Union match reports

Match report: Houston Dynamo 1-3 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

No one knew what the referee was looking at on the monitor on Wednesday night in Houston. A foul? A handball? It turned out he was looking at a Philadelphia Union win.

A poor start to the match was flipped on its head when Dynamo midfielder Tomas Martinez was sent off in the 59th minute, and this time, the Boys in Blue took advantage. A pair of tidy finishes by Alejandro Bedoya and Cory Burke was capped off with a banging penalty from Fafa Picault as the Union made it back-to-back road wins for the first time since 2016 with a convincing 3-1 edge.

The score was 1-1 in about the 58th minute when Houston earned a corner on the far side. The ball was whipped in and cleared, and play moved on. But then Joseph Dickerson stopped play and walked over to the monitor to review a prior sequence. The home crowd grew restless as no one knew what was going on, and before they knew it, Dickerson was walking back onto the pitch with a red card in his hand. The Philadelphia commentators called it a stomp on Auston Trusty. Twitter had other ideas.

Then, just over 10 minutes later, striker Cory Burke made it count. After carefully eyeing the build-up and barely staying onside, the Jamaican took a delicate slip from Borek Dockal and nutmegged the keeper to make it 2-1. Like Bedoya’s goal before it, replays surfaced and showed his run was timed perfectly.

It turned out to be his last touch of the game, as Jim Curtin called on Fabian Herbers to replace him immediately following the goal. The German was quickly sprung into action, first taking a head to the face and then getting stepped on late by Darwin Ceren in stoppage time. It all became worth it when Herbers darted into the box in the 95th minute, cut left, and was taken down from behind to prompt Dickerson’s whistle.

Picault stepped up and rifled the penalty into the side netting to make it 3-1 and give the Union its third road win of the season. Only Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls have more in the Eastern Conference.

The result sharply contrasted the match’s start. Houston flew out of the gates with pressure and counterattacks, and it certainly wasn’t looking like a road win when Mauro Manotas slotted home his ninth goal of the campaign in the 10th minute. In what looked like a sequence of pure confusion for the Union defense, Manotas sprinted right by an out-of-position Mark McKenzie and was through on goal. Andre Blake charged and narrowly missed the ball as it tucked itself into the side netting.

Despite the pressure and the Dynamo taking a 1-0 lead, Philadelphia was garnering more chances on the other end. Bedoya weighted a pass too much in the opening minute and missed Burke in the box. Haris Medunjanin bent in a peach to the back post and no one got on the end. Picault slashed one into the side netting and didn’t look up to see Burke wide open on the six.

All these opportunities looked wasteful until finally Bedoya capitalized after 33 minutes.

It started with a deft fake-out by Medunjanin in the midfield. He looked outside and prepared a switch, only to cut back inside for Dockal near the top of the box. Houston was on its toes as Dockal poked it through to Bedoya, who was either inches onside or inches offside. He calmly chipped it past the goalkeeper before Dickerson ruled the goal a good one. The Union escaped a couple poor giveaways and took a 1-1 lead into the break.

The Dynamo came out firing in the second, as Martinez ripped one off the crossbar from distance and the pressure continued. At one point in the 53rd, Blake was forced to come off his line again after a massive 2-on-1 counter turned into a frantically cleared ball from Ray Gaddis. The hosts kept it up until the abrupt red card flipped the switch.

Blake finished with four saves on the night, while Dockal added two dimes to his tally. The Czech international now has five goals and six assists in 19 matches this season.

Wednesday was the Union’s last match before the MLS All-Star break, and they’ll be on the road again on August 4th when they battle the Portland Timbers.

Three points
  • So, Burke is the guy. I’m not sure what else Curtin needs to see at this point. Burke is a constant presence and now has five goals in four MLS starts. He should be the starter, plain and simple.
  • Or, you play both. It was no surprise seeing C.J. Sapong come on in the 57th minute, but it was definitely surprising to see Burke stay ON the field. If Curtin doesn’t want to make Burke the full-time starter, he could try playing them both. Either in a two-striker set, or with Sapong back in the midfield a touch like he was on Wednesday. Teams play two strikers all the time. It’s ok.
  • Sluggish midfield. Breaking news: Medunjanin and Bedoya aren’t the fastest midfielders out there. It’s not an issue if the Union have the ball, but if it gets coughed up in the back like it did Wednesday night, the pair get exposed for pace. Fast teams like Houston can mean serious trouble.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Borek Dockal (Creavalle 88′), David Accam (Sapong 57′), Fafa Picault, Cory Burke (Herbers 71′)

Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliott, Marcus Epps

Houston Dynamo

Joe Willis, Adolfo Machado, Jared Watts (Wenger 74′), Alejandro Fuenmayor, Adam Lundkvist, Boniek García, Tomás Martínez, Darwin Cerén, Alberth Elis (Rodriguez 70′), Mauro Manotas, Romell Quioto (Alvarez 81′).

