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Match report: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Houston Dynamo

Philadelphia Union won their third game in a row, knocking off Houston Dynamo 2-0 in a midweek encounter at Talen Energy Stadium.

Fafa Picault and Ilsinho were both on target in the first half Wednesday, and the defense saw out its fourth consecutive clean sheet for the win. The Union’s shutout streak now stands at 363 minutes, and they own the second longest winning streak in Major League Soccer.

Union head coach Jim Curtin named an unchanged side from the team that won in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The Union started strong and created two quick chances in the opening five minutes. First, Chris Pontius lofted a cross just a bit too high with Fafa Picault entirely unmarked on the back post in the third minute. Then, it was Picault threatening again a minute later, curling a quick shot wide of the right post after Haris Medunjanin advanced down the right and squared to him.

The Union — and Picault in particular — were rewarded for their good start when the winger put the home side in front in the 17th minute. C.J. Sapong corralled a long ball upfield and found Ilsinho. The Brazilian danced around two tackles and found Pontius on the right. Pontius floated a ball into the box that Picault rose highest for, beating out two Houston defenders to head in off the crossbar for his second goal in as many games.

Philadelphia would have a great chance to double their lead in the 26th minute. After Houston fired a free kick into the wall just inside the Union box, Ilsinho raced 80 yards with the ball on the counter attack, firing a hard shot off the right post from 25 yards. Ray Gaddis followed up, but his shot was deflected wide of goal.

The Union got their second in the 38th minute with Ilsinho again involved. Sapong won the ball in Houston territory and quickly played in Pontius down the right side. After one touch, Pontius cut the ball back to Ilsinho who slid his shot past Joe Willis from the penalty spot.

Picault would have a great chance to grab a second on the night in the 54th minute. Ilsinho again led the counterattack and played the ball in behind for the speedy winger to run onto. Picault was one on one with Joe Willis but rushed his shot and fired wide of the near post with Willis making himself big.

Houston’s best chance was a 77th minute look. Former Union man Andrew Wenger got in behind the Union back line, but Andre Blake was quick off his line to smother the opportunity.

Three points
  • Defense does it: A wonderful coordinated defensive effort kept Houston from attacking quickly, and the Dynamo attack is far less dangerous when it has to build.
  • Early goal: Getting on the board quickly is huge for Philly because their defensive system requires such high effort. Once they are ahead, they’re organized enough to execute a more transition-focused attack.
  • Ilsinho, we hardly knew ye: Huge influence in attack, strong defensive work (with plenty of sprinting!), and putting numbers on the board. This was the type of game-changing work that Ilsinho’s skill set promises.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis (Keegan Rosenberry 61′), Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Fabinho, Fafa Picault (Fabian Herbers 76′), Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho (Warren Creavalle 67′), C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Jay Simpson, Adam Najem, Richie Marquez

Houston Dynamo

Joe Willis, A.J. DeLaGarza, Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, DaMarcus Beasley, Juan Cabezas, Alex (Vicente Sanchez 56′), Ricardo Clark, Erick Torres, Romell Quioto (Joseph Holland 78′), Mauro Manotas (Andrew Wenger 64′)
Unused subs:
 Tyler Deric, Jalil Anibaba, Boniek Garcia, Dylan Remick

Scoring summary

PHI: Fafa Picault — 17′ (Pontius)
PHI: Ilsinho — 38′ (Pontius, Sapong)

Disciplinary summary

HOU: Leonardo — 9′ (dissent)
HOU: Romell Quioto — 25′ (dissent)
PHI: Ray Gaddis — 26′(unsporting behavior)
HOU: Juan Cabezas — 66′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Keegan Rosenberry — 83′ (time wasting)

Philadelphia Union Houston Dynamo
 9 Shots 11
 4 Shots on Target 4
 4 Shots off Target 2
 1 Blocked Shots 5
 5 Corner Kicks 6
 8 Crosses 24
 2 Offsides 0
 16 Fouls 10
 2 Yellow Cards 3
 0 Red Cards 0
 341 Total Passes 475
 74% Passing Accuracy 84%
 41.4% Possession 58.6%
 54 Duels Won 62
 46.6% Duels Won % 53.4%
 12 Tackles Won 14
 4 Saves 2
 16 Clearances 10


  1. Wish we kept up the offensive pace in the second half but how can I complain.

    Ilson is growing very, very nicely into that 10 role.

