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Match #28 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Houston Dynamo

CHESTER, PA - OCTOBER 30: Gabriel Farfan #15 of the Philadelphia Union tackles Danny Cruz #5 of the Houston Dyanmo during an MLS soccer playoff game, October 30, 2011 at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
CHESTER, PA - OCTOBER 30: Gabriel Farfan #15 of the Philadelphia Union tackles Danny Cruz #5 of the Houston Dyanmo during an MLS soccer playoff game, October 30, 2011 at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
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Setting: Sunday, September 23 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: 6abc HD (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby, Jeff Skversky), with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show, SportsRadio 610 WIP (Tony Limarzi, Peter Pappas) / Fox Sports Houston Plus (Glenn Davis, Eddie Robinson), MultiMedios 43 (Ernesto Chavana, Willie Gonzalez, Heliodoro Hinojosa), KPRC-AM 950 (Matt Pederson), La Ranchera 850 KEYH-AM (Daniel Mejía) / MLS Live, Direct Kick (blacked out in Houston)

Houston's Record: 12-7-10 (46 points, fifth in East)

Houston's Last Match: T, 1-1 at Sporting KC

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

For the Houston Perspective, Visit Dynamo Theory

The stretch run continues for the Philadelphia Union, who will play their second match in four days as they host the Houston Dynamo tomorrow afternoon. The Dynamo come into Philadelphia on short rest themselves, having thoroughly handled Salvadorian side FAS 5-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday in Champions League action. Houston enters the weekend slate of matches in the #5 seed in the East, one point above #6 seed Columbus, and one point below #4 seed D.C. United. While Houston has managed to stay in the playoff picture for essentially the entire season, they've scuffled in MLS over the last month or so, winning but once in their last six MLS matches (1-2-3). With the teams above them in the standings getting crucial results, and Columbus right on their heels, the Dynamo are starting to feel a little pressure. Houston's going for a win tomorrow, not just a perfunctory road draw. Dynamo defender Corey Ashe put it, "[we've] gotta start winning."

For a side that's battling for a playoff spot while (rather successfully) working towards advancing in Champions League, Houston is almost surprisingly healthy up front and in the middle. Ashe, a full back, is out, while center back Jermaine Taylor's status is up in the air. This is probably where Houston wishes they still had Geoff Cameron, who moved to Stoke City in the Premier League over the summer, but Kofi Sarkodie and/or Warren Creavalle will get a chance instead. As Brian Ching's career begins to wind down, offensive leadership of the team has rather successfully transferred over to Brad Davis (7 goals, 11 assists) and Will Bruin (11 goals, 3 assists). Dynamo designated player Boniek Garcia (one goal, six assists) has integrated himself into the roster rather well since joining Houston from Honduran side Olimpia over the summer, and is developing a lethal one-two punch with Davis. Tally Hall, towards the top of the GAA leadership board for starting goalkeepers, continues to be a stalwart in the net for Houston.

Philadelphia manager John Hackworth promised prior to Thursday night's match against D.C. United that the Union would have a stronger attacking game, in large part by giving Jack McInerney additional support up top. Unfortunately, the team wasn't able to fulfill Hackworth's promise. The Union were shutout for the third time in their last five matches. Yes, they created some opportunities, and one could argue they were (once again) unlucky to not get a goal at some point, but after 90 minutes there was a zero on the scoreboard -- again. The players are frustrated, the coaching staff is frustrated, and fans are somewhere on a bell curve between frustrated and apathetic. Danny Cruz will once again play against a former team, which should light a spark under him. Beyond that? It's still kind of disappointing that Chandler Hoffman, Josue Martinez, and Roger Torres haven't seen increased minutes. Playing on short rest, when some of your regular starters might not be fully recovered yet, might provide the perfect opportunity for Hackworth to insert some new faces into the lineup.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Lahoud, Carroll; Torres, Martinez, Cruz; McInerney

Houston: Hall; Creavalle, Taylor/Sarkodie, Boswell, Hainault; Davis, Clark, Garcia; Kandji, Carr, Bruin

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms) remains out. Bakary Soumare (right knee inflammation) is "questionable", as are Gabriel Farfan (right ankle contusion) and Danny Cruz (left sesamoid stress reaction). Zach Pfeffer (right hip flexor strain) is "probable".

For Houston, Corey Ashe (left hamstring strain) is out. Jermaine Taylor (left quad contusion) is "questionable".

Of note:

  • Edvin Jurisevic is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 51 career MLS matches, Jurisevic has called an average of 22.4 fouls per match, handed out an average of 3.6 yellow cards per match, given a total of four red cards, and has awarded a total of six penalty kicks.
  • Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez are both one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Philadelphia will be officially eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or tie against Houston.
  • The Union are 0-4-4 since their stoppage-time 2-1 victory against the Revolution on July 29. They've scored a grand total of four goals in those eight matches.
  • There is something to be said about the Union being unlucky with their lack of finishing. Over their last five matches, Philadelphia has averaged 60% possession, with 72 attempts made at goal versus 41 attempts by their opponents.
  • The Dynamo are 11-0-5 when scoring first. The Union are 6-3-1 when scoring first.
  • Tally Hall made a season-high seven saves in Houston's draw at Sporting Kansas City.
Philadelphia tries to snap its longest winless streak of the season, while Houston comes in need of three points to stay in playoff position. If you're heading down to PPL Park tomorrow afternoon, enjoy the match. Otherwise, we hope you can join us here for a gamethread!