The Philadelphia Union’s starting lineup is pretty much set – you know, except for one of the most important positions

The Philadelphia Union’s starting lineup is pretty much set – you know, except for one of the most important positions

Well, Union fans, it looks like this is your team.

The summer transfer window closed this week with the Union opting to make only a backup goalkeeper (Oka Nikolov), a backup left back/left winger (Fabinho) and a long-term project (Gilberto) their international acquisitions. Part of that is due to salary cap restraints but it also shows that manager John Hackworth is mostly content with his starting lineup (and will probably not make any significant trades until after the season).

So with 11 games left in the year and the Union right in the thick of a heated Eastern Conference playoff race (look at these standings!), we pretty much know how the team will look. Zac MacMath will be in goal; Ray Gaddis, Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams will hold down the defense; Danny Cruz and/or Fabinho will be on the left wing and Sebastien Le Toux will be on the right wing; and Conor Casey and Jack McInerney will start up top.

Of course, the one starting spot still sort of up for grabs is one of the most important ones on the field: central attacking midfielder. And while the Union have a lot of options there, none of them have exactly seized the opportunity.

Michael Farfan and Keon Daniel have earned the most playing time but have combined to rack up a grand total of one goal and two assists between them in 2,680 combined minutes. Leo Fernandes has become one of Hackworth’s favorite midfield reserves but showed his rookie inexperience by committing a turnover right before the go-ahead goal in last week’s loss to the Chicago Fire. And then there’s World Cup winner Kleberson and fan favorite Roger Torres, who’ve been completely buried on the depth chart despite possessing the kind of technical ability few players on the Union can match.

Leading up to Saturday’s critical nationally televised game against D.C. United at PPL Park, Hackworth fielded a lot of questions about the spot and why Kleberson – the team’s highest-paid player – hasn’t played at all since June 1, first because of an injury and then because he seemingly got passed on the depth chart by a player in Fernandes who once idolized him.

“Kleberson is a big name and I know there’s a lot of people that have this huge expectation for him,” Hackworth said. “But he was brought here for a reason and he has done everything we asked and if we get the opportunity to plug him in, I’m quite confident he’ll be ready for it.”

When Hackworth says, “He was brought here for a reason,” what he probably means is, “We had to bring him in order to get rid of Freddy Adu.” But it’s still hard for some fans to believe that Kleberson can’t leapfrog the club’s collection of uninspiring central midfield choices and find his way back onto the pitch.

“We’ve got a lot of different options to choose from based on the game and based on how things are working,” explained captain Brian Carroll, who’s started every game as the club’s holding midfielder. “It’s a great problem to have.”

Well, it is a problem. It just doesn’t really seem like a great one.

NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

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NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: NBC Sports Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

Markelle Fultz quietly shows growth as Sixers plan to expand his role

Markelle Fultz quietly shows growth as Sixers plan to expand his role

Things weren’t going well for Markelle Fultz in his home debut.

Fultz missed all three of his shot attempts after entering the game in the first quarter. Two of those were blocked, with one a filthy snuff on a layup by the man he will be connected to forever: Jayson Tatum.

In between misfires, the No. 1 overall pick committed two personal fouls. The second came on a three-point shot by Terry Rozier III.

After 4:34 of action, Fultz slinked his way back to the bench.

And then a literal weight was lifted off his ailing shoulder.

Fultz returned to the court late in the second and immediately went on the attack. He drove right to the rim on Tatum and forced a foul.

That meant the 19-year-old with the banged-up right shoulder had to step to the free throw line and show off that oft-criticized shooting form.

Splash. Splash.

The points elicited a roar from the crowd and even a slight reaction from Fultz.

“Just a little smile at the fans. I saw somebody on the baseline just looking, so I just smiled,” Fultz said.

“It’s something I’ve been working on to get through this, so I was happy.”

Happy, but not content.

From that moment, Fultz looked like a different player. Not statistically as he finished with just six points on 2 for 9 shooting with three rebounds, one assist and one steal in the Sixers102-92 loss in their home opener.

However, the guard played with more energy on both ends of the court. He continued to drive hard to the basket offensively while he fought through screens and battled bigger bodies on D.

“I think I have a lot to improve on, but I also think I’m learning each night I come out and taking baby steps to improve on the stuff I did last game,” Fultz said. “I think I’m in a pretty good spot, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

One thing the team has learned so far is to get Fultz coming off more screens at the top of the key. Sixers head coach Brett Brown liked what he saw when Fultz had the ball in his hands with the reserves and was able to get downhill in a hurry off pick plays.

“I think it’s going to be something where we put him in more pick-and-rolls to try to get him more in the middle of the floor,” Brown said. “How we do that, I see it quite clearly. I think lately just trying to get him up and down the floor and get his fitness base and find some level of confidence has been most on my mind. But I agree with you, he has a skill that we have to tap into.”

“I’m just working on being wherever I need to be to help this team win,” Fultz said. “Pick-and-roll is one of the things I feel like I’m good at, so if that’s helping the team win I’m going to go do it.”

But that doesn’t mean Fultz is about to go rogue and start calling his own number all the time. Despite being the top pick in June’s draft, he knows this team’s engine starts with Joel Embiid, particularly when the big man is in the paint.

“If he’s in the game and he’s in the post, get him the ball,” Fultz said. “Whether I’m off the ball to screen away. If I’ve got the ball in my hands, find him. Whenever he’s on the floor we’ve got to find a way to get him the ball. He’s a great passer, so he’s going to draw a lot of attention. Any time he’s in there we have to get him the ball.”

A nodding Embiid agreed from a few feet away at his own locker.

“He’s right,” the big man said between bites of an apple. “That’s the right answer.”

The rookie is a fast learner.