Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Halladay goes on DL

Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 28, with right latissimus dorsi strain. To fill his spot on the 25-man roster, catcher Erik Kratz has been recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley.

 Halladay, 35, has gone 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA in 11 starts this season.  He threw only two innings in his last start on Sunday at St. Louis before being removed from the game due to right shoulder soreness.

 Kratz, 31, has appeared in four games for the Phillies this season, mostly as a pinch-hitter.  He has hit .250 with one home run and one RBI in 2012.  This is the third recall of the season for Kratz, who will be available for tonight’s game in New York.

Comcast SportsNet announces coverage of 2012 TD Bank Cycling Championship

PHILADELPHIA – Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia will have comprehensive coverage of the 2012 TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship taking place on Sunday, June 3. Comcast SportsNet’s notable race programming includes a 30-minute race preview “Geared Up” airing on Friday, June 1 at 10:30 p.m., daily coverage in “Daily News Live” and “SportsNite” beginning on Tuesday, May 29 and a one-hour race recap special on Sunday, June 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Race Preview Special

On Friday, June 1 at 10:30 p.m. Comcast SportsNet will air “Geared Up,” a 30 minute program previewing the 2012 TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. Marshall Harris will host the program, alongside cycling expert John Eustice, which features course highlights and riders to look out for on race day. “Geared Up” will replay on Saturday, June 2 at 1:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Saturday, June 2 at 4:30 p.m. on The Comcast Network.

Comcast SportsNet will also air daily “Geared Up” features in “SportsNite” beginning on Tuesday, May 29.

Race Day Coverage

On Sunday, June 3rd, Comcast SportsNet will have a complete race recap during “SportsNite” at 6 p.m., followed by a one-hour “TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Champs: Race Recap” special, hosted by John Eustice and Todd Gogulski at 6:30 p.m. Eustice is a Philly-area native and a former U.S. National Cycling Champion, while Gogulski is an analyst for NBC Universal Sports and former professional cyclist who was crowned “King of the Mountain” during the 1991 race for scaling the famed Manayunk Wall.  The “TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Champs: Race Recap” will relive the race from the exciting start to the hold your breath finish, with complete highlights and storylines interwoven throughout the program. Lisa Hillary will have interviews with the winners and will share the sights and sounds of race day.

The “TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Champs: Race Recap” program will replay on Comcast SportsNet on  Sunday, June 3 at 12 a.m.; Tuesday, June 5 at 11 a.m.; and Saturday, June 9 at 1:30 p.m. It will also air on The Comcast Network on Monday, June 4 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, June 9 at 3:30 p.m.  The one-hour program will also be available to Xfinity! On Demand customers beginning on Monday, June 4.

Coverage across the Country

Comcast SportsNet’s family of regional sports networks will air the race in their local markets, reaching nearly 24 million households. The following networks also carry the race special: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Comcast SportsNet New England, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Northwest and CSS.

NBC Sports Network will air the 60 minute race special nationally on Monday, June 4 at 5 p.m.

Real Madrid and Celtic to meet at the Linc

Lincoln Financial Field announced today that the stadium will host a match between two of the world’s most decorated soccer clubs, Spain’s La Liga champion Real Madrid and Scottish Premier League title holder Celtic, as part of the 2012 World Football Challenge.

The two teams will square off on August 11 at 1:30 pm in Philadelphia. Tickets for the match go on sale to the general public at 10 am on Monday, June 4 and can be purchased by visiting www.philadelphiaeagles.com, Ticketmaster.com and WorldFootballChallenge.com.

“We are thrilled to have two international soccer powerhouses playing at Lincoln Financial Field this summer,” said Eagles COO Don Smolenski. “Last year’s match between Real Madrid and the Philadelphia Union brought a great deal of fanfare and showed the passion this city has for the sport.  We expect to build on that excitement by having two of the most decorated soccer clubs in the world, both reigning champions of their respective leagues, go up against each other.  It should make for an entertaining afternoon of soccer.”

“This is a magnificent event for Celtic Football Club to be involved in and one which again demonstrates the strength and influence of the Celtic brand on a global scale,” said Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell. “This match will allow us to promote Celtic and, of course, Scottish football across the USA, something we have done for a number of years with great success. We have enjoyed tremendous footballing occasions in the past there and I am sure this match in Philadelphia, between two of the greatest names in football, will be no different. We look forward to coming up against Jose Mourinho again and competing against some of the world´s greatest players at Real Madrid. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful support right across the world - as we have seen across Europe, the USA and Australia in recent seasons, the Celtic family stretches far and wide in huge numbers. It is right that we do all we can to give these supporters the opportunity to see the team play and in doing so promote all that is great about Celtic and Scottish football.”

Founded in 1902, Real Madrid has won a record nine UEFA Champions Leagues and 32 La Liga titles, 18 Spanish Copa del Rey Cups, eight Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Cups, one UEFA Supercup and three Intercontinental Cups.

Established in 1887, Celtic FC has won the Scottish League Championship 43 times, including the most recent 2012 season.  They are also the reigning Scottish Cup champions, having won a record 35 times. They were the first British soccer club ever to win the European Cup (1967), and are one-time UEFA Cup runners-up (2003).

This marks the 18th soccer match to be played at Lincoln Financial Field since its inception in 2003, including last year’s friendly between Real Madrid and the Philadelphia Union which sold more than 57,000 tickets. Celtic will also be playing in their second match at Lincoln Financial Field, after defeating Manchester United 2-1 in July 2004 in front of over 54,000 fans.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

USWNT routs China

By John McMullen

CHESTER, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Alex Morgan loves the pitch at PPL Park.

The California native scored her first ever goal for the U.S. Women's National Team in Chester back in 2010 and added two more tonight as well as an assist as the Americans topped China 4-1 in front of a sellout 18,573  on the Delaware Riverfront.

USWNT F Alex Morgan
Only one American soccer team will be going to London this summer for the Olympic Games and it was at PPL on Sunday. The U.S. Women did what our men couldn't, qualify for the Summer Games that begin on July 27.

Preparation has begun in earnest for the games and the No. 1 ranked USWNT routed China after a shaky start.

The women, who are coming off a second place finish to Japan in the World Cup, are the favorites for London after winning the past two Gold Medals and three of the four played.

The U.S. has quite a history with China winning the 1999 World Cup over the country on penalty kicks in front of over 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl. Brandi Chastain capped things there, tearing off her shirt in a celebration that still might be the most famous moment is U.S. Soccer history.

Since then Chinese have fallen on hard times since and are now ranked just 18th in the world and did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

However, China surprisingly cashed in first against a rusty American side that hadn't been on the pitch since a 3-1 win over Brazil on April 3 in Chiba, Japan. Zhang Rui got behind the defense in the 23rd minute and beat Hope Solo to the far side.

Morgan evened things from the area in the 34th, finding the right corner of the net behind Zhang Yue, her 23rd marker as a member of the USWNT.

It didn't take long for the Americans to go on top when Chinese captain Zhou Gaoping headed in an own goal after a scrum in front during the 36th minute.

Morgan put things out of reach in the 50th minute, out wrestling the defender for the ball before exploding a left-footed kick past Zhang.

Morgan finally finished things in the 83rd minute with a beautiful throw in from the right side that found fellow veteran forward Abby Wambach, who put it home from a tough angle.

"It's always so awesome to play in front of a sellout crowd," Wambach said after the match. "It lets us know that there is a big tournament coming up for us."

"I'm very happy scoring goals but the happiest thing for us was we changed the game," added U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. "We struggled a bit in the first half but we turned it around in the second half and the crowd was great. You look at the crowd like this and it makes a difference.

"In the Olympics we'll have big crowds and in the World Cup we had big crowds. You have to deal with that feeling and you should take advantage of it. Playing in front of this crowd is almost like having a 12th player and it's fantastic." 


* The only other USWNT game at PPL Park was a 1-1 tie with China on Oct. 6, 2010. Not in an Olympic year that one drew just 2,500. Morgan's first goal as a member of the USWNT came in that game to even it with just seven minutes left.

*The USWNT is 11-1-1 this year with three matches to go before the London Games. The women will play Sweden in Halmstad, Sweden on June 16, Japan in Halmstad on June 18 and Canada in Sandy, Utah on June 30. Their only setback this year was a 1-0 loss to Japan in Portugal back on March 5.

*Wambach has 179 career caps for the USWNT and 135 goals. She sits only behind Mia Hamm (158) on the USA all-time scoring list.

*Lauren Cheney, the UCLA product that is the girlfriend of the Sixers' Jrue Holiday, came on as a substitution for Carli Lloyd in the 46th minute and made a big difference in the midfield, so much so that she was named the Bud Light Woman of the Match over both Morgan and Wambach.

