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Preview: Union at Houston Dynamo

Game Time: Saturday, 8:30pm

TV: 6abc

I don’t know if you guys heard, but we finally get to see our team play this Saturday.

Houston’s Robertson Stadium is the scene for the opening match of the Philadelphia Union’s second MLS season. And if you aren’t excited, you are probably on the wrong website.

With 33 and 31 points respectively, Houston and Philly were well off the playoff pace in 2010, and both teams made wholesale changes in response. A full forty percent of Houston’s roster is new, and the cream of the new crop is the 2011 draft class. No rookie has ever started an opening day match for the Dynamo, but both defender Kofi Sarkodie and striker Will Bruin are expected to be in the first eleven this weekend.

Bruin gets the nod because Houston talisman Brian Ching has a sore hamstring (and will have it forever and ever and ever. Someone buy him a new one). With Sebastien Le Toux fully recovered from his ankle strain, Juan Diego Gonzalez is the only question mark for Philly. His tender hip flexor thins out an already stretched defensive corps.

This will be the only chance for Union fans to see Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath until mid-April as the duo have been called up to the U-20 national team. While neither player is expected to start on Saturday, they are key depth players. MacMath’s absence means Thorne Holder needs to be as good as advertised if Mondragon’s knee gets balky.

Half of the Union’s road wins came in Houston last year. Shea Salinas’ goal of the year candidate put Philly on top in the first half, but Brian Ching and Eddie Robinson put the home side in front before Le Toux pulled the Union even. The stage was set and a star was born in extra time when Danny Mwanga blasted home the winner.

Who will play

Goalkeeper

Tally Hall (HOU)
Faryd Mondragon (PHI)

Both are somewhat unknown quantities. Hall has started five MLS matches in his career, but he showed himself to be a great shot stopper in cup competitions. He has a 0.79 GAA in eleven preseason games. Hall was drafted exactly 40 spots after Chris Seitz.

Mondragon is big and talented, and he has the experience that the Union lacked in a number one last year. As good as the Dragon has been throughout his career, he was not very good in Germany before making his move stateside. The Union have really thrown in their lot with the big Colombian and they need the gamble to pay off.

Advantage: Dynamo

Defense

HOU – Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Hunter Freeman
PHI – Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey

These teams leaked like sieves in 2010. Boswell is the only returning starter for Houston while Valdes is the only new face (aside from Mondragon) for Philadelphia. The Union back line got better when Williams stepped in at right back. The team is counting on him to maintain his high level of play down the right.

Advantage: Union. Last year, Williams’ arrival coincided with Knighton’s run in goal. Sheanon is good but he’s not a magician. This group is better than last year’s starting four but still has a lot to prove.

Midfield

HOU – Corey Ashe, Lovel Palmer, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis
PHI -Miglioranzi, Carroll, Le Toux, Mapp

Davis and Le Toux are top tier players. Davis serves a mean set piece. Migs and Carroll are stay-at-home middies, and Mapp will need to be at his creative best.

Advantage: Union. Le Toux > Davis

Forwards

HOU – Jason Garey, Will Bruin
PHI – Carlos Ruiz, Danny Mwanga

Garey arrives from Columbus. Bruin has opened eyes with a huge preseason but he’ll face two very experienced central defenders in Valdes and Califf. Ruiz needs one goal to become the all-time leading Central American goalscorer in MLS history.

Advantage: Mwan-genius owns Robertson Stadium. He’ll have the full 90 to get on the board this time.

Prediction

Union 3-1 Dynamo

The Union have jealously protected the squad for prying eyes all preseason. I’m assuming they’ve designed at least three secret plays that result in a goal 96.3% of the time.

One Comment

  1. I like it. A 3-1 win would be an awesome way to start the season. I’m ready to DOOP!!!!

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