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Pig Out: Union 2-0 Dynamo

Goals from Tranquillo Barnetta and CJ Sapong fueled the Philadelphia Union to their third win in five games.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union beat the Houston Dynamo for the first time since 2012 on Sunday night, riding goals from Tranquillo Barnetta and CJ Sapong to their third victory in five games.

The Union struck quickly, scoring the game's first goal in the third minute. After some combination play from Cristian Maidana and Sebastien Le Toux on the right flank, the latter centered the ball and found Barnetta. His first touch sent David Horst the wrong way, and his second touch put the Union ahead.

Sapong extended the lead in the 63rd minute when he flung his body at a Fabinho cross and redirected it past Tyler Deric.

In the past, early goals have been permission enough for the Union to switch off, but they remained dominant throughout on Sunday night. Through sharp passing and good chemistry, the home team exploited holes in an exceptionally porous Dynamo defense on countless occasions. Their control was most evident as the half-hour mark approached.

In the 26th minute, Maurice Edu found himself ten yards from goal with the ball at his feet, but he couldn't test Deric. Sebastien Le Toux and Sapong could, however. Minutes after Edu's mishit, the pair forced saves from Deric on successive counters.

Will Bruin had the best chance of the half for the Dynamo. His header off a long set piece took a deflection before bouncing off the post. A frozen John McCarthy thawed just in time to paw the ball out of danger.

Just seconds before the break, Maidana rifled a shot on goal following the post-corner scrum. Deric got down quickly to make his fifth and final save of the half.

Though the game evened out in the second half, the Dynamo never really threatened to steal points from the Union. Leonel Miranda and Brad Davis had the best of their side's opportunities in the final 45, but the former's blast hit the side-netting and the latter's volley flew right into John McCarthy's sweet embrace.

The Union's chances were similarly sparse, but they came from much better positions. Sapong's goal was a redirect from the edge of the six-yard box, and Barnetta's shot a minute later was from ten yards.

As far as meaningless games go, this one is up there. With ten days to go until the Open Cup Final, a regular season game means very little for a team that's all but officially eliminated from the playoffs. Effects on the standings aside, the win does generate some momentum for a team that has had trouble piecing together consecutive results.

Next week, the Union will head to New England in an even more meaningless encounter. Don't expect Jim Curtin to even test the majority of his starters on that Gillette Stadium turf.

Some Things

  • Tranquillo Barnetta has found his role in the midfield. The first month of his Union career was clunky at best, and awful at worst. But that wasn't necessarily unexpected, considering that the Swiss midfielder was in pre-season form when he joined the team in mid-season. Both his fitness and his relationships have developed to the point where the Union's midfield is fluid with a purpose instead of needlessly messy.
  • Houston's defense is baaad. Their back line is badly banged up, with preferred central defensive starters Jermaine Taylor and Raul Rodriguez ineligible for Sunday's game. AJ Cochran and David Horst struggled to perform in their absence. Their lack of spatial awareness and inadequate distribution plagued both the Dynamo's defense and offense, respectively.