Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 Houston Dynamo

Chaco had his revenge.

Ex-Union midfielder Cristian Maidana finished off his old team Saturday with a spectacular free kick at the death, giving Houston Dynamo a 1-0 win in the Texas heat.

The Union looked poor for much of the evening, dealing with injuries and high temperatures, but looked to have done enough to earn a draw. However, Josh Yaro picked up his second yellow card late in the match after referee Edvin Jurisevic accepted a ludicrous flop by Mauro Manotas, and Warren Creavalle later conceded a foul in a dangerous position to set up Maidana. The former Union playmaker made no mistake, snatching a point from the team that traded him away last fall.

First half

With all of his strikers and quasi-strikers unavailable to start the match, Union head coach Jim Curtin turned to a unique solution up top. Roland Alberg, the most in-form player in the league, moved from his customary No. 10 position to a striking role, with Tranquillo Barnetta sliding back up to the central attacking midfield position. Creavalle came into the side to partner with Brian Carroll deeper in central midfield.

The Union got off to a tough start when Yaro was booked within two minutes, winning the challenge but catching the Dynamo attacker high. The visitors eventually settled into the match, keeping Houston from generating much offensive pressure on Andre Blake and counterattacking when the opportunity presented itself. One well-worked attack saw Ilsinho force a turnover, allowing Barnetta to maraud forward with the ball and feed Alberg. The Dutchman’s missile strike of a shot was blocked by a brave Raul Rodriguez.

As time wore on, the orange-clad hosts worked their way into supremacy. Giles Barnes nearly cracked open the scoring in the 22nd minute with a header low toward the post, but Union goalkeeper Andre Blake unleashed his world-class reactions and agility to parry the shot away. Blake shined again just eight minutes later, moving to the side to save a free header from Will Bruin.

After a water break, the Union seemed content to let the Dynamo play kickabout, with the Western Conference basement-dwellers producing very little end product. The Union manufactured their best chance of the half on a cross from Barnetta, but Chris Pontius failed to put his header on frame.

Both sides entered the break scoreless.

Second half

It was more of the same to start the second 45 minutes: no substitutions, not much action. Unable to complete any moves up top, the Union were stymied repeatedly by the Dynamo defense. In the 58th minute, one fluid series of passes sprung Barnetta in the box, but Tyler Deric stoned the close range shot. The Dynamo brought in 20-year-old Manotas in the 60th minute for Will Bruin, with the Argentine striker coming off a midweek brace in the U.S. Open Cup against Sporting Kansas City.

Alberg, isolated much of the night in an unfamiliar role up top, found himself behind the Dynamo defense in the 62nd minute. His low cross, though, didn’t find goal or a trailing runner. It was the Dutchman’s last action of the match, coming off to allow C.J. Sapong’s return from injury. Leo Fernandes entered the match at the same time for Ilsinho.

The double substitution sparked a period of stellar play from the Union, who enjoyed having their strong outlet man back on the pitch. Warren Creavalle had a shout for a penalty (and replays showed that he had a good case), but the referee denied him. Sapong was active, almost scoring on a low cross by Pontius.

Maidana entered for the Dynamo, facing his old team, and the orange hosts began to turn the tables. Maidana forced a good save from Blake in the 72nd minute, and then attempts by Boniek Garcia and Mauro Manotas soared well over the bar. At full extension, Blake tipped another Boniek Garcia blast over the crossbar in the 81st minute, and Fabinho needed to come up big to save a header off the line on the ensuing corner kick. Fellow Union alum Andrew Wenger replaced Giles Barnes in the 84th minute, though his contribution to the match was minimal.

Things got worse for the Union in the 87th minute, as Yaro was sent off for his second yellow card. Mauro Manotas went down under no contact from the defender and should have been given a card for diving; however, the referee saw fit to send Yaro to the showers instead.

Curtin sent on Ken Tribbett for Barnetta, attempting to close out the final phase of play. But Houston looked their most dynamic on the night, and the Union were barely holding on to the road point. The Union withstood wave after wave of attack until Creavalle committed a foul just outside the box, earning a 94th minute yellow card.

