Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 Houston Dynamo

The Union wrapped up their two-game road trip with a disappointing 1-0 loss at BBVA Compass Stadium in a match where the scoreline flattered their performance.

Ricardo Clark’s 59th minute header secured the victory for Houston, who controlled possession and territory throughout the game.

“We didn’t defend collectively as a group, and we leave a guy open inside the box, and you can’t do that at this level,” Union manager John Hackworth said after the game. “Credit to Houston, they were pushing the whole game; they were a team that was really trying to get on the board. To their credit, they broke through in the second half.”

With both the Union and hosts Houston Dynamo without many of their top players through injuries and international callups, both Hackworth and Dominic Kinnear fielded cobbled together their lineups in an important contest for both sides. But while the Dynamo adapted to their makeshift lineup, the Union struggled to organize themselves with four true strikers on the pitch and ceded control of the game.

First half

With Michael Farfan and Danny Cruz out with injuries, Leo Fernandes assumed center midfield responsibilities, and Antoine Hoppenot earning his first start of the season. Also grabbing his first start was Aaron Wheeler, who gave the Union a big 1-2 punch paired with Conor Casey up front.

But inside of a minute, Houston announced their intention to attack. Giles Barnes got behind the defense after only 40 seconds but slipped to the ground at the vital moment.

Andrew Driver was the next to be played in on Zac MacMath’s goal, when Oscar Boniek Garcia beat Sheanon Williams and released him in the 5th minute, only for Driver to blaze over. Minutes later Omar Cummings bumped off Ray Gaddis before firing straight at MacMath from an Adam Moffat feed.

The Union’s lack of midfield organization gave Houston ample to time and space to pick out open runners as they feasted on the scraps of the visitors’ errant passes and miscommunication.

Driver had another chance 20 minutes in after Clark stripped Brian Carroll in midfield, but Amobi Okugo did well to intervene.

Playing back on their heels, a Dynamo goal seemed imminent, but Houston struggled to play an accurate final ball, with the majority of their attacking moves ending with a heavy cross or a simple shot straight to MacMath. Such was the case in the 25th minute when Barnes won a physical confrontation with Jeff Parke, only to softly shoot at a grateful MacMath from close range.

Having weathered the storm for the first half hour, the Union slowly began to find cracks in the Dynamo defense. On 32 minutes, Okugo picked out Casey with a curling cross, but the Union target man could only direct his header onto the top of the goal.

As the half wore to its close, the Union missed two gilt-edged chances that would have sent them into the locker room with a lead. First, Hoppenot’s fancy footwork took him inside Jermaine Taylor, but with only Tally Hall to beat, he fanned on his left-footed shot.

Minutes later Wheeler blew past Bobby Boswell up the left touchline and ripped a low angle shot at Hall. Usually sure-handed, the Houston keeper spilled the shot into Casey’s path, but the sliding challenge of Eric Brunner did just enough to deflect his shot over the empty net.

Second half

Despite the Union’s final first half flurry, Houston began the second half on the front foot. Boniek Garcia continued to cause problems wherever he roamed, with Gaddis struggling to contain him when he drove the right flank.

The Union were sitting deeper than ever, allowing Clark and Boniek Garcia to distribute from 25-30 yards out.

An overhit cross nearly gave Houston their opener. Driver tracked the ball down at the back post, but his hesitation allowed Williams to track back and cut out what should have been a simple goal.

A minute later, Houston again missed a glorious opportunity to grab the lead. After MacMath punched a corner clear, Houston moved the ball to Warren Creavalle, who served it back into the box. Beating the offside trap, center back Eric Brunner directed his header back across the face of goal. Arriving for the simplest of tap-ins, Clark somehow ballooned his header over the bar.

But moments later, in the 60th minute, Clark would atone for his mistake, giving the Dynamo the lead they deserved.

With Williams stuck up field, the Dynamo found Jermaine Taylor on a wide open overlapping run. Picking out Clark in the box, Taylor’s cross was directed inside the far post by the US international, who had been left to run free by Fernandes.

Hackworth responded by pulling offWheeler in favor of the fresh legs of the speedy Don Anding, who was making his MLS debut.

Before the Union could catch their breath. however, Clark nearly doubled the advantage when Parke gave Cummings time to control in the box. Clark took a full-blooded swing at Cummings’ lay back, but could not direct his powerful drive on frame.

