Saturday, June 8, 2013

Can Jack McInerney Become The Next US Star?

 Jack McInerney is the hottest striker in MLS right now (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

If you’re a fan of MLS Soccer or the United States Men’s National Team, one of the names being thrown around lately has been one John Seamus McInerney, you may know him as Jack. McInerney has had a fairly steady rise to fame, but has been on a hot streak since MLS first kick. The current MLS golden boot leader with 10 goals, McInerney has proven himself to be a feared striker. But just what is his ceiling? This summer could prove to be the most important of his career if he wants to be successful on the international stage.

Coming through the ranks of the U.S. soccer system, McInerney could be not only become a formidable player for the USMNT, but a player that would be easy to market as well. He has played in the US U-15’s 17’s, 20’s, and 23’s. His most productive stint was with the U-17 squad, where he made 15 appearances scoring 11 goals, two of which came in the U-17 World Cup. Because of this, he could be “branded,” in a way, as a player who was able to develop in the youth system and became a regular on the senior team.

None of this would be possible though, without his success in league play. Thus far, McInerney has scored 10 goals through 14 league games. He also scored in the Union’s first US Open Cup game of the season. So far, he has proven himself to be a true “number nine” scoring goals at a good clip, and more importantly scoring in big games. McInerney has a knack for scoring equalizers, or go ahead goals, especially in the waning moments of the match.

Now, onto the questions marks because there are plenty of them. The first question surrounding him is simply can he keep up the pace? A mark of a great athlete, in whatever sport, is consistency. If his goals stop flowing at his current rate, all we’ll hear about is how he has cooled off after his hot start. He’s done very well thus far, but the MLS season is a grueling one, especially during the summer months. Consistency will be key for him this season.

Number two is, are the goals coming against quality competition? Now this question could be interpreted in a couple different ways. There is no need to sugarcoat anything here, the overall quality of play in the MLS isn’t to the standard of most European leagues yet. This is why a good amount of the USMNT roster ply their trade overseas. Should we value McInerney’s goal rate less because he is doing it against MLS competition? For me, the answer is no, but it is a tricky no. In my opinion goals are goals, if you have a hot forward on your hands keep riding him until you can’t anymore. His goals per game average (1.4) should be enough to raise a few eyebrows no matter what the competition.

Similar to the level of competition, does the sudden goal outburst come from his teammates? Does he score so much because he’s the only option? In a way, yes. The Philadelphia Union does boast one of the better MLS rosters. Over the offseason Philadelphia added one of the more respected forwards in the league in Conor Casey, and fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux.  Even so, these two not finding themselves in as many goal scoring situations as they used to and McInerney has proven to be the team’s only reliable goal scorer thus far.

All of that previous commentary culminates in one thing. You could scroll past the entire the post, but stop here and read from now on. This summer you could see the maturation of a future star. For whatever reason, and this could be a different post for a different time, but the USMNT has floundered in front of goal under Jurgen Klinsmann. McInerney being named to the preliminary CONCACAF Gold Cup roster is a huge opportunity for the young player.

Now I won’t get too far ahead of myself here, but we can at least speculate. Say McInerney features for the US this summer in the Gold Cup, and does well. If the US continues to struggle to put the ball in the back of the net, could we see McInerney get a shot in a future friendly match or earn a spot on the roster for a World Cup Qualifier? It doesn’t seem too likely at this point, but hey, anything can happen. One thing is for sure though, we all could be witnessing a star in the making this summer.

Also posted on TheOneTwo and Phillysportsspace

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mid-Day Madness

Would a game like Monday's FA cup tie draw similar crowds in the US? photo courtesy

On Monday English football giants Chelsea and Manchester United played an entertaining FA cup game at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea came out the victors, courtesy of a fantastic finish from forward Demba Ba. Though in my opinion, Chelsea going through to the semi-finals of the world's oldest football competition isn't the only taking point from the game. 

This particular match happened to be at 7:30 EST, or 12:30 in London.   The fact that kickoff was right in the middle of the day, on a work day nonetheless didn't stop 40,704 people from attending, nearly a sellout. It can easily be argued that the opponent, competition, and round of said competition is what drew the large number. But the question here is, could something similar happen in the US.?

It's hard to imagine a situation like this happening with one of our popular sports, but lets speak hypothetically here. What if for some reason Monday night football had to be rescheduled for 1PM instead of later on that night. It's hard to imagine, but would the game still sell out? What about a weekday NBA game, we'll even go big time and say the Miami heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers from the Staples Center. Instead of a normal Thursday 7 or 7:30 PST start, what if the game was moved to, say, 1:30 PST? Would we see the same type of crowd, or at least comparable to the normal start time?

Major League Baseball has something similar to this idea, where they'll schedule an afternoon start on a weekday from time to time. They're called "business person specials," and have become something of a league wide tradition.  Even these games rarely get close to selling out, with prior notice. 

So would a afternoon weekday game work in the US? Would tens of thousands of fans take off from work and school to go cheer on their favorite team. Or does the high attendance of the soccer game just a difference of culture? Voice your opinions in a comment or on twitter! (@mojo_FTNB). 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fernando Torres or Demba Ba?