The Houston crowd rose to their feet as Maidana took his position behind the ball. The Argentine, jettisoned by Philadelphia last off-season, produced his share of quality free kicks during his two years with the Union. It was simply too perfect a moment, and Maidana did not miss — a brilliantly placed ball rising over the wall and nestling itself in the back of Andre Blake’s net. The keeper who came up big so many times in the match could only watch as Maidana rejoiced, coming off the bench to plunge a massive knife into the back of his former club.

1-0 was the final score in Houston, the second straight league loss for Philadelphia who — for now — are still top the Eastern Conference table.

The Union will look to right the ship next weekend, hosting D.C. United at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday, July 9. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, Brian Carroll, Warren Creavalle, Tranquillo Barnetta (Ken Tribbett 87′), Ilsinho (Leo Fernandes 63′), Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg (C.J. Sapong 63′).
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Cole Missimo, Walter Restrepo

Houston Dynamo
Tyler Deric, Jalil Anibaba, David Horst, Raul Rodriguez, DaMarcus Beasley, Collen Warner, Giles Barnes (Andrew Wenger 83′), Ricardo Clark, Alex (Cristian Maidana 69′), Oscar Boniek Garcia, Will Bruin (Mauro Manotas 60′)
Unused subs: Joe Willis, Agus, Sheanon Williams, David Rocha

Scoring Summary
HOU: Cristian Maidana — 90+5′

Disciplinary Summary
PHI: Josh Yaro (unsporting behavior) — 2′
PHI: Josh Yaro (second yellow) (unsporting behavior) — 87′
PHI: Warren Creavalle (unsporting behavior) — 90+4′

Philadelphia Union Houston Dynamo
7 Shots 18
2 Shots on Target 8
 3 Shots off Target 7
 2 Blocked Shots 3
 3 Corner Kicks 8
 12 Crosses 33
 4 Offsides 0
 9 Fouls 8
 3 Yellow Cards 0
 1 Red Cards 0
 383 Total Passes 401
 76% Passing Accuracy 83%
 48.1% Possession 51.9%
 26 Duels Won 36
 41.9% Duels Won % 58.1%
 11 Tackles Won 12
 6 Saves 2
 21 Clearances 10


  1. Fat Uncle Phil from Urkel says:

    At least it wasn’t Wenger.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    The Four Horseman of MLS Apocalypse
    Shit crowd
    Poor quality
    Lousy product
    So Union, result.
    What a boring game… culminating in an inexcusable foul by Warren Creavalle… and a sigh.
    Thank God I listened to Earnie Stewart 2x on Men in Blazers to give me some remote semblance of hope.

  3. Wow. Union looked like hell against the worst team in the league. Not upset with the loss nor with Maidana’s awesome goal, but what in the name of shitty soccer was that first half? And when oh when is this team going to get some speed? Ilsinho is slow, Barnetta is slow, Fernandez is snail-slow. Beasley made Rosenberry look like a rookie. The Union need help in transfer window and I’m not sure Stewart-style under-the-radar players are going to have time to integrate into team. I hope I’m wrong but I could easily see this team miss out on playoffs given we’re only 6 points above OCSC.

    • I’m not too worried about playoffs just yet. Yes things are crowded, but they probably only need about 20 points from 16 games.

      The schedule thins out now, we currently only have 1 more mid week MLS game (plus a max of 3 open cup games). 3 of the next 4 are home. The only two away games of note from a travel perspective are Chicago and Portland both in September (no more games in Florida or Texas heat). Only 3 more games against the West.

      Plus whatever reinforcements we bring in plus LANS Edu in 5 or 6 games.

      I think we probably aren’t serious contenders to take the east, but I think the playoffs are still a strong likelihood.

  4. Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

    Now there’s the Union I recognize. Ripping my heart out in the 95th minute. Oh that familiar pain. That’s so Union.

