You Go Call Your Crew

You Go Call Your Crew

Two months. It's been two months since the Union last won a league game. They are in the midst of an eight game winless streak. Somehow they sit third in the Eastern Conference. Amazingly, if the season ended today they'd qualify for the MLS playoffs.

Tonight they face the Columbus Crew, who sit atop the Eastern Conference, five points clear of the Union (7:30PM/The Comcast Network).

Peter Nowak's side will face a shorthanded Crew team. Tony Tchani, Eddie Gaven and Emilio Renteria are out due to injury. Emmanuel Ekpo is out due to a red card suspension. Chad Marshall, although likely to play tonight, is coming off of a hip injury which forced him out of Wednesday's 2-2 tie against Houston.

[Update: Starting Lineup Released and Listed After The Jump...]

If ever the Crew were susceptible, it's tonight. The question remains whether the struggling Union can take advantage and pick up their first ever win against Columbus.

As Yogi Berra said, it's getting late early for the Union. After tonight the Union have just five games left on the schedule. They need to figure things out and get a move on.

Can they finally play a complete game? They'll need to if they hope to gain ground on the conference leader. Many people are calling this the biggest game in franchise history.

What can they do to win tonight? Well, finishing their chances would be nice. They certainly had the better of play last week against Portland, but were unable to score and settled for a 0-0 tie.

They'll also need their midfield to be active and actually be a conduit from the back line to the forwards. Their midfielders will need to provide some width and play dangerous balls into the box. Finally, they'll need to show a killer instinct in the final third.

The Union are running out of time to figure things out. Someone needs to step up and take ownership of this team. Sebastien Le Toux has been their most dangerous player offensively. Someone, anyone, needs to raise their game and take over.

It may be a bit much to ask of him considering he only joined the team a little over a month ago, but Freddy Adu needs to provide that creative attacking presence. The back line needs to play like they did last week in front of rookie keeper Zac MacMath.

The margin of error in Major League Soccer is not that great. In order to win you need to do the little things. Doing the little things is what made the Union so successful early in the season. If they have any hope of making it to the postseason they desperately need to get back to doing those little things.

Lineup I'd like to see tonight: Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabe Farfan, Brian Carroll, Freddy Adu, Kyle Nakazawa, Roger Torres, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga

Final Score Prediction: Desperationc carries the day as the Union finally earn the three points with a 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely To See Red: Brian Carroll. Because why not?

UPDATE: The Union announced their starting lineup. It looks like this: MacMath; G. Farfan, Califf, Valdes, Williams; Carroll, Adu, Torres, Pfeffer; Le Toux, M. Farfan.

Yes, Peter Nowak is starting 16 year old homegrown player Zach Pfeffer in one of the most important games in the young history of the franchise. Wow. No pressure, Zach. Also, Michael Farfan is getting the starting nod up top ahead of Danny Mwanga and Veljko Pauno. Okkkkkkk, experimenting with the lineup.

 

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).