Playing to games in the course of four days is no easy task for any team. It's even harder when they have little depth. The Philadelphia Union sulked into their game with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday after allowing a game tying extra time goal while a man up against Real Salt Lake. Three points in Houston would be no simple task, as the team was without Jack McInerney and Keon Daniel (international duty), and Michael Farfan, Danny Cruz, and Kleberson were all out with injury.
Getting creative, head coach John Hackworth opted for a 4-1-5, leaving Brian Carroll as the team's only midfielder, with Antoine Hoppenot playing up on the right wing, and Sebastien Le Toux on the left wing.
It shouldn't have to be explained that to have a competent offensive attack, a team needs a midfield, but apparently those views are not held by the Union's coaching staff. The formation looked brutal on paper, and it displayed just as poorly. Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia looked rather confused, and struggle to consistently attack a Dynamo back line that was missing Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie. Conor Casey was forced to play the role of midfielder and striker, forced to set up his own offensive opportunities because the players around him were unable too. Sebastien Le Toux was rather non-existant, and Antoine Hoppenot proved why he is just a super sub at this point in his career.
Having no midfield also put a lot of pressure on the Union back line, as Houston had plenty of space in the middle of the field to create their attack. Furthermore, Ray Gaddis continued to show signs of a sophomore slump. Veteran forward Omar Cummings toyed with Gaddis on the left side, beating him on several occasions, forcing Jeff Parke to cover on numerous occasions.
At the end of the first half, Houston had dominated possession 62-38%, but the score was knotted at zero.
The second half was simply a continuation of Philadelphia's ineptitude at attacking. And after several good chances for the Houston Dynamo, it was only a matter of time before they got themselves on the board. The Dynamo would strike in the 59th minute, after an unmarked Ricardo Clark slid in right in from of Zac MacMath, and headed in a Jermaine Taylor cross.
With Hackworth finally noticing some serious stagnancy, he made some substitutions to create a little more substance in the midfield. He subbed off Aaron Wheeler in favor of rookie Don Anding (who made his MLS debut), and brought on seemingly exiled Roger Torres on for Leo Fernandes, slipping the Union into a 4-3-3. Philadelphia quickly began to generate some opportunities, with Anding being a key cog in most plays.
However, it was just too little, too late for the boys in blue, and Ricardo Clark's goal would be good enough to secure three points for Houston.
Although Philadelphia did look like a sluggish team (and for good reason), the tactics employed by the coaching staff gave them even less of a likelihood of stealing points against Houston.