Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Houston Dynamo

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (11-9-2, 42 points, first place in the Eastern Conference) vs. Houston Dynamo (7-4-11, 25 points, eleventh place in the Western Conference)

What: 2022 MLS Regular Season (Week 23)

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When:  July 30, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, kickoff at 7:38

Watch: PHL17, ESPN+

Whistle: Not available at time of publication.

Philadelphia Union are back at home on Saturday night, seeking their fifth win at a row.

They face an unfamiliar foe: Western Conference side Houston Dynamo, who the Boys in Blue haven’t faced since the 2019 MLS season.

The last time Houston visited Subaru Park, way back in August 2019, a late goal by Jack Elliott earned the Union all three points. But the Dynamo have had their share of successes against Philadelphia over the years, knocking the 2011 Union out of the playoffs and winning the 2018 U.S. Open Cup final at PNC Stadium.

Scouting Report: Houston Dynamo

The visitors from Texas — partly owned by Philadelphia 76er James Harden — are struggling through another MLS season, sitting five points below the playoff line. It’s been a struggle for first-year head coach Pablo Nagamura to turn around one of MLS’s most moribund franchises, which has missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons and finished bottom of the Western Conference in both 2020 and 2021.

But the recent signing of Mexico international Hector Herrera has infused Houston with new life. Herrera, who Union manager Jim Curtin called “the best player that Concacaf has had” in his weekly press conference, joined the Dynamo earlier this month.

He headlines a largely anonymous roster, although there’s at least one familiar name for Union fans: winger Fafa Picault, who has four goals and two assists in his 18 appearances this season. Forwards Sebastian Ferreira and Darwin Quintero share the goalscoring lead for the Dynamo with seven goals and three assists each.

At the back, goalkeeper Steve Clark and defender Adam Lundqvist lead Houston in starts and appearances, missing just one match each.

In midweek, the Dynamo picked up 19-year-old Colombian attacker Nelson Quinones on a season-long loan. It’s unknown whether he’ll make his MLS debut against the Union.

Injury Report:  Out: None.

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Things have been going swimmingly in recent weeks for the Union, who continued their winning ways with a gritty 1-0 win over Orlando City last Saturday night.

In that match, midfielder Jose Martinez picked up another yellow card, so he’ll be suspended for Saturday’s game against the Dynamo. The most likely replacement for Martinez is Homegrown Jack McGlynn, who will probably come into the side and slide Leon Flach from the No. 8 to the No. 6.

With that change, Curtin may be tempted to break out a 2-3 midfield or even a box, with both McGlynn and Flach sitting deeper. The Union have been much more flexible tactically in the last month, after sticking fairly rigidly to the 4-4-2 diamond for the first half of the season.

The focus for the Union is always at the back. Philly leads the league in goals conceded, having only allowed 15 goals in their 22 matches so far. Nathan Harriel and Olivier Mbaizo are fighting for time at right back, while stalwarts Andre Blake, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, and Kai Wagner are cemented into the other four starting spots.

In the attack, Daniel Gazdag leads the Union with ten goals, having scored the winner off of a set piece against Orlando last weekend.

Reserve striker Cory Burke left Saturday’s game with an injury, but he trained in full this week and should be available for selection.

Injury Report: Out: None

Suspended: Jose Martinez

Key Matchup:  Leon Flach vs. Hector Herrera

Herrera is a cut above every other player on the Dynamo roster, and the Union should have little trouble winning if they minimize his influence on the match.

Player to Watch: Julian Carranza

Carranza hasn’t scored since the Union acquired him on a permanent basis. It’s only been three games, but the Argentine attacker will want to get back on the scoresheet.

Prediction:  Philadelphia Union 3-0 Houston Dynamo

The orangemen don’t have enough quality to deal with the Union.


  1. I love your optimism of the 3-0 home victory!
    Personally, I think it will be a comfortable 2-0 victory. I think you are correct that Flach will have to play his best to contain Herrera but that is where the benefit of playing young players is, they’re just crazy enough to think they can do the impossible.
    With Flach containing the new DP and the rest of the defense snuffing out any missteps, I think Harriel gets the start to defend Fafa which may slow the Union attack. I expect the Union will roll out the 4-2-3-1 with McGlynn and Flach as the double pivot with Carranza up top and Aaronson in the midfield then Uhre will make a 60th minute appearance. I think Bedoya and Uhre get the goals, Bedoya’s in the first half and Uhre after the 60th minute.
    With that said, I’d love to see your 3-0 victory!

  2. Gruncle Bob says:

    Nice to see that Cory does not have a serious head injury. 3-0 would be really nice.

  3. Tim Jones says:

    Follow-up details Saturday mid-morning.
    Kai Wagner has gone five consecutive games without a yellow card, so one has been forgiven and he is not in as immediate a yellow card accumulation jeopardy. He is now on three not four.
    REF: Kevin Stott
    AR1: Matthew Nelson
    AR2: Ben Pilgrim
    4TH: Natalie Simon
    VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
    AVAR: Peter Balciunas

  4. Tim Jones says:

    Matt Freese is not listed by the club as suspended for the Houston match. He was red-carded for DOGSO while playing for Union II against Orlando B. How that suspension would affect his status for this weekend’s games was the subject of some discussion earlier in the week. This detail is the first clue.

  5. Apropos of transferring young players outside the domestic system that trained them, this article may be a useful starting point for self-education.
    Remember that links don’t work in comments here as a general rule.
    There are two different types of payments under FIFA rules: Training Compensation and Solidarity Payments. Each national association within its confederation must keep a passport for each youth player. A FIFA clearing house makes the calculations and issues invoices to the purchasing club.
    Training compensation is the more complex of the two systems, reflecting that Bayern Munchen spends a lot more to develop a player than does West Chester United Predators, for example.

  6. Is Houston 4 goals better than New England?
    Should be a nice night to watch a bit of footy in the River End…

  7. This feels too good, right?
    Like, we aren’t going to keep playing effectively and winning, right?
    I’m predicting a 1-1 tie tonight. I just can’t fathom a 5th consecutive win. It hasn’t been that long that we lived on the Union Cliff is Despair…

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