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Match Report: Philadelphia Union 1-2 Houston Dynamo

Photo: Earl Gardner

On a night when Philadelphia Union’s spirited fightback should have been the major talking point, another questionable refereeing decision has grabbed the headlines. With ten minutes remaining, referee Fotis Bazakos pointed to the spot as Brian Ching fell theatrically to the deck after the slightest of contact from Gabriel Farfan, allowing the Houston striker to net a penalty kick for the game-winner BBVA Compass Stadium.

Houston had opened the scoring on 20 minutes when captain Brad Davis took Maccoumba Kandji’s pass and nestled his shot inside of Zac MacMath’s far post.

After being thoroughly outplayed in the first half, the Union stormed out of the gates after halftime, and Keon Daniel leveled the score less than a minute into the second stanza. Both teams traded chances in a sloppy match where the points looked destined to be shared, but Bazakos’ decision in favor of the home side effectively settled the contest.

First Half

With suspension and illness forcing mandatory changes, coach John Hackworth shuffled his deck on Saturday evening. Sheanon Williams returned to the starting lineup for the suspended Ray Gaddis, while Jorge Perlaza made his first start in a Union shirt with Jack McInerney out with a stomach bug. Freddy Adu and Michael Lahoud dropped to the bench, with Keon Daniel and Gabriel Gomez taking their places, respectively.

Despite the momentum the Union had built through victories against Sporting Kansas City and Harrisburg City Islanders, Hackworth’s side came out flat on their first trip to Houston’s new stadium.

Zac MacMath nearly gifted the hosts an early advantage, flapping at the first corner he faced, but fortunately Gabriel Gomez slid in well to save the day with MacMath stranded off his line.

Houston quickly found control of the midfield with the Union lacking in sharpness and work rate. US international Geoff Cameron ran the show from midfield for Houston, and they dominated possession in the early going.

In the 11th minute, however, the Union had the first true goal-scoring chance. Michael Farfan played Lionard Pajoy into space, and the Colombian found the streaking Jorge Perlaza. In the end, the debutante’s shot was poor, missing the near post and failing to trouble Tally Hall.

Lacking the energy and quality to pressure Houston, it was the closest the Union would come in the first half, and the hosts spread the ball at their leisure.

In the 20th minute, Houston got their breakthrough.

Sheanon Williams left Maccoumba Kandji time and space to turn in the box. Kandji slipped the ball through to an onrushing Brad Davis, who had shaken free of Michael Farfan’s attention. Though MacMath flew off his line to cut down the angle, Davis had little difficulty curling the ball beyond him into the side netting.

Deflated by the opening goal, there was no fightback from a lethargic Union side that continued to concede territory and absorb pressure.

As the half wore to a close, Kandji shook off Amobi Okugo, forcing the Union defender to concede a foul. With the Union disorganized, Davis’ quickly played set piece found Geoff Cameron at the near post, though he was unable to keep his header down.

Minutes later, Kandji again proved dangerous when his run eluded both Williams and Okugo. It was only a sliding clearance from Gabriel Farfan that kept Houston from doubling their advantage before they headed into the locker room.

Second Half

Though no changes were made during the intermission, the Union came out of the break with the intensity and energy that had been lacking during the first 45 minutes. Pressing higher up the field, they were rewarded immediately.

Perhaps content to see out the result, Houston sat deep in their end, and a simple move from the Union earned them the equalizer less than a minute into the second half. Michael Farfan switched fields to Brian Carroll, who drove forward before playing a seemingly innocuous pass to Keon Daniel. But when Houston failed to offer resistance, Daniel had time to turn and settle the ball before wrong-footing goalkeeper Tally Hall with a 25-yard drive to his far post.

Instantly, Philadelphia were on the front foot, and Houston struggled to offer a reply against the suddenly rampant Union.

In the 49th minute, the Union had two chances to storm into the lead. With Sheanon Williams leading the charge up the right wing, Michael Farfan took his pass and exchanged a quick wall pass with Jorge Perlaza before lashing his shot to the near post. Unfortunately for the Union, Tally Hall got to ground quickly, pushing Farfan’s shot away.

In the ensuing scramble, Williams tracked down the loose ball and squared smartly for Lionard Pajoy at the back post. With a wide open net to look at from three yards out, Pajoy badly misplayed his finish, pushing the ball away from goal and back into the center of the pitch, where it was easily cleared.

Having weathered the Union’s brief storm, Houston regained their footing and controlled the midfield as they had in the first half. Despite the pressure, they were still unable to provide their regular service to target man Will Bruin, who was well looked after by Carlos Valdes. Bruin’s most dangerous contribution came in the 66th minute when he shoved Valdes to the ground, taking the ball through force. When Bazakos failed to spot the infraction, Bruin found Kandji, but Amobi Okugo’s brave sliding tackle ended the threat.

