No Rest for the Weary?
The Philadelphia Union were extremely unlucky to lose out on the US Open Cup to the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night at PPL Park, especially in a 120 minute affair. That leaves the Union on short rest for their Eastern Conference clash against Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. Having the game at home is a big deal as no traveling will allow for more rest, but playing their 3rd game in 7 days will not be kind to Philadelphia.
As for Houston, they haven't played more than one game in a week since the week of August 10th, when they played Seattle and Philadelphia on the 10th and 15th respectively. Not exactly a quick turnaround, but traveling back home from CenturyLink Field could have been a hindrance. Houston is currently 5 points behind the Union, who are tied for the 5th and final playoff spot, and will need 3 points to really make up ground against a tired Union team.
Union have only lost 3 times since they have replaced John Hackworth with new interim head coach, Jim Curtin. That form speaks for itself, but it's not just about results. Since the coaching change, the personality and drive of this team is at a new level. Playing some of the best soccer in the short history of this franchise, the Union haven't lost in its last 4 and have picked up 10 points in such a span. Their last lost was, however, against the Dynamo.
September and October are Dynamo season. Houston rarely misses the playoffs and to be so low in the standings is something worrisome for them, but their uptick in form is something that worries the rest of the Eastern Conference. The addition of Damarcus Beasley and the stabilizing of their defense has given the Dynamo 3 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw in their last 5 games. Perhaps the Dynamo are leaving it late, or maybe it's just the right time for them to surge into the playoffs. Destiny is in their hands.
Both of these teams will feel they deserved more in their previous outing, especially the Union. Having lost in the Open Cup final (by mere inches), the Union will look to rebound and race towards the playoffs with their focus no longer split. Also, the Union will be looking to exact revenge on Houston for their previous meeting ended in a 2-0 loss. Neither team looked impressive, but the Union certainly looked gassed. If there isn't motivation in the locker room, which I doubt there isn't, maybe that will jump the Union to another gear.
Houston will be rather disappointed after blowing a 2-0 lead in the second half to Columbus. A win at home could have set them up to be within striking distance of the last playoff spot. Settling for a draw only puts them another week out with not too many weeks remaining. Having a game in hand does benefit the Dynamo and to know that they haven't lost to the Union since 2012, they should feel motivated to upset the US Open Cup runners-up.
With how emotional the US Open Cup final was, my gut says the Union will feel they were wronged by losing. The effort they gave in that game was inspiring and for the crowd that was there that inspiration is doubled. Look for the crowds at PPL Park to be electric for the rest of the season and the energy of the team to continue against Houston on Saturday.
Union 2-0 Dynamo