On a sweltering night in Chester, the Union scored twice in the first half and coasted in for a 2-0 win against Houston on Wednesday.
Fafa Picault and Ilsinho both scored as Chris Pontius added assists on both goals, and the Union dismantled the Western Conference-leading Houston Dynamo 2-0.
Houston first XI: Willis; Beasley, Leonardo, Machado, De LaGarza; Alex, Cabezas, Clark; Quioto, Torres, Manotas
Union first XI: Blake; Gaddis, Elliott, Onyewu, Fabinho; Medunjanin, Bedoya; Pontius, Ilsinho, Picault; Sapong.
The Union got out to a bright start and looked lethal both in possession and on the counter off of Houston turnovers. Fafa Picault started off the scoring in the seventeenth minute, going bar-down on Houston keeper Joe Willis by outjumping two Houston defenders and heading home a Chris Pontius cross. Not settling for one goal, the U kept pressing, playing through Ilsinho in the middle as he set up others as well as took his chances, ringing a post on the counter at one point from long range. The boys in blue doubled their advantage in the thirty-eighth minute when C.J. Sapong played the ball out to Chris Pontius on the wing, who played a pretty little ball into the box that Ilsinho had no problems slotting past the keeper. The assist was Pontius’s sixth of the season already, a career best for him.
In the match, Andre Blake ran his now MLS-leading shutout streak to 363 minutes, surpassing the previous season high by Luis Robles of the Red Bulls at 295 minutes. For his part, Blake was rarely tested as the Union defense was stout in front of him for most of the match.
Houston pressed hard to cut the deficit in half in the second half, but couldn’t solve Blake. Many of Houston’s corners were claimed in the air by the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and the Union as a team tracked back well and made life difficult for Alex, and later, Vicente Sanchez.
The win now makes it nine points in three matches and eleven points in their last five for the Union. Up next: a fight against Colorado on Saturday, a team off to a rough start who is hungry for a win.
Press Conference Notes:
-Chris Pontius noticed that there’s more space on the right side where he got switched out to and now his role has changed from scorer to provider.
-Manager Jim Curtin lit into his team at half despite a two goal lead because they took their foot off of the gas in the waning moments of the first half and could have let the Dynamo back into the match.
-Having field the same team tonight as he did on Saturday, Curtin said that his players were honest with him and would have told him if they couldn’t have gone. He credits the sports performance division of the organization for keeping the players ready to go.
-Curtin said the difference tonight was the Union getting the first goal. He said the Dynamo are great on the counter with their speed on the wings and Alex running the attack but the Union squashed that when they scored first and made Houston come after them.