  Can Fernando Torres and Demba Ba co-exist? Photos courtesy of

The addition of Demba Ba to the Chelsea roster certainly can't hurt the clubs on field play. At 27, Ba is in the prime of his career, and has showed his goal scoring prowess at previous clubs. The dilemma interim manager Rafa Benitez has is, how will both see adequate time on the pitch? Chelsea has been known recently for using formations with one striker, taking advantage of their skilled midfield players. Before Ba's arrival, Fernando Torres was clearly the first choice forward, and has had an okay season thus far, depending on who you ask. With a top four finish not looking certain for the Blues, they have options to consider with their front men. Does Benitez give a nod to either player as his first choice, and lone striker? Does he alternate between the two, similar to last season with Torres and Didier Drogba? Or could Chelsea possibly employ a two striker lineup?

After a "disappointing" beginning to his Chelsea career, Fernando Torres has shown more flashes of his old self this season, and more importantly, has improved his consistency a bit. If anything, Torres has at least been a mainstay in the Chelsea lineup this season. He's played in 23 contest, and started in 21. At first glance it would seem that Torres is having another poor season, as two midfielders, Frank Lampard and Juan Manuel Mata have both scored more (eight) than Torres (seven). Though when you break things down a bit more, Torres' season hasn't been bad at all. With the sheer skill of the players around him, Torres' goal count is bound to take a hit. The aforementioned Lampard and Mata are proven scorers, also players such as Eden Hazard and Ramires have goals in them. Digging a bit more, if you count the games Torres has started, it equals to a goal every three game. He could certainly do better, but one in three is respectable. He also has 24 shots on goal this season, which again averages to just about a goal every three shots on goal.

Demba Ba is still getting his feet wet at Chelsea, and doesn't have many numbers yet to go off of. He's played in three games, starting two, and has a goal to his name. Ba is known for his days at Newcastle United, where he scored at an excellent pace, and did so with style. During his time at St. James' Park, Ba scored 29 times in 54 appearances, and also knocked in two more during league cup play. While we haven't seen much of Ba yet in a Chelsea uniform, his reputation speaks for itself. As the games come and go, he should become more acclimated to his settings, and hopefully for Chelsea fans, return to the form he showed while at Newcastle.

Both Ba and Torres have previous history of being class scorers, but that isn't the question. The question simple is, how will the two co-exist? While Chelsea hasn't lived up to the ridiculous standards of owner Roman Abramovich, they've been able to keep a place in the top four utilizing a lone forward formation. Benitez could continue to employ a lone striker setup, but at the risk of angering one, or both men.  Alternating between the two, going with the "hot" player in a sense could also be an option. But again, would either Torres or Ba agree to that type of plan long term? Finally, Chelsea have the option of trying to play them both, using a two forward system. This seems the most logical of the options, but could disrupt team chemistry, and would take a talented player off the pitch.

So how should Rafa Benitez use his two strikers in the latter half of the season? Leave a comment or tweet (@mojo_FTNB) and let us know!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Is Evan Turner A Bust?

 Has Evan Turner reached his ceiling? Photo courtesy of

76ers guard/forward Evan Turner has been a subject of some debate recently. It seems as though everyone has a different opinion on the former #2 overall draft pick, is he a bust or not a bust? The question is valid, as on the surface, it appears no answer is quite definitive. On one hand, Turner hasn't shown a consistent "wow" factor that a top five pick is expected to show. On the other hand, while not flashy, Turner has slowly but steadily improved each season during his time in the NBA? So is Evan Turner a bust?

In terms of pure statistics, the answer would be no. In Turner's first season he only averaged 7.2 PPG, 2 assists, and just about four rebounds. His pedestrian numbers were caused by a couple things. Firstly, it's obviously going to be hard making the transition from college ball to pro ball, no matter how high you are picked, nearly every players goes through a rough rookie patch. Secondly, he quite simply did not see a ton of court time. He played in 78 games, and started just 14. During his rookie season Evan only averaged 23 minutes per game.

During the lockout shortened season, Turner showed some improvement, while only playing around two more minutes per game. He saw an increased field goal percentage and an increase in scoring average. Turner also saw his rebounding numbers increase by about two more a game.

Finally, Turner has definitely shown signs that he can be a solid starter if given the proper minutes. He has started all 42 games this point in the 2012-2013 season, and averages 36.5 minutes per game. 14 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and a steal are nothing to sneeze at in terms of production. The greatest improvement in Turner's game has to be his accuracy from beyond the arch. He's shooting a career high 41% from downtown, nearly double his percentage from last season.

For all the improvement he has shown, Turner does lack the flash and attraction of a former #2 draft choice. You can't gloss over the fact that Turner rarely dazzles the crowd, or put up those huge stat lines that are expected of players drafted in his position. It's very hard to describe, you hear analysts say some athletes don't have that "it" factor about them. That's what's bogging down Turner's reputation, not necessarily his play, but the way he acts on the court. I can imagine people watching a 76er broadcast and saying, "wow" I forgot Evan Turner was the #2 pick."