Unused subs: Chris Seitz, Leonardo, Luis Gil, Eric Alexander

Scoring summary

HOU: Mauro Manotas — 10′
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya — 33′
PHI: Cory Burke — 70′
PHI: Fafa Picault — 90′ +5 (PK)


  1. The Chopper says:

    Bedoya looks offside to me from every angle I’ve seen of the first goal, but what the hell, you have to take advantage of the breaks you get.

    I understand the frustration of Houston fans, but it’s nothing sinister. MLS would never prop up the Union. It’s just MLS officiating.

    Burke starts unless he loses the job. Period,

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I thought he was offsides the first several times but then realized that the replay was showing him just after the ball was played.
      I think Burke is the starter at this point, but with 3 games in a week, Curtin rested him for the middle game. I don’t have a problem with that. Wouldn’t surprise me if he only starts 2 of the next 3 since they play Portland/Open Cup/New England in a week span.

    • At full speed it looks like he’s off but the freeze frame shows at most his 1 leg slightly past the defender. That should always be onsides.

    • As I have heard in countless referee classes and meetings, offside should not penalize speed, and we all must agree that Ale is simply blazing fast on that play. In all sincerity, on replay, his was cleaner than Burke’s, in my opinion, since the ball looks like he broke after it was played.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        The argument I’ve been seeing on Ale’s was that Burke was offsides and distracting the defenders.

      • Tim Jones says:

        burke knew he was off and very overtly was not participating
        Fafa was off too, but was further away from the play.

    • Bedoya is absolutely ONSIDE on that goal. In the replay, you can freeze it and see him even with the defender after the ball has already left Dockal’s foot. Whether the other players, who were obviously offsides, “were involved in the play” is more complicated, I guess. But Ale was not offsides (though it’s super-close).

  2. Feels overall a but like a “karma make up game” with some of the calls by the ref.
    The red was harsh. Clear stomp but did not appear intentional at all. On the first goal, Bedoya was onside but Burke (maybe it was someone else) was offside and his presence altered the defenders attempted recovery run. It wasn’t obvious interference some I’m not surprised it was let go, just based on some of the calls against the Union this season I was expecting it to be waved off.
    Other then that, while I like the CBs being aggressive, there is a fine line between that and being over-aggressive as hopefully McKenzie learns from this game. Dockal was very good. Herbers looked lively. Can’t complain too much taking three points from a team that was red hot at home coming into the game.

    • Burke (or whoever) was definitely offside on the the Bedoya goal but made no attempt to get involved with the play. I think that stomp was more intentional than it seemed as well.

  3. Buccistick says:

    “It started with a daft fake-out by Medunjanin…”
    Daft or deft — I’ll take it.
    “Sluggish midfield. Breaking news: Medunjanin and Bedoya aren’t the fastest midfielders out there …”
    You could add Dockal to that slow lot, and yet last night both he and Bedoya recovered enough to make key retreating tackles (or just apply enough pressure) after separate breakdowns. Medunjanin has done so in previous matches. Their respective senses of positioning or just hustle sometimes make up for their pokiness.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Not that surprised at the first sub. Accam was horrid on the night. Bad touches, missed swings at the ball, bad fouls on defense. CJ as a midfielder is probably not a bad idea.

    • I agree with both of these comments.

    • It may be safe to say that Accam is a bust at this point. I was excited to see what he would bring when they signed him, but have been vastly underwhelmed considering what he costs.

      • amazing. Accam will have a Kleberson-like single moment of brilliance in Union history.

      • Tim Jones says:

        Kleberson is a better player.
        he had to play about 20 minutes in preseason at the end of a match in which academy boys could not because of NCAA nonsense. you could feel the perfection of the touches and the passes, the way you can with Ibrahimovic and could with Beckham.
        Anthony Fontana is cleaner on the ball than Accam.

  5. Buccistick says:

    The absence of a preview for this match from the best soccer blog left a small hole inside my soccer organ last night.
    Also … remember to Patreon-ize where you click, kids!

  6. OneManWolfpack says:

    Can’t say I was impressed with their play last night, but a hot as hell, mid-week win, on the road, is something I can never bitch about as a Union fan. Just take ’em as they come.
    Definitely didn’t think it was a red, but as stated already… WHATEVER! Just take ’em as the come.
    Burke = starter
    I know there is no explanation but WTF Accam… he just looks like he can’t play anymore. It’s mind boggling.
    Wenger still plays huh… well, good for him I suppose

  7. Haris looks done. Over-cooked done. Why they gave him an extension I’ll never understand. I’m glad they got the win, but if the rest of the league didn’t know to attack the midfield they sure do now.
    Holy crap an actual Ref. It’s amazing when a game gets called the way it should. More please.

    • Most teams don’t have the speed/talent to attack like that though. It’s not an anomaly that Houston has so many goals this year. Agreed that we need to start working Creavalle/Jones in for Medunjanin more. Agreed that he ref was actauly decent, but he let Houston talk back too much which probably would have calmed things down earlier if he didn’t allow that.