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. China
Date: May 27, 2012
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: PPL Park; Chester, Pa.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Attendance: 18,573 (sell out)
Weather: 82 degrees, warm, humid
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA                        2 2 4
CHN                       1 0 1

CHN - Zhang Rui (Lou Jiahui)                22rd minute
USA - Alex Morgan                              34
USA - own goal (Zhou Gaoping)             36
USA - Alex Morgan (Christie Rampone)  50
USA - Abby Wambach (Alex Morgan)    83
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet (11-Sydney Leroux, 81), 3-Christie Rampone (capt.) (4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 62), 19-Rachel Buehler, 5-Kelley O'Hara; 9-Heather O'Reilly (8-Amy Rodriguez, 46), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd (12-Lauren Cheney 46), 15-Megan Rapinoe; 13-Alex Morgan, 20-Abby Wambach
Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 14-Meghan Klingenberg, 18-Nicole Barnhart
Head coach: Pia Sundhage

CHN: 1-Zhang Yue; 3-Zhou Gaoping, 4-Li Jiayue, 5-Wang Dongni, 12-Zhao Hongli (17-Pang Fengyue, 85); 6-Ren Guixin (23-Li Wen 56), 14-Liu Shukun, 16-Wang Xin (15-Xu Yanlu, 68; 21-Wang Lisi, 87), 18-Han Peng (19-Zhou Feifei, 39), 25-Zhang Rui (10-Ma Xiaoxu, 78); 11-Lou Jiahui
Subs not used: 22-Wang Fei
Head coach: Hao Wei

Statistical Summary: USA / CHN
Shots: 18 / 5
Shots on Goal: 7 / 1
Saves: 0 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 1
Fouls: 10 / 11
Offside: 2 / 3
Misconduct Summary:
CHN --Ren Guixin (caution)       18th minute
USA - Sydney Leroux (caution)  90+1
Referee: Margaret Domka (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Marlene Duffy (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Veronica Perez (USA)
Fourth Official: Kari Seitz (USA)
Bud Light Woman of the Match:
Lauren Cheney

Soul earn big win in Cleveland

CLEVELAND  – The Philadelphia Soul (8-3) used a 20-0 run in the third quarter to pull away and take control of the East Division by beating the Cleveland Gladiators (6-4), 55-33, in front of 4,737 fans at the Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday.

“This was a big comeback game for us,” said Soul head coach Doug Plank.  “All facets of the game – offense, defense and special teams – we improved on from the previous week.  I am pleased that we stayed focused and stuck to our game plan when it could have been easy not to.”

Philadelphia’s QB Dan Raudabaugh finished by connecting on 20-of-34 passes for 157 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.  Leading the receivers were Donovan Morgan with nine receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns.  Tiger Jones had seven receptions for 58 yards and three touchdowns, while Zipp Duncan with three receptions for 8 yards and Jeff Hughley added a 7-yard touchdown.  

Leading the way defensively were Bryan Robinson with a blocked kick and a sack, while teammates Justin Warren and Dustin Barno applied pressure all night.  Newly-acquired DB LaRico Stevenson added 3.0 total tackles and a fumble recovery.

The Gladiators got things started when QB John Dutton found Robert Redd on a 15-yard scoring strike, but a missed extra point made the score, 6-0.  The Soul answered when Raudabaugh connected with Jones from 18 yards out and gave Philadelphia a 7-6 lead to end the first quarter.

After stopping the Gladiators on down and forcing a field goal on consecutive possessions, the Soul extended the lead to 21-6 on a pair of Raudabaugh to Jones touchdowns.  Cleveland answered with a Dutton to Dominic Goodman to narrow the score to 21-12.  Cleveland DB Levy Brown then intercepted Raudabaugh and returned it for 20 yards for the touchdown.  Cleveland came up with a big stop to end the first half and kept Ross out of the endzone as time expired with the Soul leading, 21-19.

The Soul open the second half with a five-play, 45 yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown run for a 28-19 lead.  On the following Gladiator drive, Philadelphia’s Justin Warren forced a fumble that was recovered by LaRico Stevenson and capitalized by the offense when Raudabaugh hit Morgan on  an 11-yard touchdown and increasing the lead to 34-19.

The Soul defense stepped up again in the third quarter when Bryan Robinson made a huge sack of Dutton on fourth down that gave the Soul possession.  The Soul outscored the Gladiators 20-0 in the third quarter.

With the game well in hand, in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia got a touchdown run from Ross and a 12-yard touchdown from Morgan for a final score of 55-33.

The Soul will return home next Saturday when they host the Orlando Predators (1-9) at 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.

More change needed in Chester?

By John McMullen

CHESTER, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Toronto's Danny Koevermans called his own team the worst in the world after a 3-1 loss to D.C. United last weekend.

Koevermans had not seen Peter Nowak's Philadelphia Union before making that statement.

Ironically it was Koeverman's marker in the 88th minute that lifted Toronto FC (1-9-0)  to its first win of the season over a Union side that has collapsed after making its first playoff appearance a year ago.

To be fair, Nowak was down to his third goalkeeper, Chris Konopka, in Toronto. Starter Zac MacMath is still dealing with concussion related symptoms and Chase Harrison has a sprained left ankle. However, if anything Konopka was surprisingly steady in just his second MLS game, making six saves.

The real problems in Chester have been offense and continuity, things that go hand and hand. No one is going to question Nowak's technical prowess but athletes are creatures of habit and he has been jerking players in and out of the lineup since his first day on the job, especially his younger charges.

Nowak finally admitted that he wasn't happy with the Union's performance in Toronto but continues to show no sense of urgency for a 2-7-2 club, a clash between the more laid back world of soccer and a Philadelphia market that will only support a winner in any endeavor.

"I am extremely disappointed with our performance; we had a couple of good games and today was the complete opposite," said Nowak after losing to lowly Toronto. "We took three steps forward and now three steps back."

When exactly were those three steps forward?

The Union were 11-8-15 a season ago and have mustered one point in their last four games.

A better description may have been desperately treading water before sinking.

Philadelphia has already waived goodbye to three of the faces of the franchise since the end of last season, leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux, it's All-Star goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, and most recently its former captain Danny Califf.

With a three-week break before returning to league action on June 16, perhaps it's time for the Union to part ways with a fourth - Nowak.

Otherwise the empty seats that have started to pop up in Citizens Bank Park s might start spreading 20 miles West and find the quaint little Park on the Delaware Riverfront.

USWNT names Olympians

By John McMullen

CHESTER, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - U.S. Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage named the 18-player roster for the 2012 Olympic Games before the team's friendly against China at PPL Park on Saturday.

Eleven players make a return to the Olympics after helping the USA to the gold medal in 2008 in Beijing, China. Midfielders Shannon Boxx and Heather O'Reilly and defender Heather Mitts make their third Olympic Team while U.S. captain Christie Rampone will be playing in a U.S. record fourth Olympic Games.

The U.S. will open Group G play at the Olympics with two matches at the famed Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The U.S. will first face France (5 p.m. local / 12 p.m. ET) on July 25 - two days before the Olympic Opening Ceremonies - and then take on Colombia on July 28 (5 p.m. local / 12 p.m. ET). The USA will finish group play against Korea DPR on July 31 (5:15 p.m. local / 12:15 p.m. ET) at the legendary Old Trafford in Manchester, home to Manchester United.

The U.S. Women's National Team has advanced to the gold medal game of every Olympic women's soccer tournament that has been contested. The USA won the inaugural gold medal in 1996 in Athens, Ga., won silver in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and will be going for its third straight gold medal after standing atop the podium in Athens, Greece, in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team Roster by Position - Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (6): Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O'Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (6): Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe
FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach

"As always, these players make it very difficult to select rosters, and for this Olympic team it was a long, productive and interesting process to cut the pool down to these 18," said Sundhage. "The team is a mix of very experienced players and several new fresh faces. All the players are versatile, which is extremely important when you have just 16 field players on a roster. This is a group that is focused on some very high goals and it will be a pleasure to coach them in the Olympics."

Sundhage also named four replacement players in midfielder Lori Lindsey and goalkeeper Jill Loyden - both members of the USA's 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup team - twice-capped midfielder Meghan Klingenberg and forward Christen Press, who is uncapped but currently one of the top scorers in the Swedish First Division.

Union falls to lowly Toronto

TORONTO – Philadelphia Union's fell 1-0 to Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday.  Second-half substitute Danny Koevermans muscled home a shot in the 88th minute to give Toronto their first points in League play this season. Philadelphia (2-7-2) are winless in their past five games.

Konopka had his area besieged in the first several minutes of the game as Toronto had the early advantage. He saved on Reggie Lambe’s shot from the right side of the box, before Lambe put the rebound wide. Soon after, Ryan Johnson misfired twice.  Late in the first half, Toronto again buzzed around Konopka’s goal without getting a direct shot, although Adrian Cann sent a header just wide.The first half finished with Toronto having nine attempts at goal to Philadelphia’s two. Toronto had one shot on goal and Philadelphia none.

Both teams had their share of chances, including Philadelphia’s Michael Farfan hitting the crossbar with a blast from 35 yards out in the 50th minute. Toronto didn't fold, though, and Chris Konopka saved a close-range header by Doneil Henry off a corner in the 63rd minute.  Konopka was alert on a couple of Toronto's late chances, but came up on the short end of Koevermans’ second effort on a shot from just outside the left side of the post. It came after some determined work down the left side by second-half substitute and fellow Dutchman Nick Soolsma.

Konopka, Philadelphia’s third-string goalkeeper, was playing due to injuries to Zac MacMath and Chase Harrison. His last MLS game was when he was with the New York Red Bulls last August 13 in a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire.

The Union play the Rochester Rhinos at PPL Park in their first home Lamar Hunt U.S. Open match this Tuesday, May 29. Philadelphia’s next League game is on June 16 at home vs D.C. United.

Big Three takes backseat to Rondo

By John McMullen

Once Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL, most expected the Eastern Conference Finals to feature LeBron James and the Miami Heat against the perceived last stand of Boston's "Big Three," Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

It's about to happen but neither team took an easy route. Miami got knocked to the canvas by the Indiana Pacers in the conference semifinals before responding like a champion, while the Celtics needed seven games to dispose of a plucky, albeit offensively challenged Philadelphia team.

In fact, when Pierce fouled out with 4:16 remaining, the 76ers had an opening to repeat their Game 7 magic from 30 years ago in Beantown, but Andrew Toney wasn't available and Rajon Rondo didn't let the Celtics falter in a deciding game.

Rondo scored 11 of his 18 points in the final quarter, including nine in a row for his team right after Pierce left the game, as Boston beat Philadelphia, 85-75.