Antoine Hoppenot’s introduction for the ineffective Perlaza showed coach Hackworth’s commitment to earning a valuable road victory, but with Pajoy dropping deeper into the midfield to cover his defensive duties, Hoppenot was always going to have a tough time playing as a lone striker.

In the 72nd minute, he nearly had the Union in front, latching onto Gabriel Farfan’s cross with an acrobatic spinning effort, though he could not keep it under the bar.

As fatigue set in, the match grew stretched,  swinging from end to end.

Houston had a shout for a penalty kick when Brian Ownby and Gabriel Farfan clashed in the box. In playing the ball, Farfan took the brunt of Ownby’s force as the two crashed together, with the referee rightly ruling play to continue.

In the 80th minute, Gabriel Farfan was again involved in the box, but on this occasion Bazakos made the call that would decide the match.

With Houston building up their left flank, Okugo slid in smartly to take the ball off of Boniek Garcia. Unluckily for the Union, the ball fell for Brad Davis. When the Dynamo captain whipped his cross into the box, Brian Ching flopped to the ground under the slightest of contact with Farfan. Bazakos took the bait, blowing for the penalty kick. Ching sent MacMath the wrong way and was fortunate to see his shot careen in off of the underside of the bar.

It was a knockout punch for the Union who, despite improving dramatically in the second half, were forced to leave Houston with nothing to show for their efforts. The last throw of the dice came through late pressure from the combination of Hoppenot and Pajoy, but the pair could not conjure any last minute magic.

Philadelphia Union

Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams (Freddy Adu ’83), Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez (Michael Lahoud ’75), Michael Farfan; Keon Daniel, Jorge Perlaza (Antoine Hoppenot ’64), Lionard Pajoy

Unused Substitutes: Chris Konopka, Roger Torres, Chris Albright, Josue Martinez

Houston Dynamo

Tally Hall; Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Luiz Camargo (Warren Creavalle ’79), Brad Davis, Geoff Cameron; Boniek Garcia, Will Bruin (Brian Ching ’74), Macoumba Kandji (Brian Ownby ’71)

Unused Substitutes: Cam Weaver, Nathan Sturgis, Tyler Deric, Colin Clark

Scoring Summary

20 – HOU: Davis (Kandji)

46 – PHI: Daniel (Carroll)

83 – HOU: Ching (PK)

Discipline Summary



Fotis Bazakos


  1. the kid union says:

    well S%#T dont start with the beginning of the end stuff it was a bad day all clubs have them.

  2. This was a terrible performance. More of the same from the Union. Frankly, they should be embarrassed. Very frustrating to watch.
    Regardless of the penalty, they played badly. Improved for a short period in the second half and then fell back to bad habits again.
    MacMath seemed out of sorts, which was something noticable at the US Open game as well.
    I have been defending Pajoy. However, a striker needs to score. Not asking for 18-20 goals a season but once in a while he needs to put the ball in the net, especiall when the going gets tough. At the begining of the second half he missed a goalden opportunity instead opting to pass the ball. In fact he did so twice, back to back. He obviously seems to lack confidence, but this is no time to have a personal crisis.
    Yes, the penalty was soft. But the Union’s game play was softer. Terrible. Houston was playing bad as well. They Union managed to play worse. What happened to playing box to box? The Union could not control possession. Constantly gave the ball away.Instead of builing up an attack resolved to simply lob hopeful balls over the top as in the old days. No excuses.

    • JediLos117 says:

      I counted two missed opportunities Pajoy shoulda hit. Also I think he mishit that shot and it appeared to be a back pass. He was thinking shot the whole time.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He was pretty worthless, as far as challenging for balls. The U went back to the old trusty, kick the ball over the top…right to the Dynamo. Still, they should have came away with that point. That bump should never be a penalty, in the 82nd minute.

  3. I’m disappointed.
    Perlaza was really bad, he simply didn’t seem to have the intelligence to make the smart runs Jack Mac makes.
    I also thought we lacked the midfield creator yet again; Marfan wasn’t necessarily bad but we NEED someone to come in and lock down that spot for us.
    Also, seemed like our usual long passes that have been working were intercepted a lot as well.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Perlaza was not that bad. The team did nothing to get our attacking players involved. Our midfield looked disorganized, to put it best. It has to be either Gomez or Carroll, not both. Marfan was very poor. His quality has been invisible for at least a month. Long balls, over the top, will never work against a decent club. This loss falls on Hackworth.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Alright, maybe a bit to harsh on Hackworth.

      • Actually, perlaza was that bad.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Not sure about that. I’m not saying that he was entirely effective, but Pajoy was far more of a weak link up top. Perlazza, aside from his poor shot attempt (awful), did have some decent touches. His drop off, to Marfan, was very nice. Farfan was left with a clean look on goal, in a very dangerous spot. No attacker looked great, but Perlazza was not the worst of the three. Good ol’ Lio takes that cake, in my opinion.

