home to face the Chicago Fire on Saturday (7 p.m., TCN) for their first game at Talen Energy Stadium in nearly a month? Although not yet officially mathematically eliminated from the playoff race with five games left, the Union have less than a one-percent chance to get in thanks to a six-game winless streak. And although there have been a smattering of boos for head coach Jim Curtin in recent games, it seems apathy has set in for most of the fanbase as they come to terms with another lost season.

2. The biggest noise from the crowd may be for Bastian Schweinsteiger if he takes the field for Chicago; the German legend has been nursing an injury. But the Fire, in third place in the East and coming off a 3-0 shellacking of D.C. United, still have plenty of other weapons if he can’t go. And, in many ways, their rise from last place in the East the last two seasons to a legitimate MLS contender shows how quickly teams can turn things around — if they make shrewd moves and spend money in the right places. Can the Union learn from that this offseason?

3. Who will start at center back with Onyewu poised to return from a suspension and Yaro potentially back from a minor knee injury? Curtin has said he doesn’t want to just throw young guys in there but it might be nice to use a few games — especially against high-octane offensive teams like Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle — to try to figure out who would be a better option between Yaro or Marquez to play beside Elliott next year. Or maybe Onyewu showed he has enough left in the tank to return to a starting role next season? Or will they have to bring in someone else? There will, for sure, be some interesting offseason decisions at center back.

Stat of the week
The Union have won just one game and earned only nine road points through 15 contests this year (with two road games left). Aside from their 2010 expansion team, when they earned seven points in 15 road games, their lowest road point total for a season is 13 (2012 and 2015).

Quote of the week
“These are results now, on the road in recent weeks, where if we did our work early on in the season, they would be positive results. But right now, as we chase from behind, it’s difficult.”

— Union head coach Jim Curtin

Player of the week
Blake is the easy choice here. The final score could have been ugly without him.