  5. The Union were clearly gassed in the last 30 minutes. We’re just getting into the steamy part of the season. They better get used to playing in the soup if they want to stay near the top of the table

  6. Union looked like the better team only for about a five minute window right after Sapong came in. On the night, they were dull and without any ideas in the attacking third. They would have been very lucky to get a draw. The outcome was deserved. Im hoping it has more to do with the fact that they have been playing pretty hard twice a week for about three weeks straight. But yeah, that transfer window is opening just in time.

  7. Steve H. says:

    DC at home on the 9th now becomes a ‘must win’ game for the team. A three game losing streak would be bad (stating the obvious).

  8. Zizouisgod says:

    Injuries and playing their fourth match in 15 days in very hot & humid conditions delivered this type of result. While I would expect us to beat Houston on a normal day, it didn’t happen. Thankfully, we now have a full week to get ready for DC.

    I haven’t watched Stewart on Men in Blazers yet, but I would expect that if you gave him truth serum, he probably didn’t think that the team would be off to such a great start this year. This allows him and Albright to selectively add some strategic reinforcements to help our playoff run. I gotta admit, that’s pretty exciting to write that sentence.

    • six matches in 18 days? whatever the numbers, I agree. Team has made significant progress and overperformed at the same time. Subject to anticipated, regular course corrections, we are still on target. “Trust the process” or the equivalent related to ES.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        You’re right, I had it wrong. Needed to finish the first cup of coffee before posting.

    • Pragmatist says:

      Plus a slew of injuries, forcing multiple players out of position.
      It’s a discouraging result, yes, but the defense finally tightened up. We just didn’t get the 3-4 goals we’ve become accustomed to. Why not? Because our offense players were gassed and out of position.
      Give them this full week of training, let’s get the injured guys back, and we’ll see positive results back on the board very soon.

  9. Steve H. says:

    That pitch looked like the one Lansdowne used to use for Delco soccer (sans the broken glass bottle pieces and slide that reflected the sun towards the far goalie during those afternoon games).

    • That was my home field, and I remember it well. Still pick a glass fragment or two occasionally from my leg. (Slide tackling is best remembered when one has real evidence of its occurrence.) I commented during the game that it looked like, on the camera side of the field, they had scalped it, the grass was so poor. Field conditions matched the officiating on Saturday night.

  10. philpill says:

    Not surprised by the play, not shocked at the result, but curious about the lineup. Given how good he looked Wednesday, Leo was a logical choice to start up top. Start Gaddis. No other changes. The offense was disjointed, confused and yielded a measly 2
    shots on goal. If not fo= Blake – again – the score is not close. Now it’s the FO’s turn to work the kind of magic from the offseason and fill the obvious holes – not just for immediate results, but long term success and value.

    • I, too, was confused by Jim Curtin’s lineup choice the other night.
      Plug Fernandes in for Sapong up front, and the rest of the current Best XI could have stayed intact.
      Instead, JC decided to insert Crevalle, and to move both Alberg and Barnetta. Three changes to the lineup, when only one was needed.
      Poor decision.

  11. The Little Fish says:

    Discouraging loss. Game was a snoozfest. Roland up top didn’t work. And big surprise- another set piece goal against! Seriously, I reach for the rolaids every time I hear the ref’s whistle lately. We are so weak on the defensive restarts. Credit to Chaco it was a beautiful shot. But c’mon man. Got to tighten that stuff up Jimbo.
    When does that summer transfer window open? Let’s spend some of those Nogs bucks, and TAM, and whatever other weird mls currency we have laying about. We have a legit shot to do ‘something’ this year. Yes we’ve exceeded expectations which may have changed the front office’s plans. But still here we are…

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Transfer window opens tomorrow. I expect ES to make some good moves. A nice change from years past.
      Not too mad about the loss… I thought a draw would have been generous given how bad the team played, and how many guys were out injured.
      Nice to see CJ back… he looked fresh and healthy. He alone will help settle this team down.
      Blake looked good again. Can’t fault him on the goal. But he made some good saves. Hopefully he’s back.
      Curtin was a defender in his time in MLS. He needs to get the defense straightened out.
      Too many games in too little time lately. They are going back to a game a week (other than the friendly and US Open Cup), so hopefully some rest & training for defending set pieces is in order.