Rondo, who also had 10 rebounds and 10 assists, recorded his ninth career playoff triple-double, matching the great Wilt Chamberlain for fourth all- time, and became the first Celtic since Larry Bird in 1984 to do it in a Game 7.

"Rondo wants to run the team," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's a great quarterback. But tonight, obviously with Paul fouling out, he had to take charge of the team."

In reality, Rondo is already the engine that runs Rivers' team even with Kevin Garnett and Pierce still playing at a high level.

Each time the never-say-die Sixers got within one possession in Game 7, the Celtics had an answer, and it was usually Rondo providing it.

With the TD Garden crowd in a nervous hush after Pierce's exit, Garnett came up with a gimmee steal off a poorly thrown Thaddeus Young entry pass before Rondo raced down the floor for a layup and a 73-68 C's lead.

Philadelphia's Evan Turner then missed a jumper at the other end and Rondo answered by draining a shot from the top of the arc with his right foot touching the 3-point line.

"It served as momentum for Rondo," Sixers forward Elton Brand said of Pierce's absence. "We didn't attack those guys as aggressively as we should have with such a prolific scorer on the bench. When he's out, we try to trap Rondo, trap Garnett. But we just couldn't get to them."

Finally Rondo's 3-pointer from deep on the right wing made it a 78-68 game with 2:09 left and essentially sealed the Sixers' fate.

"You know you're thinking a miss," Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday said. "But he did what he had to do and that's what good players do. Paul Pierce went out, and I know me personally, I'm thinking let's go. Rajon Rondo, the player he is, the point guard he is, he came through for his team. He put his team on his back."

Allen was 3-for-11 from the floor in Game 7, Pierce fouled out and Garnett, although he played well, was just as much of a spectator down the stretch as the Sixers were. Yet, in the final seconds thanks to the greatness of Rondo, fans at the Garden were able to turn their attention to Boston's next opponent with chants of "Beat the Heat!"

"I was thankful," Pierce said. "You know he was able to step up, be aggressive, knock down a couple big threes, got to the bucket. That was huge for us. You know he felt a sense of urgency, he smelled it, how close we were. He was able to take over the game with his scoring, and it was just phenomenal to watch."

The inevitable end of the Big Three, was put on hold by one man regarded as an afterthought by so many.

"I don't look at them as the 'Big Three,'" Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I look at them as a championship four. If you leave Rondo out, you're making a huge mistake because that guy has become the motor that drives this team."

Miami, of course, poses a much stiffer test for Boston that the Sixers. When James and Dwyane Wade play like the did in the final three games of the Indiana series, it's checkmate. You might as well run for the basement, keep your head down, wait for the tornado to pass and assess the damage afterward.

Unless your Rondo, he thinks the end of an era can wait a little bit longer.

"We feel we can beat Miami," the point guard said. "Obviously we got to this point. There's no doubt in my mind that we can, so we gotta go down there and take care of business."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Union's Gomez called up by Panama

Chester, Pa. - Philadelphia Union midfielder Gabriel Gomez, the team's leading goal scorer, has been called up by the Panamanian National Team for World Cup qualifying, the club announced today.

Gomez, who serves as Panama’s captain, will depart on Sunday following the Union’s match at Toronto FC tomorrow and return to Philadelphia following Panama’s match against Cuba on June 12.

Due to a break in Major League Soccer action, Gomez will not miss any League games but will miss Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup game against the Rochester Rhinos as well as Union exhibition matches against Reading United (June 9) and the Harrisburg City Islanders (June 12).

Panama will face Jamaica in two friendlies on May 27 and June 1 before taking on Honduras on June 8 and Cuba on June 12 in World Cup qualifying.

The central midfielder, a former U-20 World Cup player, made his debut with Panama’s senior national team against El Salvador on February 9, 2003. Since then, Gomez, who turns 28 on May 29, has been capped 75 times, notching eight goals. Gómez’s last five tallies with the Red Tide came in 2011, helping Panama reach the 2011 Gold Cup semifinals. Gómez was one of Panama's top players in the tournament, scoring a penalty kick goal against the US in a group stage upset.

Gomez signed with the Union on December 21, 2011 from Mexican side Indios de Cuidad Juarez and has made an immediate impact, becoming the Union’s leading goal scorer with four tallies.

Soul take over Williamstown, NJ

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Soul (7-3) will be holding a “Town Takeover” of South Jersey on Sunday, June 10 from 2-5 p.m. 

The Town Takeover will take place at the Sam’s Club located on the Blackhorse Pike in Williamstown, NJ and will feature a “run-through” practice by the Philadelphia Soul as well as a mini car show from Car Effex, South Jersey's premier custom auto shop with clients such the Philadelphia eagles Mike Vick, Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Jeremy Maclin and many more.

The event will be free to the public.  During the practice, random residents will be asked to participate by “running plays” with the Soul team. 

“I think it’s great that the fans get to have so much interaction with the team,” said Soul head coach Doug Plank.  “The Soul are creating a unique bond with our fans that other teams don’t have, and that makes our home crowd that much more passionate during games.  It gives us a definite competitive edge at home.”

Eagles shake up personnel department

The Eagles have named Tom Donahoe as the team’s senior football advisor, Ed Marynowitz as assistant director of pro scouting, Jake Hallum as senior scout, John Middlekauff as west coast area scout, Dan Hatman as pro scout, Alec Halaby as special assistant to the general manager, and Jake Rosenberg as manager of football administration.

“We’re very excited about the additions to our staff,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, “Obviously, Tom Donahoe and Jake Hallum bring with them a tremendous wealth of experience and they are eager to get started. We’re also looking forward to working with Ed Marynowitz; a guy who we feel has a bright future in this league and has a great track record while working at the University of Alabama. John, Dan and Alec have proven themselves over the last couple of years and are deserving of their promotions, while Jake has done a great job thus far in his role.”

“We’d also like to thank Phil Savage, Ahmad Russell and Dan Jeremiah for their contributions to our organization over the last several years. It was hard to see them leave, but we wish them nothing but the best in their new endeavors.”

An experienced and successful front office executive, Donahoe has served as the director of football operations of the Pittsburgh Steelers (1991-99) and as the general manager and team president of the Buffalo Bills (2001-05). A native of Mt. Lebanon, PA, Donahoe began his career with the Steelers as a regional scout (1986-88) and was promoted to the team’s director of pro personnel and development (1989-90). He was named the team’s director of football operations in 1991, and played a major role in the Steelers 84-60 record and six playoff appearances in his nine seasons. From 1991-99, the Steelers drafted 12 players who went on to earn 31 Pro Bowl appearances.

Prior to his time with the Steelers, Donahoe worked as a scout for the BLESTO scouting combine following a 16-year stint as a high school football and basketball coach in western Pennsylvania. Donahoe graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1969. He is a grandson of longtime Pittsburgh mayor and Pennsylvania Governor David L. Lawrence.

Marynowitz (pronounced man-o-witz) spent the previous four years with the University of Alabama as the program’s director of player personnel, directing their football recruiting efforts. He joined the Crimson Tide after a one-year stint as a scouting assistant with the Miami Dolphins under Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland. Born in Media, PA, Marynowitz began his collegiate career as a quarterback for LaSalle before transferring to Central Florida. While at UCF, he earned a B.A. degree in business management, a master’s degree in business administration and another master’s degree in sports business management.

Hallum rejoins the Eagles after seven seasons as a senior college scout with the Cleveland Browns (2005-11) and five seasons as an area scout with the New England Patriots (2000-04). Hallum was a college scout with the Eagles from 1995-99. Hallum is in his sixth decade of the football profession after getting his start as the head coach of Morehead State (1968-71). He also coached at Maryland (1972 to 1981), Kentucky (1982-89), and Arizona State (1990-91).  He began his scouting career as a regional scout for National Football Scouting in 1992. A native of Liberty, SC, Hallum played linebacker and guard at Newberry College (1957-60) and later earned his master’s degree from Murray State in 1965.

Middlekauff was named the team’s west coast area scout after serving as a pro scout in 2011 and the team’s player personnel intern in 2010. Prior to his time with the Eagles, Middlekauff was a graduate assistant at Fresno State (2008-09). He also interned with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007 and was an undergraduate assistant at Cal Poly during his senior year of college. The Sacramento, CA, native graduated with a business degree from Cal Poly and a master’s degree in sports administration from Fresno State.

Hatman was named as a pro scout after serving as the team’s pro personnel assistant in 2011. Prior to joining the Eagles, Hatman was a training camp intern with the New York Jets in 2010. He also was an assistant defensive line and special teams coach at the University of Massachusetts from 2009-10, while earning his master’s degrees in business and sports administration. His first NFL experience came as a pro personnel assistant for the New York Giants from 2007-08. A native of Norwich, Connecticut, Hatman graduated from Albany in 2007 with a degree in psychology.

Halaby began his career as an intern with the Eagles football operations department in 2007 and 2009. He was hired as a player personnel analyst before being named to his current role of special assistant to the general manager. A native of Madison, WI, Halaby graduated in 2009 from Harvard, where he studied English and economics.

Rosenberg was hired as the team’s manager of football administration. In this role, his primary responsibilities will be to assist in salary cap management and player finance related matters. Prior to joining the Eagles, Rosenberg was a bond and commodities trader from 1999-2011. He was a partner in several different trading ventures including Breakwater Trading from 2003-08. The Monmouth County, NJ, native graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 with a degree in economics and international relations. After his graduation, he worked in management consulting from 1997-99.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Poetic justice for ex-Flyers in Stanley Cup Finals

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

While revenge may be a dish best served cold, redemption is more like a buffet, best walked through slowly, to be savored in its warming glow.

And as the Los Angeles Kings arrive at their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1993, there are a whole host of ex-Philadelphia Flyers players throughout the organization who find themselves on the cusp sooner than anyone expected.

