Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Houston Dynamo

Photo: Daniel Studio

Tranquillo Barnetta scored his first goal for Philadelphia Union in the third minute and CJ Sapong tallied midway through the second half as the home side easily defeated Houston Dynamo at PPL Park Sunday night.

Barnetta finished a nice pass from Sebastien Le Toux to open the scoring before Sapong slotted in from close range on a clever ball from Fabinho in the second half.

The Dynamo looked poor throughout and failed to trouble John McCarthy for most of the evening. Sheanon Williams returned to PPL Park for the first time since his trade to Houston but failed to impact the match from left back.

First Half

Jim Curtin made three changes to the team that lost to Columbus last weekend. Healthy again, team captain Maurice Edu was restored in the center of defense at Steven Vitoria’s expense. Michael Lahoud replaced Brian Carroll at holding midfield while Cristian Maidana returned from suspension, pushing Tranquillo Barnetta wide and Eric Ayuk to the bench. John McCarthy kept his spot in goal despite Andre Blake’s availability.

Philadelphia would take the lead in just the 3rd minute. Sebastien Le Toux and Cristian Maidana were able to work an easy one-two down the right sideline and Le Toux found plenty of space to cross. His low ball led Barnetta perfectly as the Swiss international nipped in front of a Houston defender before finishing low to the near post from seven yards out. It was the midfielder’s first MLS goal.

The Union had a chance to double the lead in the 21st minute. A misplaced header from Houston’s Sheanon Williams fell to Maidana ten yards from goal on the left side. The midfielder fired a volley that Tyler Deric got down low to save.

Deric was called into action again in the 28th minute. Sapong and Le Toux led a swift counterattack down the left that ended with the Frenchman’s low shot saved from 10 yards out.

Philadelphia continued to probe, with Maidana getting the next chance in the 33rd minute. Clever build up play saw Le Toux spray a pass wide to the right for Maidana, but the ball got stuck in the Argentinian’s feet and his low shot was easily stopped by Deric.

Houston nearly found a fluky equalizer in the 36th minute. After a corner from the left was cleared, the follow-up ball found David Horst, who directed his header toward goal. It deflected off Maurice Edu before hitting the right post. John McCarthy was initially frozen by the deflection but did well to palm it to safety.

Tyler Deric denied Maidana again just before the halftime whistle. A corner kick was only partially cleared and the ball fell to the Union playmaker 15 yards from goal on the right side. His shot was low and on target, but Deric was down quickly and make an excellent save.

Second Half

Philadelphia would finally double their lead in the 63rd minute. Fabinho made a well-timed run down the left side and Barnetta found the Brazilian with a ball just inside the Houston box. He drove to the endline before hitting a hard, low cross that Sapong  redirected on goal from five yards out for his 9th goal of the season.

The Union had a great chance to make it three a minute later. Le Toux made a powerful run with the ball down the right side and squared a pass for Barnetta on the left side of the box. But the midfielder powered his shot high over the bar.

Houston brought on Erick Torres and Mauro Manotas as the game wore on, but the subs failed to create many clear cut chances and the Union held on for a fairly comfortable 2-0 win, their first in league play at PPL Park since July 11.

Jim Curtin used only one sub, bringing on Conor Casey for Cristian Maidana in the 76th minute. The decision not to rest any additional players with the U.S. Open Cup just 10 days away was perhaps a strange one given that the result seemed certain after the second goal.

Philadelphia takes on the Revolution in New England next Saturday (7:30 pm).

Philadelphia Union
John McCarthy, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Maurice Edu, Ray Gaddis, Michael Lahoud, Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana (Conor Casey 76′), Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux, CJ Sapong
Unused Subs: Andre Blake, Warren Creavalle, Steven Vitoria, Brian Carroll, Fernando Aristeguieta, Eric Ayuk

Houston Dynamo
Tyler Deric, David Horst, Kofi Sarkodie (Luis Garrido 45′), A.J. Cochran, Sheanon Williams, Leonel Miranda, Brad Davis (Erick Torres 70′), Oscar Garcia, Ricardo Clark, Will Bruin, Giles Barnes (Mauro Manotas 81′)
Unused Subs: Joe Willis, Nathan Sturgis, Taylor Hunter, Rasheed Olabiyi