      • We actually miss having Edu back there on the set pieces.
        No idea on his time table for match fitness.

  12. Lucky Striker says:

    All about the window. No success? Basement beckons.

  13. I can’t believe I wasted my time watching that match. To think I was actually looking forward to some lively play from the men in blue. How disappointing. It’s like they were content with 0-0.
    I guess I should not have had such high expectations for this Italian squad.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Don’t over react too much. We have over shot quite a bit so far this season, but we had a ton of games in the past 3 weeks. I think that is more of the reason for the recent lack of quality, as opposed to other things. The set piece defending is a fixable problem. Win Saturday vs DC and we are back on track.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        And people playing out of the positions on which they have focused all season

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I do not overstate that this should be in running for post of the year.
      I doff my cap to new and inventive thinking.
      Bravo, Osager.

  14. Hey anyone know who the ref was ? He fucking blew !!! How about some fucking consistency !! Number 5 on Houston had 3 fouls from behind and didn’t see one card. But we see yellows right away…fuck that. I believe it was both Yaro’s and cravall’s first offenses and see fucking yellows right away no warning ??? Also great dive by Barnes I believe it was. You can’t tell that’s a fucking dive ? Really ? We say this a lot but this ref should be penalized for his actions. The Union get no respect in this league. Fuck these refs and fuck the MLS. Yea kinda pissed. I’m done ranting now. …..

  15. Houston was bad, we were worse, and the ref somehow trumped it all. Most disappointing part of the whole game was that Curtin was content to roll the C&C factory back out again. We know how these games play out. Houston’s defense is really not good, and instead of challenging them we sat back and let them dictate the game to us.

  16. Lucky Striker says:


    ” C & C ” were supposed to caddy 2 guys in the pivot who aren’t there….. didn’t like the idea pre-season but – moneyball!

    They’ve been adequate, but playing too many minutes. Not starter material. Currently, they’ve got nothing else. Nog leaving killed their season imo. Columnists can disagree, but not having it.

    Don’t trust Edu, and have no idea if/when he returns what he looks like running box to box when he’s been a CB as long as I can remember here, and we don’t know how well that ankle/leg holds up when he starts crashing into bodies again.

    Barnetta experiment continues when strikers return. Leo is too slow to help anywhere. However; Philly suffers at both ends when it takes its best remaining player out of position to fill yet another gap that didn’t have to be this wide.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Opening point on the money, LS.
      The other think to consider, has the conditioning and pace of play caught up tithe head start the U have had all season from doing two-a-days? The decline in Creavalle’s offensive passing precision may be due to the above.
      Did not see game yet. Upstate with not wifi coverage available.

      • Pretty rough OSC… might want to sit this one out, pick up fresh next week.
        I’m reminded of the scene when Ace Ventura walks out of the bathroom… DO NOT…. GO IN THERE.

      • Imagine El P’s worst nightmare. That’s pretty close.

  17. Alicat215 says:

    When you have the C&C stumble and turn over factory as your double pivot, the product we saw last night and the result, doesn’t surprise me a bit. With everyone out last night, why not try something out…say a 3-5-2?
    Tribbett Marquez Yaro
    Rosenberry Barnetta Alberg Isinho Fabs
    Pontius Restrapo( CJ 60)

    Just a thought to still play some attacking football.

  18. Lucky Striker says:

    They are wedded their formation. Availability never crosses their mind. Make of that what you will.

    When I saw how high Alberg was playing…..well…..I have a greater conviction that my understanding of what we are dealing with administratively has now been confirmed beyond all doubt.

    • Alicat215 says:

      I get that, Lucky……point taken. But we have seen them go into 3-5-2 when they are chasing a match in the last ten minutes, so they have, you would think, trained in that shape.

  19. This is exactly how this team looked in the beginning of the season. D doing ok but Blake bailing them out, crap connection from our DMs. The only difference is we didn’t have Sapong to win a ton of lumped up 50/50 balls and grab a lucky goal later in the match. We got used to having Barnetta at the 8. Even though we have lost a couple of games with him there we looked a lot better on O and honestly about the same on D. This was a one game reversion because of injuries.

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