Anding’s pace began to create problems for Creavalle, who was deputizing at right back, but the rookie was unable to turn his smart movement into quality chances, first hooking his cross behind Hall’s net, before lashing his delivery straight at the Dynamo keeper.

Roger Torres made a rare appearance in the 71st minute, replacing the ineffective Fernandes in the middle of the pitch.

The Union began to get forward with more purpose, knowing they needed a goal to get any type of result. Okugo nearly grabbed the equalizer off of a Le Toux corner in the 73rd minute, but his diving header flew just wide of the far post.

Moments later, a long, sweeping ball from Torres sent Le Toux into space. Cutting back into the box, Le Toux saw Anding’s crashing run, but his final pass was badly underhit and Houston cleared their lines.

At the other end, Houston could have put the match away, but Driver again proved inaccurate in the box. Played in behind up the left flank, he had a number of teammates in the box, but his rushed delivery went straight to Parke.

Substitute Jason Johnson was the next to try his luck after fellow substitute Alex Dixon found him alone just inside the Union’s penalty spot. Snatching at his shot first time, Johnson rocketed the ball over the bar.

After MacMath threw himself at Cam Weaver’s feet in the 85th minute to smother a promising attack, Houston looked sure to notch an insurance goal in the 87th. Again it was Johnson who got himself open inside the box, but taking a heavy first touch allowed MacMath to fly off his line and save from point blank range.

Substitute Matt Kassel had the Union’s best chance to equalize in the final minute of regulation. But after Torres played Anding up the line and the debutante flicked back for Kassel, the Union utility midfielder smashed his volley well over the bar.

“We tried to come here and force the game,” Hackworth said. “We tried to press Houston; we knew they were going to come at us hard. When you do that, you have to be able to put the ball on the ground and possess a little bit, and we didn’t do a great job of that in the first half.”

With Western Conference bottom-dwellers Chivas USA coming to town on Friday night, the Union will look to move past a frustrating three game stretch and return to winning ways.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Jeff Parke; Ray Gaddis (Matt Kassel ’84); Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Leo Fernandes (Roger Torres ’71), Antoine Hoppenot; Conor Casey, Aaron Wheeler (Don Anding ’60)
Unused substitutes: Chris Konopka, Chris Albright, Cristhian Hernandez, Jimmy McLaughlin

Houston Dynamo
Tally Hall; Warren Creavalle, Bobby Boswell, Eric Brunner, Jermaine Taylor; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark, Andrew Driver (Alex Dixon 83); Giles Barnes (Jason Johnson ’76), Omar Cummings (Cam Weaver ’69)
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric, Mike Chabala, Brian Ownby, Bryan Salazar

Scoring Summary
59 – HOU: Clark (Taylor)

Discipline Summary
45 – HOU: Boniek (caution)

Referee: Matthew Foerster
Attendance: 21,300

Houston Dynamo Philadelphia Union
21 Attempts on Goal 11
6 Shots on Target 3
11 Shots off Target 5
4 Blocked Shots 3
8 Corner Kicks 4
4 Fouls 9
29 Open Play Crosses 14
3 Offsides 2
1 First Yellow Cards 0
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
54 Duels Won 38
58% Duels Won % 41%
494 Total Pass 309
82% Passing Accuracy % 71%
61.4% Possession 38.6%


  1. A few thoughts
    I though Zac Macmath had a pretty good match a few lol Macmath moments but I thought he was solid.
    But if Houston could finish the refs would have to called the mercy rule.
    ROGER TORRES!!!!! So we now know what it takes for him to take the field. 2 players at the gold cup and 2 players injured is good enough for him to become the second sub.
    I am now convinced that if he was subbed in during the games we were a man up we would have won them.
    I liked the fact that Hoppenot started. If he is ever gonna evolve past the supersub label he has to get experience beyond the limited expectations his current role gives him.

    Bonus comment: Brad Knighton? Really? We had that guy?

    • The highlights are autoplaying… make it stop

      • Ed Farnsworth says:

        Make it stop? Did you try the pause button?
        The embed from the MLS site was set on autoplay. It has been switched for the embed from the MLS channel on YouTube, which isn’t set on autoplay but wasn’t available when the post went live.
        You’re welcome.

      • thanks!

  2. We were lucky they couldn’t finish. Not a well played game but who was expecting a lot from this line up. Damn injuries, but our midfield was bad. The coaches are really going to have to earn their money for that chivas game.