Scoring Summary
PHI: Tranquillo Barnetta (Sebastien Le Toux) — 3′
PHI: CJ Sapong (Fabinho, Tranquillo Barnetta) — 63′

Disciplinary Summary
HOU: Giles Barnes (Simulation) — 14′
HOU: Leonel Miranda (foul) — 60′
HOU: Luis Garrido (foul) – 90′

Philadelphia Union Houston Dynamo
13 Shots 11
7 Shots on Target 5
6 Shots off Target 4
0 Blocked Shots 2
 7 Corner Kicks 4
 10 Crosses  16
 2 Offsides 0
 13 Fouls 14
0 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards  0
 415 Total Passes 479
 77.8% Passing Accuracy 80.8%
 46.5% Possession  53.5%
 46 Duels Won 46
 50% Duels Won % 50%
15 Tackles Won  10
5 Saves 5
26 Clearances 9


  1. Poor attendance on a beautiful evening. Too bad.

  2. To piggy back Osager above… the huge amount of empty seats…particularly in the River End is the story tonight.
    My wife kept saying the people will file in and I kept saying this isn’t Los Angeles if people aren’t there people aren’t there… not like anyone is hanging out in the tap room on the river walk instead of walking over to the game.
    More and more blue in the stands as season has worn on…this would be concerning to me if it was my business.
    Otherwise…I am glad they won (considering how harshly I called them out last week)…the game was quite blasé though… damn boring actually…at least half a dozen times – stopped the game and rewound and replayed and marveled at the choices the players were making (poor IQs on both teams)… not very hopeful… these two teams just don’t play the game well… and for the record…
    …no Brad Freidel – the Union aren’t going to win 4 of the last 5 games to secure that 6th spot despite your affirmations that they “just might be able to.”
    Even in victory I am often underwhelmed….at least they looked better than the other football team in the city.

    • As much as I want to read some message into this, all it says is that the U won’t draw when competing with the a Eagles on a game on a school night. Two big factors, and this isn’t a surprise. Maybe the U should go to Friday night home games in September. Much more likely to get a crowd. And, yes, I know that’s not the MLS MARKETING PLAN. of course neither is putting out a crappy team.

      • especially considering that this game will very likely not matter to the outcome of the season. i have season tickets and i didn’t go to the game. i was for some reason watching the eagles and was planning on leaving in time to get to chester right after kickoff. when the time came for us to leave my wife and i decided it wasn’t worth driving down there for a game that won’t really matter only to get home at ten when we have work in the morning. i really hate sunday games

      • I wonder what percentage of people chose as similarly as you. More to the point…if we had a dynamic and lovely football team would you have chosen the same.
        All this tells me is the product in Chester isn’t good enough…It has nothing to do with the Eagles and school nights.
        IMO, with a better team and something resembling the Beautiful Game… those seats are filled. Period.

      • Disagree with you. I think that you’re overlooking the obligations that people have in their lives and the fact that Sunday nights are tough for most people.

        I didn’t use my tickets and the Eagles had nothing to do with it. Just decided to have a nice dinner with my wife, save myself 2 hrs in the car and watched the match on my DVR later.

      • Sure and if they were one of the best teams in the league you probably would have chosen the same or more importantly probably wouldn’t have been able to offer them to your cousin or neighbor off co worker who has been hounding you all season for tickets to a game.
        People keep sighting their own reasons for choosing to stay home and I’m seeing the bigger picture of that stadium should never have been so empty for a game in late September. Period.

      • i agree with you there. maybe if we were actually truly a talented team fighting for a playoff position more people would be there. i am far from giving up on this team it is just that given the circumstances of where we are in this season and the circumstances of an eagles game and school night, it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of people who would normally be there weren’t too broken up about missing this particular game

      • Exactly. Think about choosing to spend money on season tickets but choosing not to go to games. WHY are you not going? Because you want to stay home and relax on a Sunday- have a glass of wine or dinner. No your not going cause the team stinks. and more importantly your not ginning the tickets away to fill the seats cause no body else wants to go. There’s 5 million + people within an hour drive of Chester.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        El P, with great respect, being a school night does still matter in some families, nowhere near as many as half a century ago when I was a kid, but there are still a few in which getting an education is an paramount priority.

