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Post-game: Union 3-2 Dynamo

So this is what it took. Add a little winger. Stir. Mix in a suddenly on-fire overall No. 1 draft pick attacker. Add some defense that stops making foolish mistakes. Maybe even a great save by the keeper. Keep playing till the final whistle.

That’s it? Geez. Who would have ever known soccer was that simple? It’s like baking a cake!

Or not. But whatever. My bad sense of humor aside, it was nice seeing Philadelphia Union finally put together a good 90-minute match in their 3-2 win over Houston on Saturday. Sure, they gave up two goals, and you have to want better defending on set pieces. But what you saw Saturday night, if you watched it instead of the Flyers game, was the best match the Union have played to date.

Here’s what made it happen.

  • Shea Salinas changed the attack.

Salinas has something few others on the Union have: speed. His goal was remarkable, not so much because of the shot itself (which was pretty good too) but for how he ran down a hopeful through ball to begin with, despite starting about 10 yards further from the ball than Houston. We’ve been harping on it for weeks, and Union manager Peter Nowak finally recognized the same thing: Width and edge speed can change the game.

  • No boneheaded mistakes by the defense.

No stupid giveaways. No foolish red cards. No shots on goal that bounce off the goalie’s hands and into the net. Fundamentally solid defense. No goals in the run of play. Who knew? Maybe a shutout is actually possible for the Union, one of just two Major League Soccer teams without one.

  • Whoa, Danny Mwanga!

A stoppage time goal in the second straight game? Methinks a legend is forming. After collecting Roger Torres’ high flick pass, he assisted on Sebastien Le Toux’s goal in the 69th minute with a nice drop. Le Toux returned the favor in the 93rd with a low cross. Maybe Mwanga’s shot was a gimme, but he timed his run perfectly.

  • What was missing: Set piece defense.

Defending free kicks can be a matter of being one step behind or an inch too low on the leap.

On the first Dynamo goal, Salinas was in front of Brian Ching but didn’t get high enough to make contact with the ball. Ching won the header among three blue-and-gold shirts. On the second, Cristian Arrieta briefly lost his mark and fell a step behind Eddie Robinson, who scored with the header.

The close-but-no-cigar set piece defense only works against a team that’s ordinary on free kicks. Houston’s Brad Davis is one of the league’s best at them, and there’s none better than Ching in MLS at going up for the header.

Player Ratings

Chris Seitz: 5

Good save on Danny Cruz’s point blank shot. Was in proper position to stop each set piece goal but couldn’t react quickly enough.

Jordan Harvey: 6

Another solid, if unspectacular, match for the left back.

Michael Orozco: 6

An up-and-down first half before settling down, but overall, nothing bad to write home about. He seems steadier every match.

Danny Califf: 6

No mistakes, a back line that didn’t let much through – all in all, a decent night for the captain.

Cristian Arrieta: 4

He lost his mark on Robinson on a free kick, leading to the second goal. Also didn’t look like he hustled to get back to mark Danny Cruz on the Houston counterattack that forced Seitz’s great save. Did amuse  with his bicycle kick clearance though.

Fred: 4

Shoot the ball, Fred. Just once. Look at the goal. He’s not a winger, and Nowak still has him playing out of position. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be a true position for him in this formation.

Stefani Miglioranzi: 5

Some sloppy tackles, including the key one in the 58th that drew him a yellow and led to the free kick that set up a goal.

Kyle Nakazawa: 5

Again, good on set pieces, but not showing much else on the field. Still, he’s young, he’s not screwing up in any obvious way, and he’s looking like a keeper.

Shea Salinas: 7

A brilliant game on the attack. The only drawbacks were that Ching’s goal lands on him and he couldn’t go the full 90.

Alejandro Moreno: 7

Found Salinas with a through ball to set up the first goal and Le Toux with another to create the third. Another workhorse game for the forward who doesn’t score.

Sebastien Le Toux: 7

Invisible early on, but stepped it up later with a goal and an assist. Great run on the through ball from Moreno to set up the final goal.


Danny Mwanga: 8

A goal and an assist in less than a half of play. Not bad for a rookie, eh?

Roger Torres: 6

Nice send-up to Mwanga to help set up Le Toux’s goal. Didn’t dribble into traffic a dozen times and lose the ball, so that’s a plus. Looked good coming off the bench.

(By the way, sorry I’m a bit late getting this post up, but did you see how beautiful it was out yesterday? Yeah, I was out playing soccer and then went for rodizio. Can you blame me?)

(Photo: Philadelphia Union)


  1. Josh Trott says:

    Right now so much of my soccer fan energy is spent on this loser squad. I want to read more about this game, and watch a re-broadcast (I was unable to watch the game live because of an unfortunate alignment of the Philly sporting events).

    Everywhere soccer writers are talking about the World Cup, and I’m thinking, when is the Union going to play next.

    Something might be wrong with me. This is the world cup, right? And I want to watch an MLS scrub squad? So I ask myself why this is. Firstly, I don’t have a strong affiliation going into this world cup. I don’t want the USA to win (as if that could happen). Can you imagine if a country won the World Cup, and only a tenth of the population celebrated? Until as a country we show the proper respect, I don’t want us to achieve undue glory. Let’s pay some dues.

    I’m watching the World Cup with a comfortable disinterest. I won’t be heartbroken or ecstatic no matter what happens. I have my teams but only because I like the way they play, not because of any loyalty.

    But Philadelphia. You know. I can’t really say it without getting excited. Has a soccer team. That kind of sucks (which is the right place for a Philly team to start out).

  2. I think this is one of the such a lot vital information for me. And i am happy reading your article.

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