Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo

Photo by Daniel Studio

Who: Philadelphia Union (10th in the East, 10 points, 2-4-4) vs. Houston Dynamo (1st in the West, 19 points, 6-1-3)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, PA
When: Wednesday May 17th, 7:30 PM
Watch: TCN, KUBE 57, MLS Live
Whistle: Jorge Gonzalez; Jason White, Logan Brown; Mark Geiger

For the first mid-week game of the 2017 season we’ll have an immovable object facing off against an unstoppable force. Both Houston and Philadelphia’s first quarter of the season has been defined by a refusal to change their respective game plans. The standings however show that this strategy has paid off for the Dynamo, while until recently the Union couldn’t find a win with both hands and a three goal lead.

Scouting report: Houston Dynamo

Expected Dynamo Lineup

Union fans will have to watch out for how Houston head coach Wilmer Cabrera is going to play Alberth Elis. The Honduran suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of Houston’s game against Vancouver last Friday and is questionable for Wednesday night’s game. Reports so far are downplaying the seriousness of the injury, and Elis will be traveling with the team to Philadelphia. It’s unclear though whether he will be expected to play on short rest or if he is just being brought along as the Dynamo make their way down to Atlanta for their weekend match. With or without Elis, Houston’s game plan is simple. Quioto and Elis (or Cubo Torres) will be running at the defense, with over-the-top service coming from Alex. Everyone knows that’s what they’re going to do because it’s what they’ve done all season.

Also of note: the Dynamo are undefeated at home (6 wins and 1 tie) so far this season but have lost all three of their road games. Granted, with a projected high of 90 degrees (and humidity around 50%) Houston’s high-flying Latin Americans might feel more at home in balmy Chester than they did in Portland, Foxborough, or Toronto.

  • Injury report: George Malki (D, torn ACL, out for season), Eric Alexander (M, right knee MCL),
  • Questionable: Alberth Elis (F, hamstring)
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Expected Union Lineup

This week is going to be all about lineup decisions for Jim Curtin, both due to the potentially injured Roland Alberg and as a way to respond to Houston’s speed.

It might not be the most popular choice, but for this game it’s hard to find fault in Jim Curtin choosing to keep Ray Gaddis’ speed in there. Keegan Rosenberry has, no doubt, benefited from the time off and is making it harder to keep him off the field every week, but in this instance you need a fast defensive player more than you need the supplemental attack from your right back.

It’s hard not to consider how helpful a player like Josh Yaro would be in this game, but he hasn’t even sniffed minutes yet in Bethlehem. He’s clearly not going to be back for this game. Assuming his health has returned, Richie Marquez’s ability to put out fires with a well-timed tackle could be invaluable, and while Jack Elliott isn’t particularly fleet of foot he’s at least faster than Oguchi Onyewu.

Up front, the number 10 position hangs in the balance once again with Roland Alberg suffering from a left quad strain. Ilsinho did a serviceable job against D.C., and his ability to hold the ball against opposition could be essential for giving other players the time to return to (or find) their positions. However, he isn’t a particularly adept passer. He could struggle to move the ball once he gets it. Putting Pontius back in could help that problem, though he’d have to get the ball to deliver a well-timed cross. That just doesn’t seem to be happening this season.

  • Injury report: Josh Yaro (D, shoulder surgery), Maurice Edu (M, left ankle/tibia), Brian Carroll (M, herniated disk)
  • Questionable: Roland Alberg (M, left quad strain)
  • Suspended: None
Key matchup: Alejandro Bedoya vs. Alex

Bedoya did a great job marking Sacha Kljestan out of the game against Red Bull. If he’s able to repeat that effect on Houston’s Brazilian midfielder it could protect the Union defense from dangerous through balls.

Players to watch: Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and/or Erick “Cubo” Torres

This game will be decided by how the Union prevent these men from breaking away. Their speed cannot be overstated, and they all have the ability to punish defenders who leave them too much space.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2 – 3 Houston

This is by far the least confident prediction I have ever issued. The Union finally seem to be getting their act together, and losing all three on the road doesn’t bode well for the Dynamo. But Houston has consistently shown they can pick apart a defense, and despite allowing zero goals in the last three games the Union back line doesn’t inspire confidence. This game, just like the Union’s season, could go either way at this point.


  1. pragmatist says:

    Considering the firepower that Houston brings, I think most of us will be fairly content (not happy, just content) with a draw. If we pull a 2-2 draw, that wouldn’t be unexpected.
    But I think we’ll see a 2-1 Union win. Just a gut feeling. Narratives are a-changin’.

    • 2-1 win would definitely lay another marker down that whatever “change” happened, the players responded and are working cohesively together within the “system.” A draw wouldn’t be a set back but that bad vibe would start to creep in, and a horrid loss with disjointed play will have me singing like Shirley Bassey “it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Win tonight and I’ll believe this thing has turned around. Draw tonight and I’ll be skeptical. Lose tonight (unless it’s a blowout loss) and I’ll say they have to win Saturday or the season is right back to being lost. Regardless, big game tonight, against a legit team. Should be fun.

  3. I agree with Herbers in for Ponitius to give him a rest. Simpson for Sapong Saturday would be a good move as well.

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