    • 2 points from this trip! I didn’t expect much against Houston and I figured they’d be tanked. However, some weaknesses have be exposed. This team doesn’t really have a lot of significant depth. Gaddis– not taking advantage what opportunities they did have Hackworth mismanaging Torres all season. Ok I’m done. Hope everyone had a great 4th!!

  3. if Torres and Anding started from the beginning, I like to think this game goes a little differently. The passes Torres made had been missing.

    For saying some players don’t play because of defense, and then running out that formation. Don’t want to hear that excuse again. The whole defense was left out to dry with a wide open midfield.

  4. Great One says:

    The possession the last two games was abysmal, and that falls directly onto Hackworth IMO. Macmath had (with a few exceptions) a pretty decent game, as did Shaenon. Okugo played outstanding and really seemed to be the only one with energy. Wheeler actually had some good moments, as did Casey, although he looked worn out.
    Le Toux has really seemed to regress the last few games. I’m hoping that its due to the pairings in midfield, but the service has not been good, which is necessary bc he’s never going to possess the ball very well. Somehow even his corners have fallen back to his old level.
    The Fernandes experiment is done. The kid is out of his league, everyone can see it. He does look calm on the ball, but until he has some experience to develop more then he should never be an option to start.
    Carroll, Parke and Gaddis were whipping boys pretty much all match, and if it weren’t for Houston being the worst finishing team ever, the score could easily have been 5-0. I don’t totally make this their fault however, as Gaddis had Hoppenot in front of him (who makes Cruz look like defensive player of the year), Carroll was playing w a makeshift midfield, and they’ve all played pretty much every minute this year and just look tired. That falls on Hack.
    I’m anxious to look at some of the stats but it seemed like Torres had more positive passes in 20 minutes then the rest of them did all game. We continue to see why the fans love him so much, as he shows the kind of creation and touch that our other midfielders lack.
    Kassel actually showed some life as well, he may not be an awful sub option. Hoppenot actually looked like the better version of Cruz to me tonight.
    Also, does anyone know where the best place to talk/comment during the games is? I’m never at a bar or anything and am always looking for somewhere to comment online.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      We typically comment throughout the games on Twitter. Follow our Twitter feed, and there will be opportunities. You can find the link on this page.

    • Le Toux didn’t have as much effect offensively this game because he had to play defense. Gaddis was getting abused so much by Boniek and Cummings, and getting no help from Hoppenot, Hackworth had to switch Le Toux to the left.

  5. Worst. Passing. Ever.
    And even Le Toux looked tired.

  6. Jaap Stam says:

    I wanted to see the twin towers out there (Casey & Wheeler) but truthfully it did not work. Leo was clearly not the answer to our midfield problem. Torres had at least four great passes that sprung teammates. Casey is awesome. Fought hard every second of that game.
    I liked starting Hoppenot. The kid is an opportunist. He gets around his man more often than not because of his quickness. I, for one, want to see what else he is capable of. Now is as good a time as any. Playing him anyplace else but forward is curious, but what the heck?!?
    Another game like the last three and I’m going to need some Rolaids…!!!

  7. There has to be serious issues behind the scenes for Torres not to see more minutes on a night like that one. With Carroll behind him, his lack of defense can not be the only reason for his lack of pt.
    Does anyone know a timetable for Marfan or Kleberson’s return? I’m coming six hours for the Chivas game and I’d like to watch one of them play.
    Another outing like last night and it may be time for the return of We Suck so Much!!! (I know… Injuries, 3 games in a week, etc… It’s just fun to say)

    • If Farfan is still out for the Chivas match, it would be a perfect opportunity for Torres to start at CAM given the train wreck Chivas has been all season and in light of Leo Fernandes’s performance last night. If Torres doesn’t start in that scenario, I agree that there has to be more to the Torres situation than we are being told.

    • After the first hard challenge, Torres came up limping. It looked like he and Hackworth were discussing whether he should come back out. Maybe Hackworth thinks Torres isn’t ‘Philly tough’ enough.

    • My guess is that Torres refuses to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from his diet (http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/blog/post/2013/07/08/goal-oriented-hey-parents-lead-example) or he’s about to be traded.

      He’s a quality player and there’s no good reason for him to be at the bottom of the midfield depth chart (which also includes forwards and a defender).

