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YWT: The Philadelphia Flyers Podcast - YWT #117 - Actually Good Hockey

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The YWT Podcast is back and with no real big Flyers news or items to discuss, the guys focus on the Stanley Cup Playoffs through Round 1.

Kyle Collington and Kevin Durso discuss a variety of topics including the Toronto-Montreal series reaching seven games and look ahead to some of the second-round matchups.

You can listen to this episode of the podcast below and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Amazon Podcasts and Podbean

You can also watch the episode and subscribe to watch all episodes of the YWT Podcast on YouTube.

As always, we want you to follow the podcast on Twitter @YWTpodcast and follow Kevin Durso on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.


Week 8 Recap: Another Game, Another Clean Sheet

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union collected their third straight win and their third straight clean sheet against the Portland Timbers, and finally have started to show how dangerous they can be in all areas of the field. This win has propelled them to second place, just three points behind the New England Revolution, going into a three-week international break—it’s looking like the Union are well and truly back. Let’s recap.

While the defense had another solid night, rarely letting the Timbers too close to Andre Blake’s goal, but it was the midfield that really shined. The diamond formation rarely ever puts a foot wrong, but they were all over Portland in this game, barely giving them any room to breathe. Jamiro Monteiro consistently left the Timbers midfielders in the dust, while Jose Martinez calmly collected the ball every time the opposition would try to dribble past him.

The first goal, perhaps unsurprisingly, came from Kacper Przybyłko. A perfectly timed header put the Union up 1-0, but the Boys In Blue didn’t sit back and let the defense protect the lead. Within five minutes, Sergio Santos tapped in his first MLS goal of the season, putting the Union ahead with a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Then, Leon Flach notched what would have been his first MLS goal, had it not been for VAR ruling against the goal after deciding that there had been a handball.

It was all about the offense in the second half too, so much so that Portland started getting chippy to prevent the Union from getting into prime scoring positions. Not to be deterred, eventually defender Jack Elliott scored a goal, officially putting the Union in control with a 3-0 lead.

As if the night wasn’t already going well enough, Jim Curtin finally handed Paxten Aaronson his MLS debut in the 89th minute of play. While the younger Aaronson (his older brother is former Union starboy Brenden Aaronson) didn’t have a chance to make much a difference in the game, Curtin explained that there’s still plenty of chances for the homegrowns to make an impact this season.

“We don’t just hand them minutes,” Curtin said in his post-match press conference, referring to Aaronson and the other young players in the squad. “They earn everything. Paxten has earned every opportunity that has come through his hard work and training. He’s been excellent in practice, day in and day out. So now he gets rewarded.”

Curtin also acknowledged that the young players are hungry to make more of a difference in the squad, and that their time is coming.

“I know they want more minutes, and they want to impact the game in a bigger war. I think that that is coming,” Curtin said. “But for these guys, there’s a plan in place that we have with our staff, but it needs to be said, the minutes are earned on the training field. And those guys, both Quinn [Sullivan] and Paxten, have really done a good job every day. So there’s a little reward tonight. Again, I want the minutes to be longer because they are both special players.”

Man of the Match: A special shoutout to Aaronson for his debut and carrying on the family dynasty, but this honor has to go to Flach for this game. While he was robbed of his first MLS goal, he was always on the ball, making runs into the box, and finding space for chances. Flach has been such an important piece in this midfield, and his performance against Portland showcased that extremely well.

The Main Takeaway: This is the Union that the fans want to see, and this is the Union that will run MLS if they can keep up this performance quality. With a display like this, the only criticisms are nitpicky ones—more open play goals, more efficient substitutions, fewer extra touches in the box—and those can all be easily fixed. This is the perfect way to enter the extended break, and the perfect way to kickstart the Union’s dominance in MLS going forward.


 

Mike & Brett breakdown the Julio Jones drama in Atlanta and discuss why Philly wouldn't be a good fit.  Plus Tebowmania is running wild once again, discussing Ryan Kerrigan, & more. 

 

 

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Week 8 Preview: Union vs. Portland Timbers

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

They won’t have to face off in the CONCACAF Champions League after Portland’s loss to Liga MX side Club America, but the Union will have their work cut out for them facing their first Western Conference opponent in this MLS season.

Going into this game, the Union are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference, and have been enjoying a good run of results. Despite the lack of losses lately, the Union haven’t necessarily been putting in the performances to back up their wins.