Chief among them, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, whose whirlwind years began with their shocking departure from Philly roughly 11 months ago. Then there's Simon Gagne, troubled again by concussion issues, who played the good soldier in allowing himself to be deleted from a Cup Finalist roster two Julys back in a trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All three were integral parts of a Flyers team that made their own surprising title run before falling short to Chicago.

Richards, once portrayed in the same light as Bobby Clarke, looking every bit the grizzled vet with beard in tow, ever the work-hound, author of "The Shift." Carter, his light-footed but heavy-handed comrade, always the goal-hound. Nowhere was that complementary relationship revealed than at the end of Game 5 in the Eastern Finals, Richards chugging away like he wanted to end it all and Carter picking up the garbage and scoring into the empty net.

Gagne, 11 years a Flyer, whose beginning and end in Philadelphia book-ended heartbreak. His reward may be extra sweet given the timing: finally cleared for contact just as the fourth of four rounds is set to commence next week. The man who kept the season alive with an overtime strike in Game 4 of the Eastern Semifinals against Boston, then tallied the winner in Game 7 of an epic comeback deserves some more positive karma.

Let's not forget Justin Williams.

So what if he already won once, thanks to help from another ex-Flyer in Rod Brind'Amour at Carolina six years ago? The native of Cobourg, Ontario is, by all accounts, one of the more genial and accessible players, so why not cheer for him again to stick it to the organization who traded him for the illustrious Danny Markov?

All three may also be able to put a damper on one of the most unlikely playoff heroes in NHL history, one who prevented the Flyers from advancing twice -- Ruslan Fedotenko.

If the Rangers end up being LA's opponent, and if the Kings win it all, then Fedotenko will be denied his third (yes, read that right, third) Stanley Cup. Remember how Rusty (the man who scored one of the two goals for Philly in 2002 against Ottawa) tore up the Orange and Black in '04 with Tampa Bay, netting the winner in Game 7? Remember how he was on the Penguins three years back?

Finally, there's Ron Hextall. A man most of us never thought would turn management. He who sweat, and made countless others bleed, in pursuit of winning: a Flyer through and through. He may be employed by LA but his heart is still here, probably still aching that he couldn't do enough to help us take it all.

Even though Hexy no longer has the immediate control of his crease, a win will erase at least some of the pain from an extraordinary 1987 and a forgettable 1997. That his chance comes again, after rising to the rank of assistant GM, on significant anniversaries can't be ignored.

You think there's some place deep down where he wishes to get one over on Clarke, Holmgren et al. if for nothing else than having the wrong bust presented during his "night" in 2007?

I floated the crazy idea prior to last season that perhaps Flyers West is nothing more than a breeding ground for future Flyers East. Richards and Carter shipped out, one day to return as more mature persons and players. Hextall to serve his apprenticeship before eventually taking over for Holmgren.

Winning a Cup will likely make that path an easier, and clearer one. It's not going to be easy for fans who feel jilted, but there's no reason not to wish your former favorites well. They're gonna play either New York or New Jersey, after all -- two franchises this year's Flyers couldn't overcome.

Eagles' Clayton has surgery

The Eagles have announced that LB Keenan Clayton underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn core muscle (sports hernia).

The procedure was performed by Dr. William Meyers at Jefferson at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paterson gets the boot, Phantoms in need of new coach

Joe Paterson has been let go as head coach of the Adirondack Phantoms after less than two seasons at the position.

“As an organization, we feel the Phantoms need a new voice moving forward,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said in a brief statement issued on the club's web site.  “We would like to thank Joe for his hard work and service to the Phantoms over the past season and a half, but we feel a new direction is needed at this time.”

After taking over for Greg Gilbert, who seemed overmatched at the start of the 2010-11 season and presided over a club which was dead last in the AHL, Paterson ensured the Phantoms finished strongly, racking up 31 wins by the end of the year. This past season, despite falling short of a playoff berth, he guided the club to a 37-35-4 mark and third-place finish in the Northeast Division.

All told, the former NHLer and year-round resident of Glens Falls racked up a 62-55-8 mark.

Penn State releases 2012-13 men's ice hockey schedule

Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Highlighted by four matchups against future Big Ten opponents Michigan State and Wisconsin and a home weekend series against Air Force, the Penn State men's hockey team's first NCAA Division I schedule has been announced by head coach Guy Gadowsky.

In 2012-13, the Nittany Lions will compete as an independent and play 23 games against NCAA Division I opponents from all five conferences - Atlantic Hockey, CCHA, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East and WCHA - and fellow independent Alabama Huntsville. Penn State will also face off against three NCAA Division III foes, while playing eight exhibition contests.

In all, the Nittany Lions will host 16 games at Greenberg Ice Pavilion, and ticket packages for all home games will go on sale Tuesday, June 12. For more information on purchasing ticket packages and to be put on a waitlist, fans can call 1-800-NITTANY (1-800-648-8269) weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

"This brings us one step closer to dropping the puck on Penn State's first NCAA Division I season," said Gadowsky. "We've been able to schedule some marquee matchups both home and on the road that will help provide a measuring stick for the program moving forward."

The Nittany Lions will also play at least six games against NCAA tournament teams from a year ago. The Air Force Academy, which captured the 2012 Atlantic Hockey regular-season and tournament crowns en route to its second straight NCAA tournament appearance, highlights the home slate and will visit University Park for a two-game series Nov. 9-10.

Two weekends later, Penn State will travel to Schenectady, N.Y., for a pair of matchups against 2012 Frozen Four participant and ECAC Hockey champion Union Nov. 23-24. On Jan. 25-26, the Nittany Lions will make the trip to Michigan State, which appeared in the 2012 NCAA tournament, for a weekend series against the Spartans.

Penn State, which last played a varsity game on March 3, 1947, against Georgetown, will open its first-ever NCAA Division I season on Oct. 12 when it hosts American International. Following Friday night's matchup, the teams will face off on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Casey Plaza, home to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.

Following Penn State's opening weekend, the team will embark on a season-long five-game road trip. The Nittany Lions will travel to western New York to face NCAA Division III's Buffalo State (Oct. 19) and RIT (Oct. 20), with the latter being played at Blue Cross Arena, home of the AHL's Rochester Americans.

The Nittany Lions will then visit Army (Oct. 26) and Sacred Heart (Oct. 27) before they conclude their road trip against NCAA DIII Fredonia State (Oct. 30).

November will begin with three straight home games, starting with Buffalo State on Nov. 3.

Following the Air Force series, Penn State will travel to Union before heading east down Interstate-90 for a two-game series against Holy Cross on Dec. 7-8.

The Nittany Lions will then return home on Dec. 15 for a matchup against Robert Morris before playing in the Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational Dec. 28-29 with Miami (Ohio), Ohio State and Robert Morris. Opening night pairings for the four-team tournament have not been set.

Penn State will open the New Year in Storrs, Conn., with a pair of matchups against Connecticut (Jan. 4-5) before hosting the U.S. National Under-18 Team Jan. 11-12 and NCAA Division III Neumann on Jan. 15.

The Nittany Lions will then face Hockey East foe Vermont on Jan. 19 at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers. Penn State will also host Alabama Huntsville Feb. 8-9 before concluding the season in Madison, Wis., against the Badgers on Feb. 24-25.

The Nittany Lions will also host six exhibition games against American Collegiate Hockey Association club opponents, including Arizona State (Nov. 30, Dec. 1), Ohio (Feb. 1-2) and Oklahoma (Feb. 15-16).

The 2012-13 campaign will mark Penn State's first at the varsity level since 1946-47. Penn State previously sponsored men's hockey as a varsity sport from 1940-47.

Flyers sign Mathers, Johnston

The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that they have signed RW Derek Mathers and LW Andrew Johnston to entry-level contracts.

Mathers, 18 (8/4/93), was selected by the Flyers in the seventh round (206th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.  In 65 games with Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League last season, the 6-3, 225-lb native of Strathroy, Ontario scored nine goals and added eight assists for 17 points while gathering 177 PIM.  He joined the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, at the conclusion of Peterborough’s season and accrued 26 PIM in nine games.

Johnston, 20 (7/6/91) comes to the Flyers as an undrafted free agent out of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he appeared in 58 games for the Humboldt Broncos last season.  The 6-1, 178-pound native of Saskatoon recorded 29 goals and 52 assists for 81 points and led the Broncos to the league’s Anavet Cup championship.

Delaware OT Allard signs with Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Shea Allard, a three-year starting offensive tackle for the University of Delaware football squad, has been signed to a National Football League free agent contract by the Green Bay Packers.

Allard, who earned All-American honors this past season in leading Delaware to a 7-4 record, was one of five free agents signed by the 2011 Super Bowl champion Packers following a rookie orientation camp. He was joined by wide receivers Jarrett Boykin of Virginia Tech and Curenski Gilleylen of Nebraska, offensive guard Grant Cook of Arkansas, and  cornerback Otis Merrill of Illinois State.

A 6-5, 305 lb. native of Buzzards Bay, Mass. (Wareham High School), becomes the second member of the 2011 Blue Hen squad to earn a shot in  the NFL. Starting guard/center Gino Gradkowski was a fourth round pick  of the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL draft in April.

Allard will be among seven former Blue Hen players in NFL camps this summer, joining Gradkowski, quarterbacks Joe Flacco (Baltimore) and Pat  Devlin (Miami), defensive back Mike Adams (Denver) and Anthony Walters  (Chicago), and defensive end Ronald Talley?(Arizona).

Allard, 22, was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Blue Hens,  appearing in 42 career games with 33 starts. He earned first team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a senior and third team All-CAA recognition as a junior. Following the 2011 season, Allard earned a spot on the College Sports Madness All-American third team.