      • Perlaza was bad. As a striker you cannot miss 5 yards to the left when you are 6 yards from goal, regardless of whether it was your weak foot.

  4. PhillyHotspur says:

    Terrible game. Horrible PK call. Pathetic game plan. This season in a nutshell.

    And our 2 starting strikers and our best two chances.

    First half Can’t even get it on net.

    Second half. Open net and the shot goes backwards.


  5. PhillyHotspur says:

    And both carroll and gomes handling CM duties is pointless. Neither are very creative and the linkage to the strikers was lacking big time.

    This was Nowak’s weak strategy and it continues after his departure. W t f

  6. Dan Walsh says:

    There’s no need to rip this team after this loss. The Union took a road trip to the hottest stadium in the league. Players on both teams were cramping. Houston is a good team. They have a narrow field, which limits the Union. It’s a tough trip for the Union. Houston played better, but not by a ton. They got the key call. Game over. Win some, lose some. This is not a loss worth freaking out over.

    Hackworth has to work with the personnel he has. It’s not his team yet in full. More on that later this week.

    • Lets see what happens in LA. Obviously too early to judge hackworth. A couple more games will be informative.

      • Also with guys like Gomez you gotta work them back to fitness at some point It would be foolish to think that he doesn’t factor in the Unions plans. Evenif just for the short term.

  7. Let’s also not forget that it was the third game in 8 days with a fourth game on Wednesday. It’s crazy to think that even without injury/illness that you’d start the same starting 11 4 times in 13 days.

  8. The boys came out flat the 1st haft. The 2nd haft was the same boys but was a different squad they came out fast and played like the squad that played the last few games. The boys played well I didn’t like the PK call but Hackworth is right if the ball in the six then it needs to be in the back of the net.
    I started with the UNION and I’m sticking with the UNION. Now I wish Gaddis could have played he was out because of his challenge in last week’s game because of MLS review. McInerney had stomach bug no good trying to run, play the ball, sh*t and throw up ALL at the same time be glad it didn’t hit the whole squad. Both will be back in the starting line soon. As for Soumare I see him coming in at the end of a game at first until he’s up to full match health which hopefully comes soon.

  9. If would have helped had more of you guys come to the game. I saw only 7 Union supporters: quite sad, especially since the stadium was brand new, the area around the stadium rocked and it is not too expensive to fly down to Houston and rent cars there.
    Most of those in the stadium wore orange; must have been quite intimitating for our players.

  10. MikeRSoccer says:

    Hackworth should not be criticized for this loss in any way. In fact, he should probably be applauded. Injuries, the first extraordinarily hot game of the season and referee interference made this an incredibly difficult game. Despite the team looking flat, lost and desperate to get off the field in the first half Hackworth took them into the locker room and either threatened lives or delivered a classic Hollywood locker room speech because they came out possessed. That’s a sign of a good coach and a united locker room.

    Is anyone else surprised that the team did not release any players before the July 1 deadline? I thought at least one or two of Jordan, Lopez, Witkowski and maybe even Albright would be released. Especially Lopez, since he has 120k cap hit, intl spot and has perhaps been the biggest bust in Union history.

    • James Korman says:

      Agree, my first thoughts after the Keon Daniel goal was: “Wow, Coach made some halftime adjustments and fired up the boys. That’s something new!”

  11. James Korman says:

    It was a pretty tough game to watch but I’m getting really tired of the announcers saying things like “unjust result” and “got the better of play” and “controlled the game” and “deserved points.” It’s BS. We lost. We were NOT the better team on Saturday. We deserve nothing. I can totally deal with that. We’ll go kick LA’s butt. Please stop with the whining though. We’re better than that.

    …and from what I saw the ref had to call the penalty. There WAS absolutely contact preceding Ching going down in the box. Unfortunate yes, but it happened.

    Now let’s regroup and go pound LA Galaxy!

    • msg24365 says:

      Just b/c there is contact does not mean it is a foul. It is not like Ching was dribbling through the box and was tripped. There was a ball in the air, that was not even yet controlled, and minimal contact. Sh*tty penalty call. Plain and simple.

  12. Does anyone feel that the PSP punching bag freddy adu was missed in some way? I do in fact feel that this piece of tinkering did have an impact. I can’t say that his 12 minute stint on the field was the reason but the team seemed a bit more dangerous near the end. Of course houston was bunkering in a bit. I also felt like gomez and sheanon were not ready to start yet though we had little choice for sheanon
    Though I am sure everyone will gang up on me for this but can we try the same lineup against LA that we put out against SKC.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I think Adu didn’t start, due to the fact that we have a bunch of matches lumped together. I would, also, like to see the XI that took the pitch against Sporting.

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