    • hobosocks says:

      I think that was just a function of the short rest. Most of the Union players were clearly exhausted by the end of the game. While it makes me worry about Saturday, especially for older guys like Gooch, I’m happy they were able to hold off Houston even with very tired legs.

    • Benjaminho says:

      Haris: has been and remains the class of the team despite an uninformed article here about basketball.

      Ilson: wonderful first half. His lack of fitness remains an issue. Will need him on the field in the 85th minute if the match is even. Not sure he is able to do this.

      Transition: defensively wonderful to watch how compact Ale and Haris got quickly.

      Fafa: In possession starting wide and high kept HOU right back occupied allowing Fabs more time on the ball. Great to see a player understand his role in that position.

      BRAVO to the team and Jim: Perhaps best 3 game stretch in club history?

  2. I mean… I’d say that was pretty good…
    I also think we’ve found our 10… for now at least

    • fun game to watch.

      The new additions from mid-summer and the winter all all firing pretty well.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Damn right.
        Alejandro Bedoya was a nightmare tonight. I’ve given him grief this year for leadership issues and he’s made me eat my hat.
        Props to Bedoya. Stud8.

  3. pragmatist says:

    That was another game where it was a tale of two halves. The difference between tonight and earlier in the season was that tonight wasn’t a train wreck, it was just not as solid as the first half. There were a lot of tired legs on the second half.
    But damn did they look good in the first half! And Fafa is the real deal on the wing. Guys are rounding into shape, but Jim NEEDS to give a few guys a rest on Saturday.

    • Jim Presti says:

      Bedoya looked dead on his feet by the 75 minute. Hopefully he’s got a quick recovery time.

    • John Ling says:

      I agree, there needs to be some rotation on Saturday. I’d like to see Simpson get a start up top; and I’d like to see two different wing players, too, even though Fafa seems to be hot right now. Let Fafa come off the bench for 20-30 or so on Saturday instead. I’ll even go so far as to say I wouldn’t mind seeing one of Najem in place of Ilsinho or Creavalle for either Haris or Ale (whichever needs a break more; Ale took a few hard hits last night). But, I don’t want to see Najem and Creavalle both get starts – that scares me too much.

      • I can’t say I looked to see, but I’m sure that they’ll be going over the tape for Colorado’s game and try to guess which of their players will be rotated out as well. I’d guess that the expected rotations on the Colorado side will influence the Union starters a bit.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    ….that’s 4 clean sheets in a row. I floated to the van. Yo…well done.
    plenty to nit pick—————— but not tonight.
    …except for this…. Ray Gaddis is my first choice RB going forward. He’s better than Keegan.

    • No way is gaddis better than rosenberry.

      Thats a weird thing to say after he was targetted all night and honestly should have been sent off.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        He was targeted all night unsuccessfully mind you… until KR came on
        …and Castro got behind numerous times. Not to mention three bad pass turnovers by Keegan. Probably can make sound arguments for either as the first choice RB to be fair.
        I loved the sub by Jim (all of them actually)…good call and good timing. Ultimately I think Ray and Keegan are a wash… I just like Ray’s speed and ability to keep it simple a bit more at this point.
        Keegan Rosenberry gives up goals at a rate of 3 times more goals than he accounts for and that is not good (this directly from the mouth of a person who keeps track of these things)… it is not a coincidence the team has been clean for the four games Ray has played0 along with other reasons too…to once again be fair.

      • I’m not disagreeing that Gaddis has been solid during this run of form by the team.

        And I agree Rosenberry has been off all season.