      It’s pretty clear that Hack is a confused guy. His depth chart is exactly a philly-toughness chart despite repeatedly articulating the importance of possession.

  8. MLS scheduling annoys me. The U had to play three league games in eight days this week (two of which were on the road and during the Gold Cup when the roster is depleted), but just a month ago they had a stretch of three weeks with no league games that they had to fill with friendlies against Reading and Harrisburg to keep up their match fitness. I realize that there are an odd number of teams in the league which presents scheduling challenges, but the folks that make the schedule can do better than this.

  9. Southside Johnny says:

    No big disagreements. I was awed by Casey once again and thought Okugo and Williams had excellent games. I only remember one really good save and a ton of luck and scary moments for Zac. Parke pissed me off when he turned his back to whine and nearly gave them a goal on the quick restart. Carrol seems to be sliding back to his dismal showings earlier in the season, but I’m sure he was worn out last night. Anding was pretty impressive and Fernandez again looked slow, lost and maybe intimidated. I unrealistically expected more from Wheeler, but he has great promise down the road. I think Hoppenot is a long way from a starter and he even brought to mind some strangely kind thoughts of Cruz although he was about as effective except in defending. Le2 seems conflicted in his new role with a loss of confidence finishing and more opportunies to display bad touch. Gaddis wasn’t any worse than usual. To me, Roger Torres played some of the sweetest balls I’ve seen from a midfielder in a long time. What a shame.

  10. The Black Hand says:

    One can only wonder what a seasoned Roger Torres could be doing for this club. He is our 10…period. Of course, we probably won’t see him again.
    As for that match. If Hou had any finishing ability, it would have been 11-0. Hackworth’s selection gave us very little hope of staying afloat. This coach’s lack of tactical intelligence continues to show clearly. Our successes have come in spite of his management.

  11. The Union had no energy from the start, which I can’t fault hem for. That made winning the RSL game so much more important. Can someone please explain why Torres is not a regular sub??? Oh, I know, Hack doesn’t like players who can pass the ball with vision, accuracy and pace (team passing accuracy of 71%).

  12. Not sure why I thought going to Houston in July to watch the Union would be a good idea, but here I am. Houston fans are kind of lame. They had a PA announcement before the game to tell the fans how to be spirited — sing along with the Anthem, stand for corner kicks, etc. They did Armed Forces Appreciation Day very nicely though. It was a great reminder about the colors that really matter.

  13. Even I am getting tired of hearing myself beating the drum about possession. 38% again? What are they discussing during any team time, whether in meetings, on the practice field, etc. if Coach Hackworth is unable to get the idea of maintaining possession across to them? Long balls with nobody at the receiving end are simply long turnovers. I continue to see things that other coaches no doubt are hearing from their scouts: they cannot handle set pieces; they are susceptible to quick restarts; play a high line and encourage them to play dump ball- they will do so and cannot do anything with the ball when they do get there, because they have a bunch of guys with one-touch mindsets, and will have a hard time controlling the long pass; since many of their players are playing out of their natural positions, one on one challenges are most likely to lead to good outcomes- they aren’t comfortable enough with where they are playing to know where their help will come from or where their outlets are when they do get the ball. Much of this would be helped by more consistent midfield play, but it can really be tough to watch. All else being said, though, this time last year we were looking at a developing disaster, and I for one wouldn’t have expected the number of points that the Union has right now. Can we hope that he specific issues can be attacked this week, and use the Chivas game for “points of emphasis” to address the issues that the boys can use for the rest of the now half gone season?

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Worse is that purposeful possession is almost non-existent, but that requires at least a couple of competent midfielders. I curse Parke for pointless pass/clearances, but he doesn’t have anyone who looks like they might have a plan showing for the ball. So it goes like this. Ball won/received by Carroll, he drops it back (always) to Park or Okugo, who looks up and either lays off to Williams(who might actually do something productive) or, if not Williams, long ball to nowhere. I would love to know how many strings of more than 3 passes happened in this match. I wish you hadn’t brought it up…

    • Jaap Stam says:

      I feel like every time MacMath punts the ball we turn over possession. He should throw it out there more often as we would have a chance at retaining possession once in a while.

  14. Andy Muenz says:

    The stat sheet shows 0 yellow cards for the Union. Didn’t Parke get one towards the end of the first half for complaining to the linesman about a corner kick?

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