The most notable problem within the current Union system is the lackluster offense. While strikers Cory Burke and Kacper Przybyłko have been getting goals, it hasn’t been enough to give the team a comfortable lead in their last few games. It’s been the defense that’s been winning games, as the back four of Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Kai Wagner putting in excellent performances week in and week out. While it goes without saying, Andre Blake has consistently been one of the, if not the, best performers in a Union shirt on the field.

Going into this game against the Timbers, the Union’s midfield will once again play a key role in generating offense. Jim Curtin’s tried and true diamond formation has been executed to near perfection, and that will only benefit the Boys In Blue as they look to counter Portland’s prolific attack. Back in his natural position as a number 10, Jamiro Monteiro will be the man to get the ball to if the Union have any hopes of moving their strikers into prime scoring position.

Predicted Lineup: Blake, Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Flach, Bedoya, Monteiro, Burke, Przybylko

  • As stated before, Monteiro will be the most important player on the field, considering the fact that he’s the main creative force in this midfield. The more experienced Leon Flach will also get the look over Anthony Fontana since Portland are a historically tough opponent for the Union. The defense will, as it should, remain the same, while putting Burke and Przybylko together up front is by far the best bet for getting as many goals as possible.

Score Prediction: The Union won’t be able to cruise past the Timbers, especially with their recent stretch of mediocre performances. They can only rely on their defense to keep them in the game for so long before the offense, specifically the strikers, need to start stepping up and doing their job—which mainly includes making sure the Union don’t end the game with a singular goal, leaving an exhausted defense to pick up the slack with a desperately hard-fought clean sheet. It’ll be a nervy 2-2 draw, assuming that the Union’s lucky streak doesn’t run out before they can get their team performance together.


Zack Wheeler Is A Legitimate Ace: Thank You, Matt Klentak

By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff

When Zack Wheeler signed with the Phillies via free agency in December of 2019, some fans were apprehensive.

His deal -- 5 years/$118 million -- was awfully similar in structure to the one Patrick Corbin signed just one year earlier with the Washington Nationals.

The main difference? Corbin had broken out in his contract year, becoming one of MLB’s best pitchers while Wheeler had consistent but relatively uninspiring career numbers leading up to his free agency.

He wasted no time winning the favor of the Philly Phaithful.

In his first start, giddy fans sat in awe as Wheeler lit up the radar gun with well-located 99 mph turbo 4-seamers.

During an era of baseball where high velocity is increasingly prevalent, the Phillies hardest thrower was Vince Velasquez. Fans were so deprived of fireballers that they deemed the hurler “Vinny Velo”. He threw 95 mph on average…so Wheeler sitting at 99 mph was understandably jaw-dropping.

However, simply throwing hard would not have sufficed for long if he did not live up to his contract. Coming into the season, Wheeler was widely perceived as a #2 starter with upside. Boy did he ever live up to, and exceed, those expectations.

Through 20 starts as a Phillie, Wheeler has pitched to the tune of a 2.73 ERA, a 1.086 WHIP, and has collected 119 SO in 131.2 innings pitched, being the workhorse starter that the Phillies so desperately needed to pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation.

In the shortened 2020 season, Wheeler posted a 2.92 ERA. It was 0.39 below his career best ERA. In addition, he received Cy Young votes for the first time in his career.

Impressive to say the least, but there was no guarantee he would be the same pitcher in 2021, especially given that he was very streaky during his time in New York. It simply was not a large enough sample size to make any conclusive predictions.

But through nine starts in 2021, Wheeler has managed to outperform his 2020 statistics and metrics. He has looked absolutely untouchable in most of his starts, pounding the zone with heat and occasional sliders. That is all he needs in order to dominate Major League lineups.

He already has one complete game shutout under his belt, and his name is all over the MLB stat leaders lists. Wheeler is 5th in all of baseball in Strikeouts (78), 11th in SP ERA, and #1 in Innings Pitched (68.0).

Compared to last season, Wheeler has significantly improved his strikeouts per nine innings (SO/9). He induced plenty of weak contact in 2020 but dipped to a measly 6.7 SO/9, by far the lowest rate in his career. This season, an uptick in strikeouts has him at 9.8 SO/9, and with it brings a correlation in overall success.

Opponents have an xBA of just .223, an xSLG of .336, and an xWOBA of .268. He has limited opposing players to a total of only 4 HR this season.