Even after two and a half seasons, the jury is still out on Evan Turner's "bust" status. There are valid arguments on both sides, and we may need to see the rest of this season, as well as all of next to correctly assess Turner. To be fair, the players selected around him haven't been so amazing themselves. Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson have been far from standouts. John Wall is yet to truly hit his stride, but has looked good since his return from injury. So is Evan Turner a bust? Or is it still too early to tell? Leave a comment or tweet and let me know what you think!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Temple Stuns Another Top Five Opponent

Temple guard Khalif Wyatt drives on the Syracuse defense during Saturday's classic

The Temple Owls scored a big non-conference victory Saturday afternoon against the Syracuse Orange. But should this come as a surprise to anyone?

History says Syracuse should have been on upset alert the whole time, as this is the fifth consecutive season the Owls have knocked off a top 10 team while being unranked.

The Owls put in a team effort, but their win was augmented by senior Khalif Wyatt, and sophomore Anthony Lee. Wyatt scored a career high 33 points at the worlds most famous arena. And he did so efficiently, shooting a shade under 50% from the field and knocking down all 15 free throw attempts. Big man Anthony Lee also had an outstanding game, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds,

Syracuse got their best production from regulars CJ Fair and Brandon Triche. Fair lead the Orange with 25 points, added seven rebounds, and most importantly, hit all eight of his free throw attempts. Triche contributed with 17 points off of 7-12 shooting from the field, he also played 39 of the 40 minutes possible. 

The game started off close, with Syracuse and Temple going back and forth in the early stages. Midway through the first half, the Orange went on a run which saw them take a 24-14 lead. At this point, the #3 team in the land looked to cruise into halftime, but Temple had other thoughts. The Owls fought back, and clng into halftime. 

After the break Temple caught Syracuse by surprise, the mostly Orange Madison Square Garden by surprise, and maybe even the sideline commentators by surprise with a 13-2 run. This started another seesaw battle, as Syracuse responded with an 11-2 run of their own, bringing the score to 53-53. 

As the game winded down, three point buckets from Scootie Randall and Quenton DeCosey sparked another Owl run. By this point, Temple had slowed down the pace, and used the clock to their advantage. Offensive rebounding, and capitalizing on free throw opportunities carried the Owls to their upset win.

Syracuse finished the game 19-34 from the line. Star guard Michael Carter-Williams didn't help the cause, finishing 7-15 from the stripe. The Orange will have a chance to rebound this Saturday at home against Alcorn State. Temple will be back in action Friday against Detroit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Dwightmare Is Over

We always seem to be late on these things don't we? In any case it's better late than never.

The Dwightmare is finally over, and we believe that Dwight Howard got his wish by going to the Los Angeles Lakers. While Howard did end up in one of his preferred destinations, the actual trade may have caught some people off guard. It was a four team deal involving LAL, Orlando, Denver, and Philadelphia. The Lakers obviously receive Howard, along with respectable role players Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. Orlando receives the haul of big man Nikola Vucevic, former 76ers first round pick Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, and Christian Eyenga. Orlando also received three first round draft picks and two second round draft picks. Details of the picks acquired below:

a first-round pick from either the Nuggets or the New York Knicks in 2014, a protected first-round pick from the Sixers, a protected first-round pick from the Lakers in 2017, a second-round pick from the Nuggets in 2013 and a conditional second-rounder from the Lakers in 2015. - Adrian Wojnarowski
The Nuggets receive defensive maestro Andre Iguodala; Whiile the 76ers receive center Andrew Bynum and sharpshooter Jason Richardson.

The two main talking points from this trade are first off, the relief of the Dwight Howard drama finally ending, and the Lakers not trading Pau Gasol. The Lakers retain Gasol, and now can run out arguably the best starting five in the NBA. It is safe to say that the trade at least changed the landscape of the Western Conference, and makes the Lakers the favorites to make the NBA finals next season.

 The Nuggets also improve by getting swingman Andre Iguodala. Arguably the best wing defender in the NBA right now, Iguodala is also a great playmaker and rebounder. He is also crazy athletic, and has at least a respectable three point shot. The Nuggets should see a increase in wins, especially if JaVale McGee continues to improve.

Philadelphia lands center Andrew Bynum, which could be considered a steal. He is often called 1.b to Dwight Howard in talks of who is the best center. The 76ers also acquire guard Jason Richardson, who I will think will compete for a starting slot. He still provides a little athleticism, and will surely be a three point marksman like previous years.

Orlando may have actually gotten the worst of the trade, but still got some solid players. Afflalo and Harrington are established veterans who will come to play every night. Vucevic showed some promise last year, and Harkless has crazy upside. Orlando also relieved some cap, and got a few draft picks. On paper they lost big time, but when you look a little closer the Magic did okay in trying to maximize their end of the deal.

So now that it's over, what's your thoughts on the Dwight Howard saga? Leave a comment or feedback below, or head over to our contact info page and use any of the links to get in touch!