Flyers-Rangers: Game 46 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Following a three-day break from games, the Flyers return to the ice to continue their schedule as it hits the final stretch. Just 11 games remain, and it will only be a matter of time before the team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

After a pair of embarrassing losses to the New York Rangers in the span of eight days, the Flyers managed to rebound with a 2-1 win back on March 27. They will close out the season series against the Rangers with a pair of games leading into the weekend, starting with Thursday night's matchup.

Game time is at 7 p.m.

Continue reading "Flyers-Rangers: Game 46 Preview" »


Uh Oh: Jean Segura Hits Injured List; Scott Kingery Returns

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Tuesday night's game featured three second basemen: Jean Segura, the starter, Brad Miller, who moved from first base, and even Andrew Knapp, who turned a 4-6-3 double play.  This was because Segura came up lame running to first base on a ground out in the second inning.  It's not good.

The Phillies announced that they have placed Segura on the 10-day injured list with a right quad strain.

To replace Segura, the Phillies went to the only other infielder on their 40-man roster:  Scott Kingery.   Kingery had been at the alternate site in Lehigh Valley, where, according to the Allentown Morning Call, had been striking out regularly and struggling at the plate.  Kingery may end up having to play a lot.

The Phillies already have shortstop Didi Gregorius battling a sore elbow.  He has missed two games in a row and is not in the lineup for Wednesday's finale against the San Francisco Giants.

The Phillies also have Ronald Torreyes on the 10-day injured list.  Torreyes, though it has not been explicitly stated, is likely undergoing COVID protocols.  It is unknown if he was exposed or has an active infection.

The Phillies previously added Nick Maton to the roster.  Maton has been good so far defensively, and contributed an RBI double on Monday.

The Phillies also optioned Ramon Rosso to the alternate site and recalled Spencer Howard as the COVID-affected bullpen finds its footing.


Some Fresh Phantoms Faces the Flyers Should Use in Near Future

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Flyers are nothing short of a major disappointment this season. The fans know this. There’s no benefit in continuing to beat this dead horse.

Of course, there are plenty of opinions on how exactly the Flyers can improve for next season, seeing as there isn’t a lot, if any, hope left for a postseason berth. Some believe in utilizing trades, getting rid of everyone and building an entirely new team from the ground up, changing the head coach, and so on. These are all valid arguments, and absolutely any of these could be the answer to the Flyers’ current problems.

But what if the answer was about 90 minutes away in Allentown?

To put it simply, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been on fire this season. They have a roster chock full of talent, and it’s talent that the Flyers could definitely take advantage of. We’ve seen glimpses of players like Alex Lyon and Tanner Laczynski, but Alain Vigneault hasn’t given them a solid run of games that would allow them to truly showcase their talents. That needs to change down the stretch.

There are a number of young players on the Phantoms that should be given looks this season, and should begin their integration into the main Flyers squad as early as next season. It seems risky to place the burden of this current Flyers team on such young shoulders, but the main players for the Phantoms aren’t looking as though they would crack under the pressure.

When Tyson Foerster was drafted 23rd overall last year, he seemed like a pretty perfect fit for the Flyers. He’s physical, solid, offensively-minded, and is great on the power play. He’s also ambitious — he expressed a desire to make his NHL debut come the start of the 2021-22 season. It’s definitely shooting for the moon, but right now, who are the Flyers to turn down a potential offensive reinforcement?

Now, we can’t ignore Foerster’s biggest drawback — albeit one that has been beaten to death — his skating. It’s a labored stride, one that greatly hinders his explosiveness and ability to get involved in plays starting in the defensive end. He skates more with his shoulders than his legs, and while it’s greatly improved since he first got drafted, it’s still not doing him any favors.

There’s also the fact that Foerster is still largely unproven on the professional level. He did well with the OHL’s Barrie Colts, and he’s certainly not slacking off for the Phantoms, but he’s no wonderkid. He’s a talent, but not a prodigal one.

However, one has to consider the fact that the Flyers, to put it nicely, are lacking in offense right now. They are without any real aggressiveness or determination in front of the net, a void that Foerster could easily fill. He’s got the size, the shot, and the hunger that could really be an asset to this team. He might be only 19, but what Foerster lacks in experience and purely natural talent can be made up for in his admirable work ethic and constant desire to improve. A clutch forward that’s good on the power play and has a shot likened to the one and only Alex Ovechkin? Sign this team up!

On the other side of the ice, the Flyers need to hand Cam York his spot on the main team sooner rather than later. York is one of the best pieces of draft business has done within the last decade, and it would be a crime to keep him in Lehigh Valley longer than the duration of this current season.

York comes from the elite USNTDP program, and was a part of the best NTDP squads in recent memory – even captaining the team to a gold medal in the 2021 World Junior Championships. He currently holds the record for points by a defenseman in that team, and had a stellar two seasons with the University of Michigan. At just 20 years old, York is a mature, consistent, and unshakeable defenseman.

A surprising, but also deserving, choice for a call-up is Zayde Wisdom. Wisdom was drafted with much of the attention surrounding him focusing on his incredible against-all-odds journey to the draft rather than his actual playing abilities. But ever since he first stepped on the ice for the Phantoms, Wisdom has taken the AHL by surprise. Even in games where he doesn’t collect points, Wisdom puts on an impressive display of skill. He might not be completely ready for a long run in the NHL, but it can’t hurt to give him a few looks.

With the abundance of postponements the Phantoms have been facing recently due to COVID protocols, it would be valuable to at least get some of the young players into practice with the main squad just to see how they fit in. After all, the veterans are only getting older, and if the Flyers going to turn over some roster spots this season, you might as well see what you have internally as the easiest and most stress-free option.


