The Philadelphia Union face the Houston Dynamo this Saturday at 9 PM ET, and they’ll visit some old friends while they’re there.
The Union are coming off of a 3-2 loss in league play to Vancouver in Chester last weekend, but then scored a 2-1 win against the Red Bulls at home in the Open Cup. Houston is coming off of similar circumstances; they lost 3-2 to the Timbers in Portland, but then beat Sporting Kansas City 3-1 in Open Cup play on Wednesday.
Houston is in last place in the entire league (3-8-5) and have already fired their manager, but are 3-1-3 at home. The Union meanwhile are in first in the East, but are 1-4-3 on the road. In addition, the boys in blue have had difficulties with Western Conference teams, gaining just three points in six meetings with teams from the West thus far; they drew San Jose and the Galaxy at home and Colorado in Colorado, but lost to Seattle and Dallas on the road, and Vancouver at home. The U would do well to beat a Western team (albeit the worst one) and gain some confidence that they can get results from teams in the other conference.
If you recall, former Union men Andrew Wenger and Cristian Maidana were traded to the Houston Dynamo in the off-season for allocation money and the number six overall pick in the SuperDraft, which turned into Fabian Herbers. Maidana led the team (and nearly the league) in assists last year with 15, but was moved due to stylistic differences; he didn’t fit in the scheme the Union wanted to run anymore. Lancaster’s own Wenger was coming off of a bad year and has been better this year in Houston, apparently needing just a change of scenery. One has to wonder if they don’t feel a bit of regret in not being on a Union team that’s been playing the best it has in franchise history.
The Union are without a healthy striker: CJ Sapong (ankle), Sebastien Le Toux (concussion), and Fabian Herbers (hamstring) are all banged up, and only Sapong has a shot of getting any minutes on Saturday. One option for the Union would be to run a sort of false 9, which they had success with last year if they went down to 10 men due to a red card; running the false 9 with a full compliment of players and all that talent in the midfield might prove rather effective. Still, the Union will be happy to see CJ back when he can come back; they simply aren’t the same team without him.
Possible starting lineup: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Carroll, Creavalle; Pontius, Alberg, Barnetta, Ilsinho
Prediction: The Union go into Houston on similar rest and as the superior team. This is their Western breakthrough. Union 3, Dynamo 2.