        But I’d pump the breaks on Gaddis anyway. He is not new. We know exactly who he is. There is a reason why he was a starter on and off for a long time here, and there is a reason why Rosenberry so clearly supplanted him last year.

        His speed and simplicity is an asset now, but I think given time Rosenberry will overcome him again.

        Right now you don’t touch the backline at all, sure. But long term, I’d love to see the Yaro – Rosenberyy partnership back along with Elliot and Fabinho.

    • Uh no. Gaddis got the hook for a damn good reason.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Gaddis got the hook cause he was on a yellow and fortunately did not a get a second. Beyond that he was pretty sound and matched Castro for speed.
        Once again… ray is a reason just as much as anyone else on that back line for having four scoreless games.

      • He was getting burned at the end of the first and he was slow and getting beat a throughout the second.
        He needed to go.
        Also it says a lot if it our coach doesn’t trust you with a yellow card.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Rosenberry seemed to come out wide too soon, too easily.
      I would wait for Yaro and reunite them.

      • Gaddis was good but Roseneberry is your guy. Kudos to Jim for the sub. Ray was beat when he was taken off. It may have been the smartest sub I’ve ever seen Curtin make. Take that however you want. Last year he doesn’t make that sub or he makes it too late.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        Spot on with all that, OMW.

      • I was shocked — pleasantly — when Curtin made that sub. I did not think him capable. Of course, the real question is, can he now account for the fact that he made Sapong and Pontius both go 93 minutes.

    • Soccerson says:

      Agree 100% on Gaddis. The way I saw it, when he left it was like someone pull the drain on the bathtub on that right side and Houston consistently got in behind on that side. Shrewd sub from Curtin, because Gaddis was playing a bit reckless on a yellow card.
      I think Rosenberry is much better than Gaddis offensively, but having the speedier one in is consistent with defense first and I’m ok with that for now. Knowing Gaddis though, that could change any minute.

    • Ray is playing better and with more confidence right now. I wouldn’t say he’s better overall. Second half he was a bit careless and deserved a second yellow. Overall , he did have a great game as did the rest of the team.

      • -nickt.- says:

        Ray was getting run circles around in the second and should have been sent off. Best sub. Keegan should have that spot.

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    Nice effort by the whole team. Not as impressive as Saturday but against a stronger opponent. Also, Houston was a man up (Gonzalez) for most of the second half.
    Wish Curtin had given Sapong or Pontius a break rather than Fafa. Hopefully that won’t hurt them come Saturday.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Probably there is conditioning data on Picault that influences subbing and the timing thereof.

      • I assumed Pontius was less of a defensive liability. Curtin really wanted to close that game out.

    • It’s kind of hard to say the ref was in the pocket for the other team when he didn’t give Gaddis that deserved second yellow. I’ll grant that it felt like Houston was getting all the little calls at the end. But we got the big calls.

      • Soccerson says:

        And a potential PK on Elliot

      • pragmatist says:

        I watched that Elliot play a few times. He missed the attacker, there was no contact. It was a good non-call. But a veteran attacker would have made sure to get contact. Jack’s got to be more careful in that situation.

    • You mean you wish Curtin could have subbed one of them instead of being forced to burn a sub by Gaddis.

  6. Just Woke Up says:

    They may not be the best team in the league but things are definitely turning around. I honestly think Earnie has shown his worth with his patience through the storm with Curtin. It takes a knowledgeable and experienced person to see through the terrible run of results the team was in.
    Sak would have definitely fired Curtin by now and we would have entered into another phase of turmoil and uncertainty. I believe that knowing the positives of his young manager and sticking it out will be for the greater benefit of the club in the long run.
    It is likely we may slump again at some point but I feel Earnie has earned my trust that he knows what he is doing enough for me to let him do his job from here on out. I was confused as to why he had so much faith in Curtin. But I think it is starting to show that my confusion is due to my lack of understanding not Stewart’s.
    Also Ilsinho might not be a prototypical #10 but he is getting the job done. As of right now he is by far our best option there. I think his detractors underestimate the value of having someone in that role that can dribble past almost any defender 1v1. That ability creates so much space in more than one way. It affords him more space than anyone would have in that role.

