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Match report: Union 3-1 Dynamo

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

On the back of a Freddy Adu brace, the Union defeated Houston Dynamo 3-1 in an ill-tempered match at PPL Park on Sunday afternoon. The win snapped Philadelphia’s eight game winless streak and allowed the host to play spoiler against a Dynamo side that sits on the Eastern Conference playoff bubble.

A surging Ray Gaddis run had set up the opener for Adu, who still had work to do, tucking the ball inside Tally Hall’s near post, 28 minutes into the match. Oscar Boniek Garcia’s 44th minute blast leveled the scores going into the break, but minutes into the second half, Sheanon Williams was bundled down in the box, forcing referee Edvin Jurisevic to point to the spot. Adu stepped up, sending Hall the wrong way and pushing the Union into the lead. The Union were not done scoring however, and it was the Valdes-Okugo partnership that set the table for Josue Martinez’s insurance goal. When Valdes’ knock-down header was only partially cleared to the top of the box, Okugo pounced and sent a sizzling volley into the feet of Josue Martinez at the back post, who poked home his side’s third goal on the night, giving the Union a two-goal cushion that they made stand up, winning their first match since July.

First Half

Four days after John Hackworth’s experimental lineup failed to bear fruit, the Union manager returned a starting XI that featured five changes from Thursday night’s defeat against DC United. Gabriel Farfan’s injured ankle kept the fullback out of the team, forcing Sheanon Williams to slide to left back, while Ray Gaddis entered on the right side of defense. Hackworth’s preferred partner for Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud, was restored to his position behind Michael Farfan, who returned from suspension. Up front, Freddy Adu was back as well, helping to lead the Union attack alongside Hackworth’s most surprising change, Josue Martinez, who replaced Jack McInerney at center forward.

Though Houston had more on the line in the contest, the Union got out to the quicker start in a physical encounter. When Lahoud ran over Luis Camargo and the Dynamo stopped, expecting a foul, Lahoud raced onto the ball, playing Martinez into space. With Houston scrambling, the Costa Rican was too slow cutting onto his favored left foot and his shot was blocked away.

Minutes later the Union cut through Houston again when Adu intercepted a sloppy pass out of the back to lead the rush. Danny Cruz, who was played in by Adu, picked out Martinez streaking in from the left flank, but Martinez again lacked the finishing touch, putting his low effort too close to Tally Hall, who got a leg to the shot.

As Houston grew into the match, the chippy, physical elements began to crescendo and Williams was the first in Jurisevic’s notebook when he slid in hard on Camargo after believing he had been fouled on the prior play.

With Adu pushing high up the pitch alongside Martinez and Michael Farfan tucking inside to help move the ball, the Union began to find some fluency in midfield as they looked to settle a very disjointed first half.

It was the Union’s outside backs that gave the team their best offensive chances, however. First it was Williams’ turn, skipping past two men on the left flank before playing in Martinez. Still unable to find his shooting boots, Martinez made a mess of the opportunity, delaying on the ball before missing the runs of three teammates streaming into the box.

On the other wing, Ray Gaddis jumped into midfield after playing a one-two with Cruz before taking off on a long run towards goal. Beating two men who could not cope with the rookie’s pace, Gaddis sliced his cross into the back post for Adu. Kofi Sarkodie won the race to the ball, but bundling it off his own keeper, had to look on while Adu pounced on the rebound which had rolled to the endline. Cutting back into the pitch, Adu cut his shot back to the near post and, with Sarkodie’s body screening Hall, the Houston keeper had no chance as the ball slid past him into the back of the net.

It was a well taken effort from Adu and the tally stunned Houston who, despite continuing to play at their game of physical intimidation, could not find chances against a well organized Union side.

Ten minutes after he set up the Union’s first tally, Gaddis nearly helped his side double their advantage. Again leaving defenders in his wake, Hall just managed to get fingertips to the rookie defender’s cross before reacting quickly and punching away from Michael Farfan on the second effort.