A 2011 hotel and restaurant management graduate of Delaware, Allard led the Blue Hens to a five-year record of 40-23 that included a CAA title and a berth in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision in  2010 when the Hens posted a 12-3 record for head coach K.C. Keeler.

He started all 11 games this past season and led the Hens to a 7-4  record and a No. 17 final national ranking. The Hens, who were ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation early in the season, defeated two Top 10
ranked teams during the year and narrowly missed a spot in the NCAA Tournament. He helped pace an offense that ranked No. 5 in the CAA in sacks alloweds (1.82), rushing offense (165.5 yards per game), and scoring offense (25.8 points per game).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eagles sign QB Foles

The Eagles have agreed to terms with 2012 third-round draft selection QB Nick Foles on a four-year deal.

Foles, the highest drafted Arizona quarterback since 1962 (Eddie Wilson), finished his collegiate career as the Wildcats all-time leading passer in terms of yards (10,011), touchdowns (67), attempts (1,369) and completions (933) en route to earning three consecutive All-Pac 10 honorable mentions from 2009-11. A native of Austin, TX, Foles also shattered Wildcat single-season records in attempts (560), completions (387) and yards (4,334) while adding 28 touchdowns as a senior in 2011. He was named the team’s Offensive co-MVP as a junior in 2010, throwing for 3,191 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Foles starred at Westlake High School, where he broke school career records previously held by Saints quarterback Drew Brees for passing yards (5,658) and passing TDs (56).  He was a three-year starter and two-time team MVP for Westlake’s basketball team, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds in 2005-06 while earning all-district honors, and leading the district in rebounding as a sophomore.

Sixers take a look at Wayns, Rosen

With their biggest game in forever set for tonight in Boston, the Sixers are also looking forward to the future by hosting their first pre-draft workout. 

It will be undersized point guard day at PCOM with the team taking a look at four players,  Scott Machado (Iona), Zack Rosen (Penn), Terrell Stoglin (Maryland) and Maalik Wayns (Villanova).

All four players are listed at 6-foot-1.

Machado and Rosen are traditional points that think pass first while Stoglin is a big-time scorer and more of a Lou Williams-type. Wayns is in between, with the ability to score and distribute but may lack the athleticism to stand out in the NBA.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gomez, Union escape North Texas with a point

FRISCO, TX - Gabriel Gómez equalized in the 56th minute to erase countryman Blas Pérez's 7th minute goal, helping the Union earn a hard-fought 1-1 road draw on Saturday night at FC Dallas Stadium.

FCD applied the pressure early and often. In the sixth minute, midfielder Andrew Jacobson pulled away from the Union defense and chipped a shot over Philadelphia goalkeeper Chase Harrison, who was just able to tip the ball and change its path.

On the ensuing corner from Bryan Leyva, George John headed the ball the ball to the far post. Seemingly out of nowhere, Pérez dove in and gave Dallas a quick 1-0 advantage.  FC Dallas continued its dominance in the first half, recording six shots on goal, including another near header goal by Pérez.

The makeshift back line, which was missing captain Ugo Ihemelu and suspended defender Zach Loyd, held Philadelphia to no shots on goal in the first 45 minutes.  The closest the Union came to making any kind of noise in the first half came in the 35th minute when midfielder Michael Lahoud, who was acquired on Thursday, sent in a cross from outside the box that floated over FCD 'keeper Kevin Hartman and out for a Dallas throw-in.  The FC Dallas back line took another hit just before intermission when Hernán Pertúz was stretchered off with a knee injury. Carlos Rodriguez, who had missed the last four games with a dislocated elbow, came on as a substitute.

The second half was a completely different story, however.

The Union wreaked havoc in the box 10 minutes in, and the fierce attack was capped off by Gómez’s equalizing header. Unfortunately for him and his team, the midfielder abandoned the pitch immediately after his goal due to an injury sustained after colliding with Hartman on the play.  In 58th minute, Philadelphia defender Carlos Valdés hit the crossbar with a header off a corner kick. Then, in the 73rd minute, teammate Keon Daniel sent a rocket in from outside the box that forced Hartman to make a tremendous save.  FC Dallas got its own chance in the 82nd minute. Pérez again got on the end of a ball, this time with his foot on a cross from Jair Benítez, but Harrison was there again to make the stop, capping the goalkeeper's strong MLS debut.

With the draw, Philadelphia move to 2-6-2 on the year and will hit the road again as they face Toronto FC next Saturday (4:30 p.m., TCN).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sixers' co-owner Will Smith slaps reporter

Allen is Sixers' unlikely X-factor

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Despite what Atlanta Hawks owner Michael Gearon might think, Kevin Garnett is not a dirty player.

Crafty is a much better word to describe the 17-year veteran.

Garnett is like the basketball equivalent of Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine. When an umpire gave those guys an inch or two off the plate, they kept going further out to see what they could get away with.

Similarly when K.G. sets a pick, he might stick one of those sharp elbows into your side to see what happens. If he gets a positive result, he might place a forearm into your back while wrangling for an offensive rebound, all in an effort to see just how physical he can get until the whistles are finally blown.

By the letter of the law those kinds of things are illegal in the NBA but if NASCAR has taught us anything it's "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'."

Garnett is always trying.

But so is everyone else, The former MVP just does it better than most. And that's why the big man took such exception when Gearon called him a dirty player during the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

"They are old," Gearon said of the Celtics. "I know what happens when you play basketball -- old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league." .

K.G. responded to that by lighting up Atlanta in Game 6 to clinch that series for Boston.

"First off, I want to say thank you to their owner for giving me some extra gas," the big man said after that game. "My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth actually know what he's talking about -- X's and O's versus his checkbook and the bottom line."

Garnett went on to explain why he and the Celtics are not dirty.

"We're not dirty. We play aggressive. We're not dirty. You have to understand the word dirty in this game is very defined -- going under guys, trying to hurt guys, ill intent," he said. "That's not the way we play basketball. We play very, very respectable to the opponent, the city we're in, the game. We play with a lot of passion, play with force. It's the playoffs. I haven't been here trying to hurt anybody, nor has my team."

Fair enough but Charlie Villanueva and a host of other NBA players can tell you what Garnett is and always has been -- a bully. Like most tormentors, however, he can be backed down.

Garnett is rarely the strongest player on the floor. While a 7-foot, 250-pound man can always be intimidating, he is actually slim for his size, In fact, Garnett's success as an Alpha male comes directly from his personality. He carries himself like a tough guy and that's enough for most players to back off.

Yet, he has always been more bark than bite and the minute Garnett is challenged, he tends to back off. The loud groans, the emphatic faces and all out aggressiveness are replaced by a passive jump shooter, one that is content on playing outside the paint far from the upstart who dares bang with him.

What's shocking in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia is who is standing up to the Celtics star. It's not veteran big men Spencer Hawes or Elton Brand -- it's little-used rookie Lavoy Allen.

A Temple product, Allen has made the short move from North Broad Street in Philly to South Broad and amazed his coach Doug Collins with an even-tempered personality. Nothing seems to fluster the kid, not even tangling with a player like K.G on the big stage.

Like most rookies, Allen's wildly inconsistent but through it all, his pulse rate never changes. If you were judging strictly by body language you wouldn't know if Allen was 1-for-10 or 9-for-10.

"He's an amazing guy," Collins said when talking about Allen after his team roared back from an 18-point deficit to even their series with Boston at two games apiece. "There's never a change with him. He'd be the greatest poker player in the world, because you never know whether it's going good or bad for him."

Garnett had been killing the Sixers in the series with Brand or Hawes checking him but he's been pedestrian with Allen in the lineup and finished with just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting and seven turnovers in Friday's 92-83 Sixers' win.

"Lavoy, once again, defensively just did a tremendous job," Collins said.

Allen, the 50th overall pick last year, had eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds, five on the offensive end, and you can see the talent is there. On the offensive end, Allen is athletic enough and strong with a feathery mid- range touch. Meanwhile, he is already a plus-rebounder and solid defender on the low post, often pushing Garnett off his favorite spots in his series while shooting an impressive 53.6 percent from the floor.

"Lavoy is a first round talent, a lottery talent," Collins said. "We always said, if the motor is going, he's that kind of talent. His two best games in college were against Duke and in the tournament against San Diego State so you know he's not afraid of the big stage."

All that said, it's a tall order to expect Allen to outplay Garnett at this point on a consistent basis. He's far too raw and too inexperienced but at 6- foot-9 and 230 pounds, he's actually seems stronger than the veteran and has been yawning at Garnett's attempts at intimidation. And the fact that K.G. can't scare a 23-year-old kid seems to be playing with his psyche a bit.

Maybe Allen's Twitter handle explains it all -- Garnett, the NBA's biggest bully, is playing a kid that labeled himself "BroadStreetBully24."

And real tough guys don't get scared.

"My goal in life is to have one Lavoy Allen day. Just one. Just not give a s%#& about anything," Collins said.

With Game 5 looming in Beantown on Monday, Collins won't be having that day any time soon. As a Type-A personality, the coach will likely lose quite a bit of sleep fretting about how to deal with Garnett.

Lavoy Allen?

Well, he doesn't give a you know what about Kevin Garnett.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Sixth Man: Injuries, lack of professionalism exposing Wade

The Sixth Man: Injuries, lack of professionalism exposing Wade

Eagles sign Shady McCoy to extension

The Philadelphia Eagles announced they have agreed to terms with RB LeSean McCoy on a five-year contract extension that runs through the 2017 season.