In addition, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) dropped from 3.22 in 2020 to 2.57 in 2021. Since he strikes out more batters, the defense has less impact on the outcome of each at-bat, thus he is expected to have a lower ERA.

Wheeler has been everything the Phillies needed, and more. Everyone knew that he had the potential to become this version of himself, but there were no guarantees.

His development into a potential Cy Young candidate and ace of the Phillies pitching staff has been franchise-altering, in a way.

Yet another poor contract eating up space on an already-limited budget would likely have spelled doomed for the Phillies chances of competing during Bryce Harper’s prime years. But this time, the expense was worth every penny.

If the Phillies manage to make the postseason in 2021, I want Zack Wheeler on the mound in Game 1. Therefore, I would like to say "Thank you, Matt Klentak, for at least making one great decision during your tenure in Philadelphia."

Wheeler 2


Harper is Latest Phillies Player to Hit the Injured List

The Phillies have been battling injuries non-stop as of late.  The lineup has been without three of their top players (and most expensive players) in Didi Gregorius, J.T. Realmuto and outfielder Bryce Harper.  Both Gregorius and Realmuto already occupied spaces on the Injured List.  Now Harper will join them.

The Phillies announced Tuesday afternoon that Harper was placed on the 10-Day Injured List, retroactive to May 23.  

Taking his place on the roster is Roman Quinn.  The Phillies have been without Quinn since May 4. In a failed bunt attempt, Quinn got a laceration on his right hand that required nine stitches.  

The Phillies are giving Odubel Herrera the start in center on Tuesday night, with Brad Miller occupying left field and Matt Joyce in right field.  

 


Week 7 Recap: The Luck of the Union

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union allowed 17 shots, eight corner kicks, and several free kicks from dangerous spots against DC United, but still managed to walk away with a 1-0 win. It wasn’t a pretty victory, but these three points were enough to put the Union to third place in the Eastern Conference. Let’s recap.

To put it quite frankly, the Union got lucky with their goal. United had the majority of possession and had a more threatening attack, and the only reason the Union were able to keep a clean sheet was because of (what else?) the heroics of Andre Blake, along with an excellent defensive display by Jakob Glesnes.

Despite what the numbers say, it was Kacper Przybylko that struck first to put the Union ahead. The goal was initially disallowed, but after after being reviewed with VAR, Przybylko’s goal was counted. He managed to beat the offside line and turn a perfectly weighted ball from Jamiro Monteiro into the back of the net. A lucky break, no doubt, but it was enough to see the Boys In Blue through to victory.

This game also saw the debut of recent signing and Hungarian international Daniel Gazdag, who put in a 23-minute shift, although he wasn’t able to make much of an impact on the game.

Jim Curtin acknowledged that the Union were aware of United’s tactics going into the game, and did prepare themselves for the work-in-progress D.C. squad currently operating under new coaching.

“These guys have a belief that they’re not going to concede goals, and we have enough dynamic attackers that they’re going to make a couple of plays during a game. And the goal that we scored is a really good goal,” Curtin said in his post-game press conference. “But more importantly now, the mentality to stick together, to understand what the game needs, to understand that D.C. is going to push, they’re going to throw numbers forward, they’re going to change formations and take risks, but we bent and we didn’t break.”

Curtin also acknowledged that this performance certainly wasn’t their best, but the points are what matters the most.

“Overall, a big three points. No one will remember how ugly it was. It’ll just be three points in May.”

Man of the Match: Once again, the defense contributed to the win more than the offense did. Glesnes put in an impressive shift, and helped the defense keep a clean sheet in a game where it was desperately needed with such a narrow lead.

The Main Takeaway: The points are obviously important, but the Union need to start thinking about their individual performances. The mentality needs to be less about skating by on lucky goals and performances were just good enough to pull out a tie or a win, and more about putting in the work to showcase the outstanding ability and cohesion of this Union team. They’ve proven themselves capable of being unstoppable, but the consistency still isn’t where it needs to be/


2021 Phillies: Trading for a Starter

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In six weeks, Dave Dombrowki, president of baseball operations, will finish reevaluating the Philadelphia Phillies rotation. And if --if-- an in-house candidate doesn’t claim the fourth slot, he’ll acquire, perhaps, a salary-dumped arm from an out-of-contention franchise.  