All the momentum favored the Union. Brad Davis was yellow-carded for hauling down Martinez on the break, but as has been the case for the Union all too often this season, a loss of focus in the final minutes of a half proved costly.

In the 44th minute, Boniek cut in behind the Union’s defense, but was denied by the reflexes of Zac MacMath, who got down quickly to the near post. On the ensuing play, however, the Union were slow to find their shape and Will Bruin’s lay-off pass found Boniek unmarked at the top right corner of the box. His powerful drive cannoned off of MacMath’s back post and into the net, sending the teams into halftime level.

Second half

Eager to make amends for their latest concession to end a half, the Union pressed forward with Williams just overshooting Cruz. Michael Farfan had the next chance, darting to the endline to win a corner.

Hooking his corner into the danger zone, Williams arrived at the right spot to challenge for the ball, but was felled by a full rugby tackle from Andre Hainault. Referee Jurisevic had little choice but to point to the spot and Freddy Adu strode forward confidently. Sending Hall to his left, Adu buried the kick low to the opposite corner.

Amidst the celebrations, however, it became apparent that Adu had injured himself. Attempting to solider on, Adu found himself unable to continue, forcing the Union to  play with only 10 men for four minutes before Keon Daniel could be introduced. Unluckily for the Union—and Daniel—the replacement had to be replaced less than 10 minutes after entering the match when a stray boot to the knee proved too painful for the Trinidad and Tobago international. Antoine Hoppenot replaced Daniel as the Union looked to see out the match in the attacking half of the pitch.

No sooner had Hoppenot entered the match, Houston nearly found an equalizer with substitute Giles Barnes proving the danger man, racing down the Union’s right flank. With Gaddis in hot pursuit, MacMath left his goal line, charging towards Barnes, playing himself into no-man’s land. With an empty net beckoning, Barnes chipped the helpless MacMath, but Okugo slid into position to save the day, calmly chesting the ball into the hands of his relieved goalkeeper.

At the other end, the Union’s pressure was building as a smart interplay between Michael Farfan and Hoppenot allowed the substitute striker to slide in Martinez. With the Houston box at his mercy, Martinez was cynically hacked down by Bobby Boswell, who surprisingly managed to avoid a card.

With Valdes over the ball, it appeared the Union captain would try for goal, but when his weak shot hit the wall, Lahoud’s follow up drive was deflected behind for a corner. Picking out Valdes at the back post, Farfan’s corner was nodded back across the face of goal where Houston could only head the ball as far as the top of the box. Sizing up the bouncing ball, Okugo drilled a low volley that, were it not for the legs of Martinez, was going wide of the far post. Standing in what appeared to be an offside position, Martinez controlled Okugo’s shot before poking it past the apoplectic Hall, who earned a yellow card for his remonstrations against Jurisevic.

Up two goals with less than 20 minutes to play, the Union sat back, focusing on their defensive shape as Houston threw numbers forward. The Dynamo nearly pulled one back when Bruin cut past both Okugo and Valdes before firing his shot wide. Minutes later, MacMath flapped at a free kick under pressure, but his defense hacked the ball clear.

With Houston throwing caution to the wind, substitute Calen Carr nearly set the table for the Dynamo’s second, but unable to find a teammate after his run had taken him to the endline, his squared pass across the face of goal found only Union defenders. As the clock wound towards extra time, Brad Davis had the best chance to halve the lead, but after sloppy Union defending gifted the Houston captain a look at goal, his shot came crashing back off the crossbar, all but ending Houston’s slim hope a of a fight back.