    • Jim Presti says:

      RE: Ilsinho. Not just creating space. Opposing defenders need to respect his level of talent and passing ability. So when he enters the final third he’s drawing at least 1, but more often 2 defenders towards him.

    • His passing/vision are much improved in the middle this year than last year, which isn’t surprising but doesn’t always happen. He’s clearly our best player for that spot now.

  7. Notes from the game
    Enough with the backheels why so many you drive me crazy.
    That first Union goal was the best Union team goal I have seen in a while. Every Union player involved did that thing that they do to make it happen.
    CJ Sapong muscles a player to get the ball.
    Ilshino does a bunch of tricky Ilshino shit to keep possession.
    Pontius lays an excellent cross.
    And Fafa heads it in.
    Well done by each player using their unique skills to create a goal.
    But seriously Ilshino was channeling Feeling it all night.
    Ray had a poor game. After the foul that shoul have been his second yellow I saw Curtin staring lasers through Gaddis’ chest. He was off 3 minutes later.
    This was a fun creative, infuriating at times team tonight. I could get behind them win or lose if they played like this for the rest of the year.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Look at it this way. Back heels are a sign that a player is playing with confidence and feels in sync with his teammates. That’s a very good thing.

    • Soccerson says:

      On the first goal, that chip from Ilsinho to Sapong to start the whole play was magnificent as well.

    • its funny, i dont know if you watched the press conference but curtin said the same thing about the backheels

  8. I am feeling very vindicated for having said for the last 6 weeks that Ilsinho should be playing in the 10 spot. I mean he’s no Diego Valeri, but he did a fine job tonight and the midfield is meshing very very well. I hope we’ve seen the last of Roland Alberg in that role.

    • Curtin has struck good with all his changes so far. I wonder if his next move is to out alberg out wide.

    • HopkinsMD says:

      scottso, you are in good company. Here are post-game quotes from Ale and Haris (per MLSsoccer.com):
      “Jim asked me my opinion when Roland went down who should play there because he didn’t want to switch around me and Haris,” said Bedoya, who started the first five games of the season in the attacking midfield spot. “I told him I thought Ilsinho would be the best bet there and I would feel most comfortable with him. I see him in training, I see his technical ability.
      “Normally when he plays on the wing, he likes to tuck inside. He’s got a great touch, great technique, and he can help us there a lot. And if we push him, he can do some of the dirty work, as well.”
      “Ilsinho is a great player,” Medunjanin added. “I think he is the real No. 10.”

    • Yup. Fortunately Pontius and Fafa are stepping up their games too so it makes it a no brainer at this point to move Ilsinho to the center.

    • Buccistick says:

      Good for the player, and good for his teammates, and good for the management, and good for us fans.
      I stand by my stated concerns about Ilsinho’s stamina, ceiling, and ability to lift an XI above a mere sum-of-its-parts *and at the same time* I want the Union to succeed whoever winds up in the #10.
      That’s what makes me a fan rather than an insider, and why I was on the edge of my seat ready to celebrate #25’s sublime 26th minute effort on the 80 yard dribble, at pace … off the post!
      Now let’s see this lather, rinse, and repeat.

  9. Also: there was some sloppy passing at times from some guys who could use a rest (Pontius, Gaddis, Fabinho). Fabi in particular is worrisome, since he’s not a youngster, and I don’t see that we really have good options to rest him. And we need to. Because otherwise he’s gonna lay an egg in some match very soon, and there will be calls to oil the Sun Rocket, and it won’t be entirely fair, because the guy has been playing very well for several matches now.

    • Gaddis played left regularly when Sheanon was here. Play him left, rosenberry right to rest the rocket.

      • HopkinsMD says:

        Yes, I’d be fine with this for Colorado.

      • Curtin has said that he no longer considers Gaddis an option on the left. Considering his… sometime dicey play last night, it might confuse him even more to put him on the other side. Maybe we could get away with it for a match.