        And, getting to work with some capacity to function is still important to many. Nurses, for example, likely want to start their shifts somewhere other than at the bottom of their games? :-). If you get caught in PPL exit traffic, you can get home late, and unwinding from both the match and the traffic may retard prompt sleep.
        In the modern game’s economics TV revenue is more important than fewer butts in seats. It would be interesting to compare Sunday night second game attendance numbers to the norm.

      • just to clarify, Pachy, OSC is referring to the DEDICATED, PROFESSIONAL nurses out there, ahemahemahemcoughcoughcough

      • I resemble that comment.

      • Gruntled Fan says:

        Went to the game last night, had a good time, was nice to see a win for a change, but as a season ticket holder with three kids, we will not be renewing next year. Number of reasons, partly their performance, the ownership and lack of direction/management, whatever you want to call it, all of the issues that have been discussed in the past.
        I must say though that the Sunday night games were the nail in the coffin. Sorry, but spending 4 or 5 Sunday nights in Chester is just awful. Just the last thing I wanted to do after running to two kids soccer games yesterday knowing the kids had school the next day and we had to work on Monday. Actually left the game 10 minutes early to beat the traffic, which is something we’ve never done before.
        Next year we’ll still support the team but pick and choose the games we go to and none of them will be on Sunday or during the week.

      • Totally agree, I am of the same state of mind, season ticket holder from the beginning and now still a fan but Chester and the cities empty promises and the really bad food at the game is not where I want to be. I miss the excitement of 2010 and the unbelievable 2011 season. Since then all downhill. Where’s Mondragon still annoyed by that whole mess.

      • The Oenophile says:


      • Please NO to Friday night games. Getting out of Center City and fighting summer shore traffic to get to Chester on a Friday night is brutal. That would make me give up my season tickets.

      • That’swhy I only suggested it for September — after beach season ends. Saturdays seem to work well for Spring games and Summer night games are great. But come September, Saturdays and Sundays are football days so getting TV attention is hard, together with kids being back at school so Sunday night sucks, so Friday nights would be the best solution. Again, just for the 2-4 home games after Labor Day.

      • I despise weeknight games, whether it’s Wednesday or Friday. I’m scheduled to work until 6:30. I have a 45 minute to one hour drive home, then a drive from Lower Bucks to the Chester. That drive was a surprisingly swift 40 minutes yesterday, but it has taken as long as 1 hour and 40 minutes on weeknights.
        So… for weeknight games, I have to leave work almost 2 hours early; go home, change, hope my daughter is ready to go like she was told to be; then fight I-95 rush hour traffic, that’s compounded by PennDot F’ing up just about everything from Cottman Ave down to Girard Ave.
        No thank you. I’ll take Sunday night over Wednesday or Friday.

      • So don’t live in Bucks County! Seriously, this is why the Chester experiment is flawed. For all but a small portion of the fan base (those who live in Delco or lower Montco) the travel time is much worse than a city stadium would be.

  3. shame this game didn’t do any good with Montreal, Orlando, and NYC all winning…

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    I couldn’t make it tonight… had to work OT… but the amount of empty seats is very telling. With that said, I didn’t think the game was boring. I thought the Union were the better team and they actually deserved a win. I thought they attacked fairly well and kept a clean sheet, which is good news. Yes, agreed that the teams above them all collected points, but the playoffs are a dead issue anyway. Keep playing well, and then play the best game of the year next Wednesday, so this season can actually mean something.
    Also, related to the empty seats… I am concerned about attendance for the Open Cup Final… we need a good showing like last year.
    Unrelated to the empty seats… the Eagles are garbage.

    • I’ve been watching the ticket sales for the cup final, since someone mentioned it on here a few weeks ago. Checking on Friday, there are tons of unsold seats- easily several thousand, probably quite a bit more (if that stadium tool is accurate I’d guess 6-8k). But happy for the guys tonight, they earned that win. Pretty composed closing it out too (or maybe Houston gave up, but I’ll take it either way).

