Match #14 Preview: Philadelphia Union At Houston Dynamo

May 26, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; General view of BBVA Compass Stadium during the second half of a match between the Houston Dynamo and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Dynamo defeated the Galaxy 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

Setting: Saturday, June 30 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex.; kickoff scheduled for 8:36:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 8:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / Fox Sports Houston (Glenn Davis, Eddie Robinson), MultiMedios Houston (Ernesto Chavana, Willie Gonzalez, Heliodoro Hinojosa), KBME-AM (Matt Pedersen), KEYH-AM (Daniel Mejía) in Houston / MLS Live, Direct Kick (Fox Sports Houston feed)

Houston's Record: 5-5-5, 20 points (fifth in East)

Houston's Last Match: L, 4-2 at MTL

Philadelphia vs. Houston Last Season: 1-2-1 (Philadelphia 1 @ Houston 0 on March 19; Houston 1 @ Philadelphia 1 on August 6; Houston 2 @ Philadelphia 1 on October 30 and Philadelphia 0 @ Houston 1 on November 3 in the Union's first-ever playoff series)

For the Houston Perspective, Visit Dynamo Theory

The Philadelphia Union's busy stretch continues tomorrow night as they visit BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time to take on the Houston Dynamo. The Union are coming off two terrific results in the last week: a 4-0 defeat of Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, and a 5-2 victory over the Harrisburg City Islanders that gave Philadelphia a berth into the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. It looks as though the Union are turning things around, with manager John Hackworth's bet on a formation change paying huge dividends. Four goals in two matches was unheard of just a few weeks ago, let alone nine goals in two matches, regardless of the opponent. The new 4-3-3 setup is now becoming a staple, as are some faces generally underused by Peter Nowak.

Jack McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot rewarded Hackworth's gamble by playing huge roles in the Union's sudden offensive performance. Even in Hackworth's debut, a 1-0 home loss to D.C. United, both created numerous dangerous chances. McInerney has more than earned himself a starting role tomorrow and going forward, while Hoppenot has filled the role of a super-sub to a T. Even Lionard Pajoy, the club's prized off-season acquisition who was supposed to help fill the void left by the trade of Sebastien Le Toux, who never quite seemed to fit in during the first months of the season, has begun to pick up some steam and even smile here and there. Defensively, Amobi Okugo has filled in well in central defense, and the acquisition of Bakary Soumare will provide the team with that much more depth once Soumare's fitness is back up to game-level. What a difference two weeks makes!

The Dynamo provide a new challenge for Philadelphia, however. They are undefeated in the first five matches at BBVA Compass Stadium, and after a frustrating loss in Montreal where they were tied at halftime but got outshot 8-0 and outscored 2-0 in the second half, are looking for revenge. Like Philadelphia, Houston is going through an awfully busy stretch, and coach Dominic Kinnear blamed himself for the loss after not adjusting minutes properly following a taxing 3-3 draw just three days earlier. Honduran international midfielder Boniek Garcia, who was just brought in as a Designated Player and is available to play tomorrow, will help lock things down in that regard. Will Bruin and Brad Davis account for much of Houston's scoring, with Brian Ching always as a dangerous presence. Bruin in particular is on a hot streak, coming into tomorrow on a three-match goal streak and with five goals in his last six matches. The offense hasn't been a problem for Houston at all, it's been their defending, which could bode well for Philadelphia who seem to be taking advantage of defensive miscues quite well as of late. Indeed, Houston have allowed a goal in the first fifteen minutes in three of their last four, and eleven goals altogether in their last four.

Projected starters, injury updates, and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; M. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Gomez, Carroll, Lahoud; Adu, Pajoy, McInerney

Houston: Hall; Ashe, Cameron, Boswell, Hainault; Davis, Camargo, Watson, Garcia; Ching, Bruin

Injury report:

For Philadelphia, as of Tuesday, Chandler Hoffman (left big toe fracture) and Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms) are out. Sheanon Williams (right big toe avulsion fracture) is "doubtful". Gabriel Farfan (lower back/pelvis contusion), Chris Albright (right groin strain), and Gabriel Gomez (left knee contusion/patellar tendonitis) are "probable". Raymon Gaddis is unavailable due to a one-match disciplinary suspension.

For Houston, Alex Dixon (concussion) and Calen Carr (left hamstring strain) are out. Oscar Recio (concussion) and Je-Vaughn Watson (left adductor strain) are "doubtful". Jermaine Taylor (right hip flexor strain) is "probable". Adam Moffat is unavailable due to suspension.

Of note:

  • Fotis Bazakos is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In just three career MLS matches, Bazakos has called an average of 24.3 fouls per match, given an average of 2.3 yellow cards per match, and hasn't handed out any red cards or awarded any penalty kicks.
  • Gabriel Gomez is one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • As previously mentioned, Houston has conceded early in three of its last four. They are 1-5-2 when conceding first. Philadelphia scored very early against both Sporting KC and Harrisburg. Could the trends continue for both clubs?
  • On the other hand, Houston is 3-1-4 when tied at halftime (its sole loss coming last week in Montreal), while the Union are 0-7-1 when tied at halftime. Houston can may not be able to start matches all that well as of late, but they can finish them just fine.
  • As further confirmation of that, Houston has allowed just one goal in the final fifteen minutes of their MLS matches this year, compared to four for Philadelphia.
The Union's packed schedule continues as they try to be the first visiting MLS team to get a victory at BBVA Compass Stadium against the Houston Dynamo, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. Of course, there's been a lot of roster turnover since then, particularly for Philadelphia, but those on the Union who remain probably still have their defeat in the back of their mind. We hope you can join us for a gamethread tomorrow night!
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