  10. UnionGoal says:

    Well done. Back at end of April I said we would have 13_14 pts by end of May and be back in running. So far so good.
    In Earnie we trust. And I expect another chapter in Union Bible about our ginger draper leading us out of the desert after 40+ days of 2017(or 265 days or whatever).

  11. What a game! I agree with Sieve about the backheels. Looked like an old Fever or Kixx game at times, but Ilsinho showed me what I have apparently missed Earnie and Jim seeing in him. High energy, well timed dribbling and good passing decisions from him. Some day, Sapong will get a call or two for the mugging that he gets up front. They played tiki-taka at well chosen times, and with good control, in good locations. Whisky, tango, foxtrot, where has this been?

    I do have questions (Like, did Rosenberry shoot Curtin ‘s dog?) I have always liked Ray Gaddis, but thought that he had issues before he was carded, and Keegan would have been a good starter tonight. Time for that later, I am going to savor this. Keep it up, boys!

  12. HopkinsMD says:

    Well done, again. Congrats to the U.
    Curious to see who gets a rest this weekend. Who would you rest if you were managing the team? I’d likely insert Herbers for Pontius and Simpson for CJ.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Richie for Gooch if he’s healthy (nothing against Gooch, but for a rest). Gaddis and Rosenberry in the back line.

      • I think Pontius and Sapong are necessary and Gooch is close behind. And honestly I couldn’t argue against resting an single player. We have solid depth now, lets use it.

      • Rosenberry-Elliot-Marquez-Gaddis

        If we get 3 points Saturday, will be interesting to see how we approach @RSL. Do we give Harris or Bedoya a break and try to go defensive? Bedoya is going to need a break eventually, he might play in 2 matches during the international break while most of the rest of our squad is resting.

      • with a week in between colorado and rsl there isnt a need to give anyone a rest

      • I would go with the exact lineup you have there, Kevin. And if somebody isn’t working out you make a halftime substitution.

  13. Watching Andrew Wenger dribble out of bounds in the 90th minute was both hilarious and sad.

  14. Rest is definitely needed for numerous players, Gaddis, Fabi, Gooch, Pontus, Sapong, Bedoya. Obviously we can’t do them all, and Curtin does not like to change things up, especially on defense when they’re keeping 0’s. if anything, I’d say maybe Sapong and Gaddis get a rest. We do need to have some rotation with midweek games if we’re going to keep up the play we’ve seen.
    Isn’t it amazing, feeling excited to watch a game?

  15. Well done, WELL-WELL DONE!!! watching this team turn the corner like this is such a joy. Last year couldn’t lose the first 60 days in the season then sh#t the bed the entire rest of the season until they accidently slide side door into the playoffs with a one and done! Total reversal of fortune this year with the team now showing their worth after a horrible start. Turning some heads in the MLS with some FANTASTIC stats in the last 3/4 games! Continued success boys… UNION UNION UNION !!! IN ES WE TRUST!!

  16. philpill says:

    Pace. What Ilson Jr & Fafa add to XI that Curtin’s starters lacked until lately. Fast start, early goal.
    Also more calls went for U.
    Smart choices for Saturday will be key to the win. Agree with resting Pontius, Sapong.

    • I’ve been saying that all year. Early in the year was like watching the US under Klinsmann. You have to have someone up front with speed to keep the opponent’s back 4 honest. Otherwise they can press you into oblivion.

  17. The Truth says:

    Fabinho easily man of the match.

  18. man, it is really fun to go to union games now. they won and they deserved to win

    all last night i kept wanting to tell my friend who was visiting from out of town that they were about to get their fourth shutout in a row, but i kept having to bite my tongue because i was afraid i was going to jinx it

  19. A win Saturday and the entire mess of March and April can officially be put in the rear view. And honestly, I have confidence they can get it done. This is all very strange and new… 🙂

  20. “I have pointed out months ago that FoD is a dead product.”

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