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        First, Houston had something to play for, so I don’t think they gave up. Not saying the Union are great or anything I think the win tonight was a combination of decent Union + poor Houston. But hey, I’ll take it.
        About the Final Tix, that’s sad to hear. Last year’s environment was so great. I don’t want to be drowned out by a bunch of KC fans

      • problem for me with last nights game and the final is they are school/work nights and getting me +/- my kids to bed at 1030 for 500 wake up for me is a recipe for disaster.I bet if it had been a 400 game sunday there would have been half as many empty. I know my 4 would have been filled.

      • So nobody to give the tickets to then? Nobody looking to buy on the marketplace.
        With a better team you would have had ten people to offer those tickets to.
        I just feel like arguing today…nothing personal.

      • I will give you that if we had been playing a better team and were playing as a better team I may have been more tempted. I could have given away the tickets but really made the decision too late to give them away. The real thing was when I looked at my kids faces at 600 and realized this was one of those go and pay for it all week or stay and survive to live another day. Good news is that I was able to watch the game after kids went to sleep.

      • +1 Pachy, If I can’t make a match and my buddy can’t make the match, we cannot give them away. No one wants to be bothered because the product on the field is so terrible.

    • I’m predicting a half-empty stadium. Incredibly difficult for most people – especially casual fans to get excited about a weeknight match. Even a Cup final.

      • especially when obafemi gutted us last year.oohh the nightmares of his entrance to the game.

      • It was packed and loud last year. Best atmosphere for a Union game for at least 3 years. This year, if it’s not full it’s merely because the failure of ownership, NOT the midweek time slot.

  5. Old Soccer Coach says:

    I think we saw the vision Curtin has for how this group might play together in the midfield. The game tonight should quiet the fear that Maidana is leaving. Barnetta’s defensive play seemed to leave Nogueira play more defensively in the center of the midfield because the frequency of his having to rush forward to pressure the ball was reduced. And we saw more attempted creativity and ball handling than I remember from Mike Lahoud.
    A foursome of maidana, Barnetta, Nogueira and Lahoud dominated the central channel with Le Toux and the two full backs providing outlets on the flanks in the midfield. Le Toux ran amazingly to defend. Barnetta and Maidana seemed interchangeabl in enabling triangle pass penetration down the flanks, leading to both goals.
    Midfielders who have dominated the central channel for Houston in the past were neutralized. The only period when the Dynamo seemed to have us on the back foot was at the beginning of the second half. They had at least four quality chances to score, so the shutout has an element of luck to it, but it is still a shutout.
    The Revs in Foxboro will be a much sterner test.

  6. The Oenophile says:

    Sunday night game starting at 7 PM is tough for families with school-aged children.

    • I have trouble accepting this… if the club was better there is no way the seats are empty..but I will grant you said excuse for paltry attendance- it being a school night sunday…how then do you explain away the nearly empty River End…which in theory should never happen.
      Again…if I were the owners of this team seeing an empty house when supposedly we are fighting for our playoff lives and are only a six year old club with people choosing to stay home I would be greatly concerned.

      • The Oenophile says:

        Truth be told it was not only the Sunday night school night thing, but the way not only this season but the way the past six seasons have gone. We are emotionally spent with this team. Between the drive down and back, the parking hassle, the ever increasing cost of concessions, we are done. My kids do not enjoy PPL Park and the Union any more. Sad coming from a founding member and season ticket holder, but it’s the truth. And no, I am not re-Dooping for next year either.

    • they were plenty of school aged kids there, including mine. could have been eagles mania, combined with some pre-papal traffic phobia, and a touch of back-to-school-itis among the parent class – my wife opted for a glass of pinot on the porch with no game(s) on. i view going to games as stress reduction and have become accustomed to living without watching the eagles live since the advent of dvr – it was a beautiful evening all around. the atrocious give-aways went both ways (for once) and otherwise the union were clearly better. and from my close vantage point, it was great sport to watch owen coyle’s head about to explode many times while he yelled high-pitched unintelligible stuff at his players.