    • It’s a joke Curtin keeps him in at the 6 against fast, dangerous attacking teams. Like, talk about oblivious. Whatever he gives us offensively is NO LONGER worth the traffic cone defensive play.

    • I continue to fail to understand why Curtin wants to run the oldest guy on the club into the ground every match. Not everyone is Brian “Ironman” Carroll. Give him a rest. Get Jones or Creavalle in there as much as possible.

  8. Was it just me or did it seem like near the end of this game that Houston lost the plot. Chippy, off the ball stuff, mass whining to the ref about everything, played in a steamy, restive stadium. I was glad the Union was not getting sucked in. Maybe being up 3-1 helps not getting sucked in. But the thought occurred to me that if the Union (fingers crossed) should win an the Open Cup, this is the type of game they can expect to be in when they play some of the teams from Central America.

    • Buccistick says:

      “… Houston lost the plot.”
      The exact phrase uttered post-match by the one and only Tommy Smyth.

  9. The Truth says:

    Well hot diggity dog. Didn’t expect a win. After Houston’s first goal I definitely didn’t expect a win. Two very close offside no-calls and one pitiful red card grant us 3 points on the road. I’m not complaining.
    Bedoya is mvp this season. Haris looked better but clearly bogged down by the heat. Dockal still not impressing me – his heavy touch almost cost us Bedoya’s goal. Rosenberry and Gaddis were serviceable all night. I thought Fabian off the bench was nice spice on the wing and hey, thanks for the PK. Blake had some nice saves, lest we take his performance for granted.
    The CBs looked their age…again (how bout a rest, Jim? No? Okay, nevermind). Accam shouldn’t see another starting XI this summer. Burke and CJ…neither the caliber we need.

    • Dockal is tied for fifth in assists with 9, What more do you want? He’s also scored more goals than Giovinco so far this season. He’s arguably the best 10 the team has had.
      The CB’s got exposed due in part to a bad turnover in midfield. Houston has been doing that to teams for the past two seasons. Trusty got caught flat footed. Young players will make mistakes, but they are learning. Marquez and Elliot wouldn’t fair any better back there.

  10. Intermittent Reinforcement
    I was ready to tune out at 1-0
    1-1 made me glad I didn’t
    the final score was even better
    intermittent reinforcement
    I hit a hundred golf balls
    I hit ten pretty well
    I hit one perfectly
    I keep at it
    this is madness
    this is love

  11. John O'Donnell says:

    Dočkal has nine assist for the season not six. He’s tied with Sebastian Giovinco and Ignacio Piatti for fourth in the league. Imagine if he didn’t have to pass the ball to this group of forwards who can’t finish.

    • Glad he does something right; but a lot of his passes go astray. If he could pass even better he would lead the assisting stats.

      • If the Union had better finishers he’d have more assists. Attacking Midfielders are going to have lower passing % due to them taking chances in the final third with their passes. Not everything is going to pulled off.

  12. Tim Jones says:

    Please recall that the Dockal family has recently had a blessed event, and that his play has been fine in the first half. it’s been the second half that has seen some drop off, hasn’t;t it.
    now, we are to August, so the pay of play around the league has increased substantially over March and April.
    But young babies have been known to disrupt parental sleep patterns I have been told.

    • To your three points . Burke definitely needs to start …Sapong is not in form and seeing herbers healthy could possibly be that second striker of need be. Medunjanin should be replaced by Creavalle for defensive midfield speed and prescence along side bedoya …i am not fond of sluggish bedoya but he’s been in form lately …Creavalle is the key to this team winning battles and controlling games in the midfield. Curtin will never see this though, hence the mediocre seasons he produces with the individual talent he has been given.

  13. Thanks Christian for bringing up the point about the sluggish midfield. If anyone follows my posts you’ll see that I’ve been stressing over and over again all year about how vulnerable our midfield is with Bedoya and Harris in when Defending. I’d like to dive deeper into this situation. I agree they both are pretty slow when it comes to backtracking and running plays down. It’s more than just that. Let’s face it they both are pretty bad at defending. Game in and game out we have seen this happen. Bedoya gets beat easily and when he gets stuck in he doesn’t contain and goes into a tackle too hard, slot of the time resulting in a foul or even a yellow card. Harris on the other hand, is like going through paper. Opponents just force their way through him and yes he’s usually unable to catch his opponent as well. This can and has been dangerous for the union game in and game out. What’s the answer? Simply Creavalle. He’s a true D mid and has been pretty effective almost every time he has stepped on the field this season. He’s fast, can pass offensively, can take on players one on one , he can backtrack. Also from the look of things, he can take a shot or two. My suggestion is to start Creavalle over Harris. Bedoya has been very effective in his role so far, giving credit where it’s due. Harris shouid sub in when we need that extra push offensively. On the contrary, i know this would decrease our spot taking ability. I’d rather have that problem then an open midfield.

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