One of the most explosive and versatile offensive weapons in the NFL, McCoy set franchise records in 2011 with 17 rushing and 20 total touchdowns, while earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors. He also led the NFL with 102 first downs and 48 runs of 10-plus yards, while finishing as the league’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,309 yards on the ground. In 2010, McCoy ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,672 scrimmage yards while leading all running backs with a career-high 78 catches and setting a team record with a 5.2-yard rushing average.

“We are excited to continue this offseason of taking care of our own players,” said head coach Andy Reid. “LeSean is one of the most electrifying running backs in the National Football League. He can do it all – run, catch, block and score touchdowns from anywhere on the field. He’s worked extremely hard to turn himself into a Pro Bowl running back and he is well deserving of this contract extension. I give a lot of credit to Howie Roseman and Drew Rosenhaus for hammering out this deal.”

Originally a 2nd-round draft choice of the Eagles in 2009, McCoy has played in 46 games (32 starts) and accumulated 4,241 scrimmage yards (3,026 rushing; 1,215 receiving) and 33 total touchdowns (28 rushing; 5 receiving). He also owns the highest rushing average (4.8) ever by an Eagles running back, and has compiled more rushing and scrimmage yards in his first three seasons than any player in franchise annals. Since entering the league, McCoy ranks third among all running backs with 166 receptions and despite piling up 801 total touches in his career, he has surrendered just five fumbles (160.2 touches per fumble).

A native of Harrisburg, PA, the 23-year old running back attended Bishop McDevitt high school and played collegiately at Pittsburgh. In addition to numerous charity appearances in the Philadelphia area, McCoy organizes an annual “Shady’s Shootout Community Day” in his hometown which is dedicated to raising money for the fight against ALS.

Union trades Califf to Chivas USA

Chester – The Philadelphia Union have traded veteran defender and captain Danny Califf to Chivas USA in exchange for midfielder Michael Lahoud and allocation money.

Califf was officially signed by the Union on January 21, 2010 after spending the previous four years playing in Denmark for FC Midtjylland and Aalborg Bk. The veteran became a mainstay in the center of Philadelphia's defense with his physically imposing style of play and was voted the team’s first ever captain.  Califf logged 5,894 minutes for the club, posting one goal and one assist in 65 matches.

He and team manager Peter Nowak have not been on the same page this season, however.

"We want to thank Danny Califf for his contributions to the Union on and off the field and wish him well in his career,” said Nowak.  “In Michael Lahoud we are getting another young versatile player who we believe will have an opportunity to establish himself as a Union player while helping us achieve our goals throughout the season.”

"I want to take this opportunity to give my sincerest thanks to all our fans, the city of Philadelphia and all of my teammates that I have played with,” said Califf.  “You have opened your heart and welcomed this California kid like just another one of yous guys."

Lahoud was drafted by Chivas USA in the first round (ninth overall) in the 2009 SuperDraft and has made 64 appearances for the club, including 46 starts.  He has tallied two goals and seven assists in nearly 4,000 minutes of action.  A four-year starter at Wake Forest, Lahoud led the Demon Deacons to the 2007 National Championship and finished his career with 14 goals and 20 assists.  Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Lahoud and his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area at the age of three.

5 Temple players earn All-Big East preseason honors

CLEVELAND  – Phil Steele has honored five Temple football players as members of his 2012 preseason All-BIG EAST Conference teams.

Named to the All-BIG EAST second team were junior DT Levi Brown (Bethlehem, Pa.) and senior PR Matt Brown (Baltimore, Md.).

Brown also earned third-team recognition at running back and fourth-team recognition at kickoff returner.

Additional Owls earning fourth-team recognition were seniors OL Martin Wallace (New York, N.Y.), S Justin Gildea (Hollidaysburg, Pa.), and P Brandon McManus (Hatfield, Pa.).

Under the guidance of second-year head coach Steve Addazio, this season’s squad returns 35 lettermen, including nine starters.
Temple opens the 2012 season with Villanova in the fourth annual Mayor’s Cup, sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts, on Friday, August 31 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Union to host U.S. Open Cup game

Chester, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union will host their first ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game on Tuesday, May 29th at 7:30 p.m. ET at PPL Park. 

The club will play the winner of the Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) and the Rochester Rhinos (USL Pro) match-up, which is scheduled for May 22.

The Union are currently 0-2 in Open Cup matches, falling 4-2 on penalty kicks to D.C. United last season and 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls in 2010.  The winner of this match will advance to the Fourth Round on June 5.

Tickets will go on sale to both Union season ticket holders and the general public on Friday, May 18 at 10:00 am. 

The first round concluded on Tuesday, May 15 and all Division I, II and III professional clubs are participating in the tournament proper for the first time ever.  The Division I field includes all 16 U.S. based Major League Soccer teams, which is double the representation from the past five years and the first time since 2006 that all Division I teams are taking part.

The 99th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup includes a random selection process for determining home teams from the first round through the quarterfinals among clubs that have applied to host.  The process, conducted by a coin flip, gives participating teams with venues meeting tournament standards an equal chance at hosting possible opponents for these rounds. 

Eagles sign OG McCullough

The  Eagles have signed rookie free agent G Alfred McCullough and released C Zane Taylor.

Originally recruited to Alabama as a defensive lineman out of high school, McCullough (6-2, 311) switched to offensive line in 2008 and went on to play in 30 games (9 starts) for the Crimson Tide from 2009-2011, earning starts at right guard, right tackle and left tackle in his career. The Athens, AL, native was an all-state selection as a senior at Athens High School.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Union's Pfeffer and Steffen join U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team

Chester, Pa. (May 16, 2012) – Midfielder Zach Pfeffer and Philadelphia Union Academy member Zackary Steffen have been called up by the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team for the four-team 2012 Lisbon International Tournament May 23-26 in Portugal.

The squad, coached by Javier Perez travels tomorrow and will play a friendly against Sporting Lisbon on Sunday, May 19, before kicking off tournament play against Poland on Wednesday, May 23. The U.S. then faces Slovakia on May 24 and wraps up against host Portugal on May 26.

Pfeffer, one of six professionals on the 20-player roster, signed as the Union’s first ever Homegrown player in 2010 and made his first official league appearance with the Union in 2011, starting in a 1-0 victory against the Columbus Crew on September 17. Pfeffer, 17, started again in the club's regular season finale against the New York Red Bulls.

Steffen helped lead the Union U-18's to an undefeated fall season, the Academy's first full season of competition. In addition to participating in Philadelphia's academy system, Steffen plays for Youth Development Affillate FC DELCO.

New look TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship

PHILADELPHIA  – For the first time in 28 years, the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship will look different to the hundreds of pro cyclists and thousands of fans who line the race course each June. This year on June 3rd, the race will again draw top cyclists from around the world to compete for the championship title, but it will be on a shortened, more exciting and faster course.  Not only will this change increase the drama factor at the finish line, but it is also making room for a ride on this iconic course that anyone, from casual riders to serious amateurs, can try for fun before the professional race begins.


Pro Cycling Tour, organizers of the TD Bank bike race, has teamed up with Bicycling magazine and Charity of Choice to create a Gran Fondo ride on Sunday, June 3.  Named the Bicycling Magazine Open, this Gran Fondo or “Big Ride” allows every rider to feel like a pro as they challenge themselves to all or parts of the 14.7 mile course for up to three laps.  Not only will riders experience the rush of being on a closed, professionally timed race course, but many are choosing to turn their rides into fundraisers for their favorite charities through the event’s collaboration with Charity of Choice.

Organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society of the Greater Delaware Valley, Cradles to Crayons, Cadence Cycling Foundation, Philabundance, Ronald McDonald House, Philadelphia 9/11, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Philadelphia, Neighborhood Bike Works and Gearing Up have all signed on to mobilize their friends and supporters to ride for their causes.  So far, more than 40 organizations and individuals have opted to fundraise through the Bicycling Magazine Open and have exceeded $14,000 in monies pledged with just over two weeks to go.

"We're excited to welcome the Bicycling Magazine Open this year,” said David Chauner, president of Pro Cycling Tour and co-founder of the Philly race.  “The hope is that one day it will be a huge event with 10,000 people riding the world-famous course, raising money for their favorite charity and then enjoying an afternoon of world-class cycling. I think with the new bike paths and the amateur race, this will boost Philadelphia to be one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States," he said. 


To make room for the Bicycling Magazine Open, Pro Cycling Tour has altered the iconic course for the first time ever – bringing the total distance to 124 miles instead of 156, decreasing the number of times up the Manayunk Wall from 10 to seven, and significantly increasing the speed, adrenaline and excitement at the end of the race with five finishing circuits between Logan Circle and Lemon Hill.


Many of this year’s changes, such as the addition of the Bicycling Magazine Open and the recently launched “Embrace the Race” initiative, which features the sale of exclusive “Embracelets” by local Philadelphia merchants and restaurants, were introduced to address the need to change the business model of the race to match current economic realities.

“Rising costs and difficulty securing new and incremental sponsorships in a tough economy are two major challenges that the race faces,” said Chauner.  "The important consideration is that the race has always been free to the public and we’d like to keep it that way.  New ways of monetizing this free international event for spectators and guests must be pursued.  The 'Embrace the Race' campaign allows people to share a small amount of money and show their support in the community and the fees for the Bicycling Magazine Open help to defray costs.”

To purchase an Embracelet wrist band for $5, visit http://procyclingtourshop.com.

Register Today

Complete information on the Bicycling Magazine Open, including entry fees and registration directions, can be found on the official website for the 2012 TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship www.procyclingtour.com.

To purchase VIP tickets, visit http://www.procyclingtour.com/2011Hospitality.htm.

Former Eagles OL coach Bill Walsh passes

The Eagles have reported that former offensive line coach Bill Walsh passed away on Sunday at his home in Atlanta at the age of 84.