      • OK, so there are three factors: (i) don’t put out a crappy product all season, (ii) don’t schedule for a school night, and (iii) don’t schedule against the Eagles — you can’t do much about the rare Phillies pennant run, or spring games going up against NHL/NBA playoffs, or whatever, but avoid the few Eagles games. Duh.
        You’re probably right that Union fans will overcome one of those, and maybe even two, but not all three. But if you want a full stadium, you might want to try to put out a good product, at times fans want to watch, and not against the local NFL team.

      • yeah, although even just #1 should draw 20,000 around here. as for the overall sports milieu, to paraphrase the Answer: “playoffs? you’re talking playoffs?”

      • Good points, but as e.p. has been saying up and down this page, #1 is by far the most important factor.
        If last night’s game were a battle of first-place teams instead of ninth-place stragglers, I think we would have had close to a full house, despite the other challenges.

  7. Lahoud dominated a lackluster Houston midfield. The pairing with Noggy, and his pristine passing percentage, was very enjoyable to watch from a defensive perspective. That being said, the Boys couldn’t be further from clinical in the final third. A top tier side in our league would’ve put 4 or 5 up on the board against this orange side. Too often we make the wrong decision too quickly or the right decision too late. It’s unpolished and something I’d hope to see in the April, not September.
    The empty seats doesn’t shock me. We’re out of the playoffs, the Birds were playing, and it’s a Sunday. Let’s not ignore the fact PPL has been empty all season. Sak’s influence continues to blind Sugarman.

    • didn’t see Sak or Sugarman there, though i didn’t look to closely. and the columbus loss probably sealed the deal for most regular attendees. hope they show up for the cup final. the periods where barnetta, chaco and nogs pinged the ball about were refreshing.

      • I bet they were at the Eagles game too.
        You shall be called KING on this website for the remainder of 2015 and all of 2016 if you can eyewitness testify to seeing Mr’s S & S at Lincoln Financial Field.
        That would be so funny.

  8. It was a great game and a good night for Soccer! Soccer in this city is growing but lets not forget we have a good team with great players who have under performed this year. They just did not get the bounces and therefore have lost their share of games.

    Out of the playoffs, but still entertaining to watch. We had a late Sunday game, NFL back in full swing.

    There were many nice chances with numbers in the box! Was good to see Williams again even though it was in the wrong uniform.

    Overall the game was a fun time and it was good to see them succeed.

    • Carl you are cheery. Good for you. I saw two shitty teams play a shitty game. To each his own I imagine.

      • Agree el, too bad teams going no where playing in front of a empty stadium. Shame on you front office for ruining the team. Remember 2011 should be the cry. Good luck on the 30th I will be there as always but not next year.

  9. Not surprised the attendance was low. Sunday night game with work/school the next day on a short busy week with the pope visiting for a team that only mathematically still has a chance to make the playoffs.
    I watched from home myself since I get up around 4-4:30am workdays. I’m saving my non-productive work day for after the Cup Final. Hopefully most are doing the same and we will pack the Park for that game.
    On the game last night, still individual errors that could have been punished for. A bad giveaway by Edu and Marquez each lead to chances, Fabinho takes chances for interceptions and misses, etc. But this was the best offensively I think the team has looked all year. Gaddis was stellar. Lahoud and Noggy were buzzing. Maidana, Barnetta, and Le Toux were interchanging well making it hard to pick up their runs and Sapong was making himself a real menace with his physicality.
    Side note: Although the tackle wasn’t as bad as his reaction warranted, I loved Barnetta’s response to that foul on Nogueira. For a team that so much has gone bad this season, someone needs to set the tone like that – show that the team is still combative and up for a fight. That attitude will be needed against SKC.

    • +1 on Barnetta’s response to the tackle. That is the kind of fire and energy that has been sorely lacking on the field.