Week 1 Recap: Union vs. Columbus Crew

Embed from Getty Images

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Philadelphia Union kicked off the 2021 MLS season on Sunday, Apr. 18 against Columbus Crew in a historic match that saw last season’s MLS Cup Champions and Supporters’ Shield winners play each other on Opening Day for the first time in MLS history. The game ended in a scrappy and deserved, if disappointing, 0-0 draw, most likely due to both teams participating in the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this week. Let’s recap.

Manager Jim Curtin stayed true to what’s been working for him, playing the same starting eleven for the third consecutive match. Two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake started in net, naturally, with defensive mainstays Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, and Jakob Glesnes in front of him. New signing Leon Flach got another look in midfield, joined by captain Alejandro Bedoya and Jamiro Monteiro, while Anthony Fontana and prolific striker Kacper Przybyłko up front.

The Crew got the first scoring chance of the game when Luis Diaz forced Blake to make a save early on in the first half. The Union quickly responded when Przybylko got a header off of a corner kick, but Crew goalie Eloy Room made a diving save to keep the game scoreless.

Trouble started brewing when a collision between Glesnes and Pedro Santos initially drew a penalty for the Crew in the 37th minute, but the Boys in Blue narrowly escaped when VAR overturned the decision, instead awarding the Crew a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, which Blake saved.

The Union were able to hold the majority of possession once the second half started, leading Bedoya making a shot that would ricochet off the far post. A scoring chance for the Crew would come from an Artur header in the 83rd minute, which sent Blake into a trademark spectacular save. Bedoya got another good chance after rocketing the ball from quite the distance in the 88th minute, but Room was able to save it without much trouble.

In quite the undisciplined match, both teams saw more fouls than shots, accumulating 30 fouls and six yellow cards between them.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Undoubtedly Blake. Without his signature superman saves, constant communication with his defense, and poised, levelheaded presence in front of the goal, the Union could’ve easily lost this game. It goes to show why he’s considered one of the (if not the) best goalies in the league—without Blake in front of the net, the Union would have a significantly worse record than they actually do.

The Union will return to play on Saturday, Apr. 24, facing off against Inter Miami CF in their home opener.


ICYMI: Philadelphia Has a Major League Soccer Team

Photo Courtesy of Frank Nolan

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

If one had to summarize the Philadelphia Union in just one sentence, nothing evokes the spirit of this team better than this: The fans existed before the team did.

It almost doesn’t sound real that a fan base could come together over a nonexistent team, and feel so strongly about it that they spend years putting in the work to bring the organization to life. The Sons of Ben would travel to other teams' games and treat them like opponents (see: the “We Don’t Have a Team” chant against the New York Red Bulls). They even went so far as to crash the MLS All-Star Game and take the field during a showcase of other teams’ supporter groups. For such a big sports city, it only seemed natural that Philadelphia would welcome and embrace a new addition to the family.

So why does it often feel as though the Union still don’t exist?

I remember attending the Union’s first home game back in 2010. Their stadium down in Chester hadn’t been completed yet, so they were facing off against DC United at Lincoln Financial Field. Thanks to my father, little 10-year-old me appreciated the atmosphere of the game, even if I didn’t completely understand how the game was played. It was evident even in their debut season that this team had the potential to become something special. Even without the David Beckhams and Zlatan Ibrahimovichs that would grace MLS in the coming years, the Union brought something unique and quintessentially Philadelphian to the league. They didn’t need the name recognition that came with aging, overpriced players that the European leagues were no longer interested in. The Union invoked the Philadelphia sports way perfectly—gritty, hardworking, and unfazed by the constant underestimation. In short, their mentality fit right into the sports culture in this city.

The subsequent eight or so years were relatively quiet. Average finishes, no playoff runs to speak of, some recognizable names on the roster and promising youngsters in the academy, but the Boys in Blue weren’t exactly lighting the league on fire.

That is...until they were.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly caused the sudden uptick in quality for the Union. Was it Andre Blake’s phenomenal goalkeeping abilities? Brenden Aaronson’s prodigal talents up front? Alejandro Bedoya’s poised and charismatic leadership on the field? Jim Curtin’s cool, calm, and collected approach to the game? Whatever it was, it’s been working. They won the first trophy in franchise history with the 2020 MLS Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the season. It was a watershed moment for everyone in the Union family—the team that started out as an idea, a dream, a chimera was proving themselves to be a force to be reckoned with in MLS.

The movie-worthy underdog story was truly starting to come together. This unperceived gaggle of outsiders clad in navy blue and gold was showing up and demanding a seat at the table. No longer could opponents synonymize “Union” and “easy” on their schedules. The clouds gathered over the homey little stadium sitting on the Delaware River, while the thunder boomed and the lightning blazed to create a perfect storm of circumstances that would aid in the gradual, but guaranteed, ascension of the Union. Hunger had awakened the snake, and its fangs were tipped with venom.

But that was then, and this is now. The Union’s sights have been firmly set on the 2021 season, which kicked off on Apr. 18. Much has changed in the past 11 years—their academy has become renowned as one of the best in American soccer (so good, in fact, that they’ve been able to send homegrowns Aaronson and defender Mark McKenzie to Europe in 2020), MLS has grown its clout in the United States, meaning that the Union’s opponents are only getting stronger and more invigorated as time passes. However, the ultimate goal remains the same—win the MLS Cup. With this group of players under this management, it absolutely could happen.

So, yes, Philadelphia does have a soccer team, and a quality one at that. And, yes, they deserve loads more recognition and appreciation than they’re getting. Soccer has arrived in the City of Brotherly Love, and judging by the Union’s recent performances, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.