Breaking News FutbolMLS.com reports Carlos Valdes will return to the Philadelphia Union "next week"

Match #32 Preview: Philadelphia Union At Houston Dynamo

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

The Union (10-15-6) travel to BBVA Compass Stadium for the second time this season, looking to put a dent in the playoff hopes of the Dynamo (13-8-11).

Setting: Saturday, October 20 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas; kickoff scheduled for 7:52 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: NBC Sports Network/TSN2 (Arlo White, Kyle Martino, Russ Thaler) nationally in the U.S. and Canada, with coverage starting at 7:30 PM Eastern / SportsRadio 610 WIP (Tony Limarzi, Peter Pappas) in Philadelphia / SportsTalk 790 KBME-AM (Matt Pedersen) and La Ranchera 850 KEYH-AM (Daniel Mejía, Alex Parra) in Houston

Houston's Record: 13-8-11 (50 points, fifth in East)

Houston's Last Match: T, 1-1 vs. MTL

Philadelphia vs. Houston This Season: 1-1-0 (Philadelphia 1 @ Houston 2 on June 30; Houston 1 @ Philadelphia 3 on September 23)

For the Houston Perspective, Visit Dynamo Theory

The Philadelphia Union are into the final week of their 2012 season. They will go through their last road swing of the season over the next few days as they take on the Houston Dynamo tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston before visiting Kansas City for a mid-week affair with Sporting KC. After that, they will fly home for their season finale: a home match against the New York Red Bulls, set to be broadcast nationally on NBC. The Houston Dynamo don't yet know whether this is their final week of the season. They presently sit in the fifth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Columbus Crew. Both Houston and Columbus are on 32 matches, and with Columbus visiting RFK Stadium and D.C. United at the same time that the Dynamo host the Union, you better believe there's going to be some scoreboard watching going on tonight.

Ultimately, though, Houston controls its own destiny. If the Dynamo win tomorrow, and then win in Colorado against the Rapids next weekend, their season continues, no ifs, ands, or buts. A Houston win combined with a Columbus loss would also do the trick. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done, even against two teams out of playoff contention. The Dynamo's Tuesday night Champions League match against Olimpia presents a further challenge to Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear, though fortunately for Houston it's a home match. Kinnear is looking at an unenviable situation where he may need his team to win thrice in eight nights. Managing minutes for key players like Will Bruin (12 goals, 4 assists) and Boniek Garcia (3 goals, 6 assists) is going to be the key to Houston's success to make sure that, if necessary, they're still at 100% physically and mentally come next weekend. And that's without even mentioning Brad Davis (7 goals, 12 assists), who missed Houston's last match with a left quad strain, but has taken full advantage of Houston's two off weeks to fully recover.

The Union will get their own spark plug back, as Danny Cruz will be returning to the lineup after suffering an Achilles injury that, fortunately, wasn't as big of a deal as it could have been. With three matches in eight nights, John Hackworth will probably use tonight's match and the mid-week match in Kansas City to spread minutes around liberally to bench players. In his weekly press availabilities and frequent journal posts on the team's website, Hackworth has repeatedly emphasized how important he considers home matches (and the fans) to be. It would seem reasonable, then, to expect Hackworth to manage minutes tonight and on Wednesday in order to best setup his absolute preferred starting XI for Saturday afternoon against the Red Bulls. Or, maybe Hackworth will continue to go with his battle-tested players instead of giving some less-experienced guys a shot. We'll find out soon enough.

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Carroll, Lahoud; Daniel, M. Farfan, Cruz; McInerney

Houston: Hall; Ashe, Taylor, Boswell, Sarkodie; Davis, Moffat, Clark, Garcia; Carr, Bruin

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Bakary Soumare (right knee menisectomy recovery) is out. Gabriel Farfan (right ankle stress reaction) is "doubtful". Sheanon Williams (left ankle peroneal/Achilles strain), Danny Cruz (left big toe sesamoid fracture), and Zach Pfeffer (left knee contusion) are "questionable", but expected to be available. Freddy Adu (left quad strain) is "probable".

For Houston, Brad Davis (left calf strain) is "probable" and is fully expected to play tonight.

Of note:

  • Mark Geiger is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 102 career MLS matches, Geiger has called an average of 26.5 fouls per match, handed out an average of 3.7 yellow cards per match, given a total of 26 red cards, and has awarded a total of 34 penalty kicks.
  • Bobby Boswell, Gabriel Farfan, Gabriel Gomez, and Michael Lahoud are all one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Keon Daniel, Gabriel Gomez, and Carlos Valdes, who have been away from the club for international duty will rejoin the team in Houston. All three will be available for tonight's match.
  • With a win or draw tomorrow, the Dynamo would become just the fourth team in MLS history to go undefeated at home throughout an entire regular season. One of the other teams to accomplish the same feat? The 2005 San Jose Earthquakes, coached by none other than Dominic Kinnear.
  • In total, the Dynamo are currently on a 24-match unbeaten streak at home. That is the second-longest streak in league history, only behind Real Salt Lake's 29-match home unbeaten streak that spanned from 2009-2011.
  • The Dynamo have scored 17 of their 45 goals inside the final fifteen minutes of matches. Eleven of Philadelphia's 35 goals have come during that same span.
The Union's final week of 2012 begins in Houston, where the Dynamo are on the brink of clinching their sixth postseason berth in seven seasons. We hope you can join us here later tonight for a gamethread!
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