Walsh spent 32 years coaching professional football and wrapped up his stellar career with the Eagles from 1987-91 before retiring to his home in Atlanta.

A former star at Phillipsburg (N.J.) High School, Walsh played his college football at Notre Dame where he was an All-America center and a part of two national championship squads. After a six-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers that resulted in two All-Pro selections, Walsh began his pro coaching career in 1960 with the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. The Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL and Walsh won a Super Bowl with them in 1970.

Walsh is survived by his wife of 63 years, Shirley; six children, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Temple's Balasavage, Stewart signs with Ravens

PHILADELPHIA – A pair of former Temple Players, quarterback Chester Stewart (Hanover, Md.) and tight end Matt Balasavage of Lancaster, Penn,. became the 11th and 12th Owls to sign with an NFL team this spring, setting the school record for the largest class.

Both signed a rookie free agent contracts with the Baltimore Ravens.

A four-year starter for Temple, Stewart played in 10 games with six starts as a senior in 2011. He was named the Baltimore Sun / Next Level Player of the Week (Sept. 26, 2011) following a perfect 9-of-9 for 140 yards in the win at Maryland. A 2010 team captain, Stewart earned his degree in criminal justice in December 2011.

A three-year starter for the Owls, Balasavage played in 12 games in 2011 with nine starts.  He received his degree in communications in May 2011.

Temple’s 2012 class of signees—three Draftees and eight rookie free agents—sets the school record with 12.

Stewart and Balasavage join NFL draftees RB Bernard Pierce (Baltimore Ravens), TE Evan Rodriguez (Chicago Bears), and LB Tahir Whitehead (Detroit Lions) as well as .rookie free agents OL Pat Boyle (Detroit Lions), DE Morkeith Brown (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), OL Derek Dennis (Miami Dolphins), LB Stephen Johnson (New Orleans Saints), DE Adrian Robinson (Pittsburgh Steelers), WR Rod Streater (Oakland Raiders), and OL Wayne Tribue (Denver Broncos).

The seniors were a part of the winningest four-year class in school history.  They became the first class in school history to be bowl eligible in three consecutive years. They won more conference games than any other class in school history. They recorded three consecutive winning seasons and out-scored opponents in four straight seasons.  These 19 seniors were also the first Owls in school history to participate in two bowl games and became the first class to win a bowl game in 32 years.

Temple opens the 2012 season with Villanova in the fourth annual Mayor’s Cup on Friday, August 31 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Soul acquire DT Langley

The Philadelphia Soul (7-2) and Jacksonville Sharks (3-5) struck a deal late last week prior to meeting on the field when the Soul acquired defensive lineman T.J. Langley (6’5, 290, Arkansas Tech) for defensive back Micheaux Robinson (5’9, 185, Otterbein).

While Robinson returns to the team he helped capture their first championship in 2011, Langley joins a team aspiring to claim their second in 2012.  Through his first six games in his Arena Football League career, Langley has compiled 7.5 tackles and one sack for a loss of eight yards.

“We think Langley has a lot of upside.  For someone to have only played the position for one year in college before coming out and performing as a professional is impressive,” said Soul head coach Doug Plank.  “He’s young, big, and strong.  We see him not just as someone with a bright future, but as a player that can make an impact right now.”

Langley played his college ball at Arkansas Tech University from 2009-10, originally playing as a tight end before converting to defensive lineman.  Langley recorded 23 tackles (17 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and a team-leading nine quarterback pressures in his senior season.

Philly Roller Girls moving to Temple this summer

Philly Roller Girls, members of the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association (WFTDA), and among the top 12 teams in the world, have announces their late-season move from the Class of 1923 Arena to Temple University’s Liacouras Center.

The girls will be at the Liacouras Center for four dates this summer and fall - July 14th, August 11th, September 8th and November 4th. 

“Hosting bouts in the Liacouras Center--with its accessibility, professional-quality production values, comfortable seating and excellent sightlines--will be a great reward to Philly Roller Girls,“ says PRG co-General Manager, Jocelyn Jenik. “We thank our loyal fans for the growth the league has experienced during the last seven years: When we began in 2005, we welcomed nearly 3,000 fans yearly, and now we have the potential to reach 36,000 annual spectators.”

“It's a venue that will allow us to bring derby to more fans, which is important in a sports-minded city like Philadelphia,” echoes PRG’s Head of PR, Mary Dunham. “The Liacouras Center is a dream venue for us.”

All three PRG home teams will participate in the Liacouras Center Dates, which start mid-summer: July 14th, August 11th, September 8th and November 4th.  The 2011 Warrior Cup-winning Philthy Britches, the Broad Street Butchers, and fan faves the Heavy Metal Hookers will be back in bruising form, facing special guest teams. PRG’s B-Team, the Independence Dolls and the all-star Liberty Belles will also compete for derby fans at the Liacouras Center. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celtics show Sixers what playoff basketball is about

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - It has been nearly a decade since there was a second round playoff game in Philadelphia.

The anticipation was palpable as 20,351 fans filed in to Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday and picked up their red T-shirts that sported the Sixers' marketing slogan: "Passionate, Intense, Proud."

It should have read "Indifferent, Moderate, Sad."

Instead of an electric atmosphere, the sellout crowd was treated to 20-plus minutes of garbage time as Boston ran the Sixers off their own floor, 107-91, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce all recorded double-doubles by the time the fourth quarter began.

The upstart Sixers, after earning a surprising split in Boston, came out hot offensively and forgot about the end that got them to the dance as the Celtics outscored the defensive-minded club by a 61-33 count in the second and third quarters.

Garnett finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds, Rondo added 23 points and 14 assists and Pierce put up 24 points and 12 boards despite dealing with an ailing left knee.

Boston committed just seven turnovers and was shooting over 60 percent for a spell before settling in at 52 for the game against a Sixers club that allowed the third fewest points per game (89.4) during the regular season.

This was Mike Tyson vs. Marvis Frazier and Roddy Piper vs. Frankie Williams rolled into one. If Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was in town, he would have lowered the sunglasses, raised his eyebrow and called the Sixers jabronies.

The Washington Generals generally put up a tougher fight against the Harlem
Globetrotters and the drunken stumblebum in section 115 during the third
quarter had more pluck in him that either Elton Brand or Spencer Hawes.

The two Sixers big men have managed to make Garnett, who turns 36 in three days, a superstar again throughout the series. On Wednesday they put him in a time machine with embarrassing defense and he was the 2004 NBA MVP again.

Brand, on the other hand, played like he was 63 and the pre-game layup line proved to be the toughest test the Celtics faced all night.

About the only criticism you could hurl Boston's way was wondering why Doc
Rivers left Rondo and Pierce in the rout deep into the fourth quarter, especially after watching stars like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh go down in these playoffs.

The prudent move would have been to put his bell cows in bubble wrap and let players like Ryan Hollins, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling expose just how bad Philadelphia was.

But, like everything else this night, Rivers' decision proved to be the right one.

Nothing got rolled in Game 3 unless you're talking about the Sixers.

Sixers entertain Celtics in pivotal Game 3 of East semis

Sixers entertain Celtics in pivotal Game 3 of East semis

Phillies place Worley on 15-day DL

Right-hander Vance Worley has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 12, with right elbow inflammation, Senior Vice President and General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced today.  To fill his spot on the 25-man roster, left-hander Joe Savery has been recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Additionally, right-hander Kyle Kendrick will start for the Phillies tonight against the Chicago Cubs at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Worley, 24, is 3-2 with a 3.07 ERA in seven starts this season, having allowed three earned runs or less in five of his starts while striking out 45 batters in 44.0 innings pitched. 

Savery, 26, has appeared in eight games for the Phillies this season, allowing just six hits over 8.0 innings with a 4.50 ERA.  The former first-round pick has also made four relief appearances with Lehigh Valley, going 0-0 with 2 saves and a 1.59 ERA in 5.2 innings.

Kendrick has been shuttled between the bullpen and rotation all season, going 0-3 with a 7.32 ERA in eight games.  Over his last two starts, the 27-year-old has allowed just three earned runs in 11.0 innings (2.45 ERA) while striking out nine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Members of Flyers organization to claim city honors

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers right winger Claude Giroux, who emerged as one of the elite players in the National Hockey League (NHL) this season, will receive the 2012 John Wanamaker Athletic Award on June 5 at the Wanamaker Building’s Crystal Tea Room.  

The Philadelphia Sports Congress (PSC), a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, presents the award each year in conjunction with Amerimar/Behringer Harvard.

This season, Giroux tallied 28 goals and 65 assists for 93 points. He also led the NHL in scoring during the first round of the playoffs. This is the third time a Flyers player has been recognized with the award, but the first since goalie Bernie Parent in 1975. Giroux also joins Bobby Clarke and the Flyers Stanley Cup Champion team from 1974, coach Fred Shero in 1976, and the 1980 squad which reached the Cup Finals. 

Since 1961, the Wanamaker Award has been presented to the athlete, team or organization that has done the most to reflect credit upon Philadelphia and to the team or sport in which they excel. 

In addition, a Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider.  Snider brought an NHL franchise to Philadelphia when he founded the Flyers in 1967, and was the driving force behind the construction of the Spectrum.  A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he created the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation in recent years to bring the “the greatest game ever invented” to children who otherwise might never have the opportunity to play. 

“This year’s recipients are wonderful representatives of the caliber of individuals in the Philadelphia sports community,” said David Montgomery, chairman, Philadelphia Sports Congress. “Claude Giroux is not only an outstanding player, but he also has emerged as a true leader for the Flyers. Ed Snider has done so much for Philadelphia throughout his entire career."

