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Preview: Union vs Dynamo

What: Union vs Houston Dynamo

When: 4PM EST

Where: PPL Park

TV: 6abc

Referee: Edvin Jurisevic. SAR (bench): James Conlee; JAR (opposite): Mark Cahen; 4th: Ted Unkel MLS Career: 51 games; FC/gm: 22.4; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 4; pens: 6

After a rough August, Houston is trying to get back on track. After being firmly handled by Chicago, they pulled off a home win over Real Salt Lake and almost snuck out of Kansas City with all three points.

Currently sitting at fifth and only a point above Columbus for the final playoff spot, the Dynamo are looking to this match against Philadelphia as a chance to put some space between themselves and the Crew, who lost to Chicago on Saturday.

For the Union, this is yet another chance for to find some kind of form heading into what will likely be an offseason spent searching for answers to big on-field questions.

Houston’s shape

Making the big decision to shift his formation to match his roster has paid off for Dynamo head coach Dom Kinnear. His move to the 4-3-3 coincided with a long run of good form. Though teams started to find holes in the Houston midfield in August, betting against Kinnear to find answers would be a poor use of money.

The key to Houston’s success has been their wing play. Strong play from Mac Kandji and Oscar Boniek Garcia has created the space and time Brad Davis needs to dictate play with his own brand of enthralling efficiency. Both wing men are fast, but it has been their workrate and off the ball movement that has made the difference for the Dynamo. Boniek Garcia’s crossing has been revelatory at times, while Kandji has found ways to stretch the back line all season.

For the Union to keep up with their opponents, Sheanon Williams and Gabriel Farfan have to control Houston’s wide play without much help. The more help the midfield has to give, the tougher it will be to generate any semblance of that mythical beast called offense.

Union response

If Houston is in a 4-3-3, the Union need to react with the type of passes that have allowed opposing teams to slice through their own three man midfield so often. This means creating multiple lines in midfield and opening options for the player checking back to the ball. Philadelphia’s ability to offer square passes to players with their back to goal has been absent for quite some time. This has led to a slow-building offense that, more often than not, asks Amobi Okugo and Carlos Valdes to provide the push forward.

Philly will also rely on their center backs to own the box on corner kicks. Houston has eight goals off corners to the Union’s one.


Before the last match, John Hackworth promised changes. New personnel? Indeed. New ideas? Not exactly. In fact, the Union have been devoid of offensive ideas for quite some time. And while Jack McInerney has continued to get on the end of a few crosses into the box, any build-up that ends in a lofted ball to McInerney can be considered less than ideal. Instead, runs must come from midfield.

Adding a driving force to the midfield should be item number one for Philadelphia. And without it, they need to add the likes of Chandler Hoffman to the first eleven so a presence remains up top when McInerney checks back to link up. At no point should the opposition center backs be completely alone. Somebody needs to be threatening the back line, whether it’s a wide player checking across or a striker pushing vertical. Danny Cruz has settled into a more traditional winger role recently, a development that has only added to the static nature of the Union’s offense.

A first half goal will do wonders for Philadelphia and its desperate fan base. But giving up an early one to Houston will level a blow that the team may not recover from this season. At some point, this collection of players should mature into a true MLS contender. Right now they need to remember how a this poor streak feels, and decide they never want to feel something like that again.



  • GK: MacMath
  • DEF: Williams, Okugo, Valdes, Garfan
  • MID: Carroll, Marfan, Torres, Cruz
  • FWD: McInerney, Hoffman


  • GK: Hall
  • DEF: Hainault, Boswell, Taylor, Creavalle
  • MID: Clark, Camargo, Davis
  • FWD: Boniek Garcia, Bruin, Kandji



  • OUT: FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms)
  • QUESTIONABLE: DF Bakary Soumare (R knee inflammation); DF Gabriel Farfan (R ankle contusion); MF Danny Cruz (L sesamoid stress reaction)
  • PROBABLE: FW Zach Pfeffer (R hip flexor strain)


  • OUT: DF Corey Ashe (L hamstring strain)
  • QUESTIONABLE: DF Jermaine Taylor (L quad contusion)

Suspended next yellow


  • Carroll
  • Gomez


  • None

One Comment

  1. Fiiiiinally!!!

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