In an endlessly packed week for the Philadelphia Union, the journey cannot stop with them reaching the US Open Cup Final for the first time. They simply don't have much time to even celebrate. Wheels were up shortly after their semifinal clash with FC Dallas and the Union were on the road to Houston.
Houston has struggled this season and it is with no doubt that I can say they might just be worse defensively than the Union are. With a change in coaching, the Union defense has been stingy enough - not necessarily great, but just stingy enough to squeeze out results. Since the World Cup break Houston has struggled (albeit their struggles range further back than just after the break), acquiring just 5 points from 6 games and allowing 13 goals. Their 42 goals allowed on the season is good enough for worst in the league despite being miles ahead of Montreal.
Houston's back line doesn't provoke strong fear from me personally, and the likes of Corey Ashe standout the most with the men dressed in creamsicle. The addition of DaMarcus Beasley is sure to add some punch to the Dynamo, but again defensively the side lacks a certain bite.
I have an immense fear of Brad Davis. Now maybe it should be subdued since that Jim Curtin has revitalized the defense, but the Union are dreadful in defending set pieces. Brad Davis is a very good set piece specialist. As you can see the Union set piece defense and Brad Davis set piece repertoire will become very fast friends. Every time the Union face Houston this is concern number one. But just like number one concerns with Philadelphia, they tend to go unchecked.
Brad Davis did not play against Philadelphia in their April 19th meeting and the game ended in a scoreless draw. Mark my words now, if the Union give Davis an opportunity to send in a fantastic free kick, it will cause problems. Limit fouls in Houston's attacking third, and things should be ok defensively for the U.
No Rest for the Weary
The Union will be playing their third game in seven days against Houston, and despite the euphoric high from reaching the US Open Cup final, fatigue will eventually set in. It will likely be this road tilt against Houston where Jim Curtin will receive his first dud as interim manager. I don't blame anybody for it, but there is no doubt that players get gassed after playing this many games after a few days - especially on the road. It seems to be a match that looks bad on paper for the Union, with little recovery time and an opponent who traditionally frustrates them.
It would be very surprising to see Curtin start the same players as he did in Tuesday's win. I can't imagine all the players are going to be 100% ready to go after such a short layover. Hopefully Curtin rests a few regulars to preserve them for the home stretch ahead.
Predictions and Projections
Union's Starting XI:
Sheanon Williams - Carlos Valdes - Ethan White - Fabinho
Brian Carroll - Amobi Okugo
Sebastien Le Toux - Vincent Nogueira - Cristian Maidana
This feels like a loss, but not by much. If the Union remain disciplined in the back, stealing a point is certainly possible. I can't shake the feeling of a dud game, though, so I'm going to say Houston sneaks one out 2-1.