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Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo

Photo: Earl Gardner

Who: Philadelphia Union (1st place in the Eastern Conference, 42 points, 12-7-6) vs. Houston Dynamo (9th place in the Western Conference, 30 points, 9-12-3) 
What: 2019 regular-season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium 
When: Sunday, August 11, 6:00 p.m.
Watch: PHL 17, ESPN+ 
Whistle: Referee: Marcos DeOliveria, Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho 4th Official: Danielle Chesky VAR: Allen Chapman 

The Union retained their first-place status by beating D.C. in convincing fashion last Sunday at Audi Field by a score of 5-1. This Sunday, the Union will return to Talen Energy Stadium to take on the ninth-place in the Western Conference Houston Dynamo. 

Philadelphia returned to winning ways last Sunday led by Marco Fabian and captain Alejandro Bedoya. Fabian’s performance landed him his first team of the week honors, and Bedoya was named MLS Player of the Week for his performance — and because of his character.

It will be interesting to see who Union manager Jim Curtin starts this Sunday as last weekend’s lineup was slightly different from the Union’s norm this season. Aurelien Collin replaced Auston Trusty on defense, Andrew Wooten made his first Union start up top, and Warren Creavalle got the start over homegrowns Brenden Aaronson and Anthony Fontana in the midfield. Jamiro Monteiro was subbed on, easing his way back from his ankle injury which sidelined him about a month. Kai Wagner was also back from his suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Scouting report: Houston Dynamo

The Dynamo suffered a 3-2 loss to NYCFC just last night. As if the short turn around time for their game versus the Union Sunday wasn’t bad enough, they also went down to ten men in the 28th minute when forward Romell Quioto was sent off for violent conduct after throwing a vicious elbow and one-armed take-down to NYCFC defender Ronald Matarrita.

Houston actually went up 2-1 in the 76th minute despite being down a man, but then proceeded to give up goals in the 82nd and 92nd minutes, ultimately losing the game 3-2. This was Houston’s third straight loss and their sixth in their last seven games.

Despite their poor form, the Dynamo have been making headlines with recent acquisitions, bringing in winger Niko Hansen from the Crew and forward Christian Ramirez from LAFC in recent days. It is unclear if both Hansen and Ramirez will be dressed for the Dynamo Sunday against the Union, but with Quioto out serving his suspension, they could use extra quality high up the field.     

If those two do not play for the Dynamo, the players to look out for are Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis. Manotas has logged nine goals so far this season and four assists, while Elis has seven goals and six assists. Elis will be available after being suspended for yellow card accumulation. Manotas picked up a brace against the Union in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup final, helping Houston capture the cup.

Only three points out of the final playoff spot and having lost to NYCFC on Thursday, the Dynamo will be desperate to get a result Sunday in order to keep pace in the West.

Fun fact: Houston Rockets guard James Harden recently purchased a minority stake in both the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash (Houston’s NWSL team).   

Injury report: None
Suspension report: Romell Quioto

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

A Union fan will have a couple of things on their wishlist for this game. 

One, a healthy and effective Jamiro Monteiro. He was the Union’s best player before his injury July 3 in Orlando. Monteiro made his return to action last Sunday where he played well in a half-hour stint against D.C. logging an assist and connecting well in the midfield. Having him back in peak form is something all Union fans want to see sooner rather than later.  

Two, continued production from Marco Fabian. His two goals and one assist last game earned him team of the week honors, and his finishing, ball control, and final passing abilities were all top-notch. Having an out-and-out CAM is the missing piece to the puzzle oftentimes when the Union are struggling. But with Fabian’s performance last week, the Union faithful will be expecting more of the same come Sunday night. 

With all that being said — who ya got? Not to win the game, because I think most, if not all, parties reading will be expecting a good result. The question is who will get the start for the Union. Wooten looked good in his first start, Creavalle played much better than expected especially with his pressing, and Collin played well, so Curtin may be reluctant to make changes to last week’s lineup. 

With all that being said, I think Monteiro will return to the starting lineup. When he plays his best, the U play their best. I’d also expect Trusty back with the game being at home (good way to ease him back into good form). Expect Fabian, Bedoya and Haris, Kacper, Kai and Ray, and lastly, I’d expect Fafa to start at the second striker. I think Curtin might want to put Houston away early on the counter and for that, I think Fafa would get the start. However, it could certainly be Wooten or Ilsinho as the second striker depends on the scout and gameplan. Also, when — if at all — are we going to use RJ Allen? I’m curious to see how he performs, perhaps a sub appearance from the Jersey native. Lastly, Fontana and Aaronson will always be around, I trust Curtin to use them as he sees fit.    

Injury report
OUT: Matt Freese (GK), Sergio Santos (F), 
QUESTIONABLE:  Michele Ngalina (F), 

Suspension report: None

Key matchup: Houston attack vs Union defense

Union fans are familiar with having to chase points to make the playoffs late in the season. That is exactly what the Dynamo will have to do Sunday. Expect them to play very direct trying to cement their hold on the game. It will be important for the Union centerbacks to be sharp, and for the central midfielders to mark well, as well as refrain from silly turnover that could spark a Dynamo counter.

Player to watch: Auston Trusty

After a poor game away at Montreal, the young centerback was demoted to the bench for a big game in D.C. I’d assume he’d be back in the starting lineup as he is by far the Union’s most athletic center-half. Look for him to win plenty of head-balls, tackle hard, mark well, and read the game defensively. With Medunjanin’s limitations in transition, Trusty can be a force defensively stopping counterattacks. My biggest pet peeve, though, is his turnover woes. As long as he stays calm on the ball and finds feet, expect him to have a bounce-back game. 

Prediction: Philadelphia 1-0 Houston

I’d expect an exciting game despite my predicted scoreline. In the end, I think the Union will find one somewhere, perhaps early off of the high press, or late from some good buildup against a tired Houston backline. Either way, I expect Medunjanin and Monteiro to control the possession for the Union. If I’m right and Monteiro is breaking ankles again for the U as they march their way toward the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Union fans will be very happy.

3 Comments

  1. It’s all about the D. Would be totally fine with a boring 1-0 win. Weather looks nice and hopefully Houston will have tired legs. That being said they are a gritty, well organized team and I think they’ll hang back and let us have possession just like Orlando/Chicago did a month ago. We have to defend on set pieces!!!! They’ve been killings us all year. Would be great to string a few wins together and get a clean sheet. C’mon you boys in blue…. GO U!!!!!

  2. Key IMO is stopping Houston in transition. Union will have 65%+ possession but can’t let Elis and co break. Got to track runners and take a foul/yellow if necessary.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Went to the open practice today and based on who was together for the 11 on 11 drill, it looks like we are likely looking at the same starting lineup as last week.
    .
    Afterwards when players were signing autographs, Joe Bendik took some ribbing for the highlights he provided us in years past.

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