Following a tough week in which the Union played three games in eight days, the team is off until Saturday, when they travel to Crew Stadium on Saturday, September 29, to take on Columbus.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Raymon Gaddis; Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud, Michael Farfan; Freddy Adu (Keon Daniel ‘57) (Antoine Hoppenot ’66), Josue Martinez, Danny Cruz (Chris Albright ’81)

Unused substitutes: Chris Konopka, Jack McInerney, Roger Torres, Chandler Hoffman

Houston Dynamo
Tally Hall; Andre Hainault (Cam Weaver ’81), Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Kofi Sarkodie; Ricardo Clark, Luiz Camargo (Giles Barnes ’63), Brad Davis; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Will Bruin, Macoumba Kandji (Calen Carr ’46)

Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric, Brian Ching, Adam Moffat, Warren Creavalle

Scoring Summary
28 – PHI: Adu
44 – HOU: Boniek (Bruin, Sarkodie)
50 – PHI: Adu (PK)
71 – PHI: Martinez (Okugo)

Discipline Summary
20 – PHI: Williams (caution)
42 – HOU: Davis (caution)
71 – HOU: Hall (caution)
75 – HOU: Carr (caution)
82 – PHI: M. Farfan (caution)

Edvin Jurisevic

Match Statistics






Attempts on goal



Shots on target



Shots off target















Total passes



Passing accuracy



Yellow cards



Red cards





  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    We won!

  2. I have only missed a few games this season but those games include the ass kicking we gave KC and this game. Pretty soon the Union may start asking me to not go to home games.

  3. I don’t understand how Martinez can be so aggressive with his runs but so timid with the ball at his feet. He put himself in great position numerous times throughout the game only to refuse to take the shot when he had it. The kid has pace and seems to know where he should go but he lacks a killer/striker instinct. That said, it’s nice to get a win and a decisive one at that. I enjoyed walking to my car and not seeing the dejected head shaking that I normally see from fellow fans.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      I’ve never played professional anything but I’m sure sitting on the bench the whole season as a striker, then starting and finding yourself 1v1 against the keeper won’t go as smoothly as it could until you shake away a few of those cobwebs. It’s pretty much another Mwanga situation. Every striker in the world needs confidence and Im sure thats hard to come by on the bench.
      For Martinez, I never though poorly of him like others did, he never got any chance to show what he’s got. I’d be happy with him being a sub speed option at striker next year. Jack Mac + DP Striker starting with Martinez, Hopponet and Hoffman the subs.

      • i’m with james

      • I agree that nothing learned in practice or on the bench can boost confidence as much as actual playing time, Martinez needs more swagger, more cockiness or just plain striker arrogance. Jack Mac and Hoppenot play more now than they used to but when they first got minutes they played with more of the hunger that I’d like to see from Martinez. Like I said, he did all the right things but shrank at the moment of truth. Hopefully poking that third goal in will help do the trick. I liked what I saw for the most point and would say he has definitley earned another look and some more minutes.

  4. If you keep creating chances, sooner or later the ball is gonna hit the back of the net. Nice to see Freddy take charge of a match, I would’ve loved to see him bag a hat-trick and quiet all the haters like me.
    Thought is was good to see the team fight back after that tough loss to DC. Now the lads just need to build on yesterday’s performance and duplicate the result in Columbus.

  5. I agree with James on Josue. It was great to see him get an extended run in a central striking position (which, I believe, is the role in which did well in Costa Rica). The finishing touch was not quite there yet, but I saw 2 things I really liked — 1. great runs with pace 2. he actually tried to take on defenders one-on-one, on the dribble. Much better game from Freddy in a central role. Very good game from Ray “Bow Tie” Gaddis. Beautiful day to watch a match, and a result to match it for the home fans.

  6. James Korman says:

    That was a nice breath of fresh air yesterday. I liked Freddy up top as a striker because he actually seems to LIKE TO SHOOT! I also thought Josue did a nice job holding the ball and earned himself a start up top with Freddy this weekend. 3 goals is 3 goals. Results matter. And Gaddis has to play…period.

  7. The Black Hand says:

    No Jack Mac, three goals…jus sayin’.

    • I thought the same thing…no M. Farfan either though. Keep J. Mack off the field, Lahoud on the field (I thinkin Im the only Lahoud supporter) and re-insert M. Farfan.

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