 

Reality Trumps Velocity:

Competing on the highest plateau requires maximum effort including preparation, mental strength, and a pitcher’s good luck because each level is more psychologically demanding. To illustrate this game speed, Joe Wilson, a college senior, isn’t batting; but Freddie Freeman is with Ronald Acuna Jr. on second base.      

IN OTHER WORDS:

“I remember going from rookie ball to A, to double A, then to triple A. At every level it seemed like the game was faster. The bigger the situation, the more the game speeds up. That's all mental. It messes people up.” - Derek Jeter

According to a retired American League general manager, a player makes an impact in or after his third year. So, 30 starts equals one season, and the ceiling would be 105 for 3.5 campaigns. Plus the hurler’s development then represents his status for even the starting staff’s bottom rung. Ergo, not a small achievement!                        

The Phillies faithful and other major league supporters expect a player to make an immediate impact, and they are especially critical of top prospects. In summers long-ago, stars spent a season at each level and were ready for the majors. But then there were 16 clubs, not 30.                           

Even though the number of teams nearly doubled, the top talent did not. Basically, many high school and college athletes participate in multiple sports, and they may prefer another or a faster rise to the professional ranks. Translation: It forces MLB organizations to fill roster spots with players receiving on-the-job-development.

Continue reading "2021 Phillies: Trading for a Starter" »


Week 7 Preview: Union vs. DC United

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

Marking the longest break they’ve gotten in between games since the MLS season, the Union will travel down to Washington D.C. to take on DC United. It’ll be a battle of midfields as the Union look to move up further in the Eastern Conference standings.

After losing to NYCFC a little less than a month ago, the Union have outscored their opponents 5-2 and have maintained a record of 2-0-2. They’ve boasted a solid line of defense in goalkeeper Andre Blake, along with a back four of Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Kai Wagner, not to mention an excellent offensive record thanks to Kacper Przybylko and Cory Burke.

It sounds like an easy enough win, considering the fact that United are currently struggling with numerous injuries and less-than-ideal form in the league, but the truth is that there are no easy games in MLS. However, the Union are not without drawbacks of their own—they still have yet to establish consistent form and a real sense of identity in the league.

There are upsides for the Union, though. Defensive midfielder Jose Martinez is finally back from his league suspension, which gives Jim Curtin more depth in midfield. While the midfield certainly hasn’t been lacking in terms of performance and productivity, it would do wonders if Martinez returned to the defensive midfield position, allowing Jamiro Monteiro to move back into his natural position in the attack, and allow for Curtin to experiment more with the placements of Leon Flach and Anthony Fontana.

Martinez being eligible for the lineup couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as United have started employing a 3-5-2 formation, making midfield their strong suit. With Kacper Przybylko’s questionable fitness for this game and Sergio Santos still trying to find the back of the net more reliably, much of the responsibility for generating offense and ultimately scoring goals will fall on the shoulders of the midfield for this game.

Predicted Lineup: Blake, Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Flach, Monteiro, Santos, Burke

  • Curtin most likely won’t want to risk Przybylko’s fitness for a game against United, so Santos will fill that spot up front. He will want to get Martinez back in the starting lineup, and will choose Flach over Fontana, mainly due to Flach being the safer and more creative option.

Score Prediction: The midfield will be where the action happens, but the Union’s offense against DC’s recent defensive record will see the Boys In Blue come out on top. It won’t be a goalfest, but the Union will come away with a comfortable 3-1 win.


Matt Moore Hits the IL as Spencer Howard Joins Rotation

The Phillies announced yesterday that Spencer Howard would be joining the Phillies starting rotation.  Howard takes the mound in South Philadelphia tonight against the Boston Red Sox and Nathan Eovaldi.  So the only thing left to figure out was who might lose their roster spot to make room.  But alas, another injury.

The Phillies announced that lefty Matt Moore has been placed on the 10-day Injured List with a back injury:

Moore last appeared in a game on Wednesday.

The season so far has been disappointing for Moore.  Beginning the season as the club's number four starting pitcher, Moore was placed on the COVID-19 injured list on April 19.  He returned a week later, but Vince Velasquez had staked claim to his rotation spot.

All in all, Moore is 0-1 with a 7.36 earned run average.

As for Howard, he's pitched nine innings at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, going two, three, and four innings, in that order, in his three starts there.  He has allowed just one earned run.   He will face a hot Boston Red Sox lineup.