    • I was hoping Miranda would come down the wing at the end and Casey would give him The Bednarik Wall treatment. That kid had at least 3 hard yellows that didn’t get called

  10. Let me state for the record since I am making an argument on many different fronts today…
    I for one think it is good the seats were empty…been arguing for half a season for people to stop going to games as testament to our fan base dissatisfaction.
    All my original comment said was…highlighting Osager’s original observation…if I was the owner of this team I wouldn’t be sighting Eagles games and Sunday evenings as the reason why nobody was there – – and if Mr. S and S are sighting those reasons as many above me here are doing then …HELLO you are missing the bigger picture.
    Keep staying home people. Keep choosing your apathy over a shitty team. The empty seats ARE the message. Way to go.
    The River End was empty…that is the sample size that speaks volumes.

    • I agree, with nearly everyone, except that I didn’t think it was a shitty game. It was not the best match I’ve seen but there were good attacks from the U and Houston has some offensive weapons. The Houston GK made one good save. Somebody from Houston missed a dead sitter that would have made it 2-1 and a lot less comfortable.
      I agree that Sunday night games are never good.
      Sunday night games during the school year are worse.
      Sunday 7 pm kickoffs when the Eagles kickoff at 4pm are even worse.
      The team is all-but-mathematically out of playoff contention yes, but so what? They have a meaningful match at the end of this month and this was a good warmup for that.
      The River End should never be that empty, no excuses. You should be ashamed of yourselves, SOBs.
      Lastly, if you chose the Eagles over the Union yesterday, maybe just maybe you got what you deserved. Sorry couldn’t resist that one…

    • I respect the view that forcing change requires some fan action. not sure if the rentier class (this does not include Sak, he is a pilot fish) that owns the club even cares, however, and they certainly are not responsive to the types of losses that the club will endure from low attendance. the best bet at this point may be to hope for fatigue or boredom on Sugarman’s part, or an even wealthier buyer.
      not too tantalizing, I admit.

      agree that team’s hacking one another and giving the ball away to each other under minimal or no pressure is not terribly appealing, and perhaps it is abject relativism, but Union played much better tonight than against Columbus. maybe its the opposition, the lack of pressure due to their moral, spiritual and practical elimination from the playoffs, or the cooler weather, who knows?

      also, given the way the MLS TV schedule works the U will get some Sunday night games. Not sure how the MLS planning works but the MLS teams in big NFL markets probably shouldn’t compete with NFL home games in the fall. makes for bad tv. that’s on don garber. more roger goddell than pete rozelle.

  11. Anyone call up 610 this morning to talk to Angelo about the good Philadelphia football team that beat up their Texas opponent?

  12. I was a bit surprised by the empty seats in the River End section, but even there, you’re looking at some of your most passionate Philly sports fans who may have wanted to plan the day around an Eagles/Cowboys game. A better season and a team (legitimately)alive in the playoff hunt probably makes a difference though.

    As for the rest of the stadium – I’m sure a Sunday night game that overlapped Eagles/Cowboys was a factor. My son was there, as were lots of other kids that we normally tailgate with in lot C…school night wasn’t a factor within our group, though we admittedly don’t have a long commute. For people traveling longer distances, I could see school night being a factor though.

    I think those two factors are legitimate, but agree with El Pachy that a team really playing for something meaningful last night would sway a few more families to make the effort to come to PPL and watch the Birds on DVR (or in last night’s case, hit delete on the DVR after getting home).

  13. The stadium announcer gave the attendance at 14,000 or so, but I dont think it was even close to that. Under 10k would be my guess.
    Our ticket rep emailed us early in the week with a free upgrade to midfield, so the low attendance was not a surprise to the FO. They probably wanted to put more people in that area to make it look better on TV.

  14. Guess I’m the exception that a Sunday evening worked well for me. Traffic is much lighter and the win helps. First league win since July 11, I hear. And that’s 50 assists now for Le Toux. Worth recognizing.

    • I think it was the first home league win. The won in San Jose at least… this much is for sure… July 11th was a long long long time ago.
      The ocean temperature hadn’t even reach 70 degrees yet.

  15. Mike Macheski says:

    FO should know not a good idea to conflict with Eagles games. I think even most Union fans are also Eagles fans, so no Sunday games in September/October.

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