The Sixth Man: Bosh injury could open door for others in the East

The Sixth Man: Bosh injury could open door for others in the East

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Devils-Rangers may be one Mother of a series

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Though the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers have faced each other in the postseason five times previously, the Eastern Conference Finals matchup that looms ahead as the sixth marks just the second time that something other than mere bragging rights are on the line.

Back in 1994, both clubs found themselves on the cusp of a Stanley Cup Finals appearance and the resulting validation as legitimate winners.

The Devils, under the guidance of first-year head coach Jacques Lemaire, played second banana to the Blueshirts in the Atlantic Division all year. Their 47 wins, 106 points and 306 goals for were all franchise records but they had yet to get over the hump, having only once before reached the semifinals (in 1988 as a last-minute playoff club and heavy underdog to Boston despite two shocking series wins over the Islanders and Capitals).

The Rangers, under the brief regime of Mike Keenan, carried with them the pressure of having blown a charmed year two seasons ago and the ever-present ghosts of the franchise's last championship, the infamous 1940. New York claimed its third division title in five years, but that year's model looked to be a world-beater, thanks to a franchise-best 52 wins and 112 points.

What transpired was one of the all-timers.

Seven games. Three decided in double-overtime, including the terminal contest at Madison Square Garden. Martin Brodeur's introduction to playoff pressure. Bernie Nicholls' short-handed spree. Stephane Matteau's first 2-OT winner in Game 3. Mark Messier's Game 6 guarantee that came to fruition. Valeri Zelepukin playing "Beat the Clock" followed by MATTEAU! MATTTEAU! MATTEAU! in Game 7.

This year's battle for Hudson River supremacy has none of the sexy elements of that memorable series 18 years back. Even Jersey's head coach had a fairly even-handed answer for Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger:

"Anybody who coaches or plays wants to play your main rival in this situation. I don't think it gets any better than that," said Peter DeBoer. "That's the type of environment you want to play in, so I think we're very excited that we'll get an opportunity at the best team in the Eastern Conference. They had the most points. We're going to throw our best at them and see if it's good enough."

And Rangers head coach John Tortorella threw in the idea that his team has its collective eyes on a bigger goal than simply beating their rivals:

"We are still in the process of trying to become one of the elite teams. To be able to play two game sevens in the first two rounds, for a young group of guys it’s a tremendous experience. This is where your legacy is made, in playoffs," the Stanley Cup-winning boss said to SNY on Saturday night.

During the regular season, the Atlantic Division winners and top overall seed averaged roughly 2.75 goals for and 2.28 goals against. The fourth-place club -- only seven points back -- managed similar numbers offensively but yielded slightly more, just over 2.5 goals per game.

In the postseason, the Rangers have scored a whopping 29 times, and the Devils have come up with a relatively-profuse 36 in two fewer games. 

But it does have two things in common on the ground: the bad blood between neighbors, and Brodeur's still alive and kicking.

Lest we forget the all-out line brawl at the drop of the puck in mid-March:

Brodeur, now 40, is entering his fifth series against the club which occupies the renovated enclosure above Penn Station, but has won only once -- a shocking four-game sweep in the 2006 first round. It would be a sweet and honorable thing if, in his final NHL season, he crossed New York off his list of enemies vanquished one more time.

His counterpart is Henrik Lundqvist, a full decade younger. The Swede enjoyed the best season of his career, and, as a double-barrel Hart and Vezina finalist, wants nothing more than to keep going.

Brodeur outlasted his heroic one-time opponent in Mike Richter, so for the "King" to send Marty packing will be some razor-sharp poetic justice. This is Lundqvist's first trip past the second round in seven North American campaigns.

So, of course, the presumptive Hall-of-Famer laid it on thick in the Star-Ledger:  "He's a Vezina candidate. He's unbelievable. He's kind of the top goalie in the NHL right now. And I think I was in that position once. I played against Patrick (Roy) and Dominik Hasek. I played against all the guys during maybe the top years in their careers."

One thing decidedly not in New York's favor is this: since the expansion of the playoffs to best-of-seven for all four rounds in 1987, no team has ever advanced to the Finals after playing the maximum 14 games through the first two.

That formula spelled doom for the 1993 Maple Leafs and 2002 Colorado Avalanche, who share the NHL record for playing 21 postseason contests without reaching the title round.

One thing not on New Jersey's side is the fact that their five-game dispatch of the Philadelphia Flyers, ending last Tuesday, left it with six days off between rounds. The Orange and Black enjoyed five days off after beating Pittsburgh and the Devils appeared to be the fresher team throughout.

While the merits of rest vs. momentum in a short break will be debated endlessly, it works in the Rangers' favor to have a Game 7 at home followed by a Game 1 in the following series two days later on friendly ice.

“You play so hard for each other, nobody gets tired," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh told the New York Times' Dave Caldwell after a 2-1 win over Washington in Game 7.

No matter what's written about past, present and future, ultimately it's up to the players to make it happen. The madness begins on 33rd and 8th tomorrow night.

Red Card costs Union in 3-2 loss to New York

By John McMullen

CHESTER, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Freddy Adu was in the midst of his best game as a member of the Philadelphia Union when referee Jorge Gonzalez flashed a red card in the 43rd minute.

What's quickly becoming a dismal 2012 season for the Union only got worse from there as Eastern Conference powerhouse New York rallied for a 3-2 win in front of 18,193 at PPL Park.

Kenny Cooper's marker in the 78th minute proved to be the difference as a gassed Union club, playing a man down for well over 50 minutes, let the Red Bulls' forward get behind the defense for an easy tap in.

Lionard Pajoy netted both goals for the Union (2-6-1, 7 points), one in the 46th minute after Adu had departed, that gave Philadelphia a short-lived 2-1 edge.

New York (7-3-1, 22 pts) defender Markus Holgersson headed in a Brandon Barklage's  corner kick in the 68th minute to deadlock things before Cooper's heroics, his ninth goal of the season.

The Union were on the doorstep late looking for the equalizer but Michael Farfan missed a tap-in in the 86th minute and Red Bulls rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara stopped Pajoy in front during stoppage time.

Adu received his second yellow card and the subsequent controversial red card when he went down in the area.

Replays showed that the midfielder was not taken down by New York. However, he tripped on his own feet and was not taking a dive to draw a penalty kick. Gonzalez saw if differently and it eventually cost the Union, who remain buried in the East, ahead of only winless Toronto FC.

"I don't know ... I don't know what to say anymore," a disappointed Union team manager Peter Nowak said. "I'll let the professionals deal with referee decisions."

Red Bull New York, meanwhile, has won four straight and earned its first points ever at PPL Park despite being without injured superstar Thierry Henry, who has been out of the lineup since April 28.

Pajoy's first goal evened the game at 1-1 and ended a 324-minute shutout streak by New York in the 31st minute.

Soul use strong second half to top Sharks

PHILADELPHIA (May 12, 2012) – The Philadelphia Soul (7-2) came out on top of the Jacksonville Sharks (3-5) as they pulled away in the second half of a tight game in front of 8,757 fans at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. 

“Tonight we saw a great performance from all aspects of the team,” said Soul head coach Doug Plank. “We had to battle back in the second half and really stepped up defensively.  It was an emotional win for us and hopefully we can carry this momentum into next week.”

Philadelphia’s QB Dan Raudabaugh finished by connecting on 20-of-26 passes for 308 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.  Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game, Jeff Hughley led the way with seven receptions for 121 yards and three touchdowns.  Hughley also had five kick returns for 102 yards.  Tiger Jones finished with six receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns, while Emery Sammons added five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.  Zipp Duncan also added a 14-yard touchdown.

Defensively, National Guard MVP, Brandon Perkins paced the defense with 3.5 total tackles, including two sacks.  Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, Kent Richardson had 2.5 total tackles, two interceptions and a pass breakup.  Rayshaun Kizer had 7.0 total tackles, an interception and three pass breakups, while Joe Goosby added 5.5 total tackles and an interception.

Raudabaugh got things rolling with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Hughley to take an early 7-0 lead.  After the teams exchanged interceptions in the end zone for touchbacks, Jacksonville’s Jamarko Simmons carried the ball for a three-yard touchdown run to even things out.  Soul TE Zipp Duncan caught a short pass, carrying it 14 yards and into the end zone, putting Philadelphia ahead of Jacksonville 14-7 at the close of the first quarter.

The second quarter started with Philadelphia and Jacksonville exchanging interceptions.  Richardson’s second interception for the Soul lead to Jeff Hughley’s second touchdown reception of the game on a one-handed three-yard catch with eight minutes remaining in the half.  A 24-yard touchdown reception by Jacksonville’s WR Terrance Smith and a Marco Capozzoli 20-yard field goal with eleven seconds remaining in the half cut Philadelphia’s lead to 21-17 heading into the break.

The third quarter got off to a slow start, but the Soul struck first with 8:08 remaining in the quarter.  Philadelphia’s Sammons hauled in a 12-yard Raudabaugh pass for the score.  Jacksonville responded on a Shamar Graves 45-yard touchdown reception late in the quarter.  After a series of Jacksonville penalties, Philadelphia extended their lead on a nine-yard touchdown grab by Tiger Jones to take a 35-24 lead into the final quarter.

The Sharks continued to fight into the fourth quarter.  A 28-yard touchdown pass to Smith cut Philadelphia’s advantage to four points early in the quarter.  Tiger Jones struck back on a 28-yard touchdown reception that he wrestled away from a Jacksonville defender to extend the Soul’s lead another time.  Midway through the quarter, the Soul defense successfully completed a goal-line stand and followed it with a 36-yard touchdown toss to Jeff Hughley.

The Soul will face the Spokane Shock next Friday night at 11 p.m. ET at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, WA.  The game will be broadcast on The Comcast Network with Lou Tilley and Tom Goodhines calling the action.