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Game Changers: Dynamotivated

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The stage was set for the Philadelphia Union to grind out a road draw against the Houston Dynamo, but Chaco Maidana had other plans for his former club.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

1.) If you’re not going forward, you’re going backward - CJ Sapong, Fabian Herbers, and Sebastien Le Toux are the Philadelphia Union’s only natural forwards, and unfortunately Herbers and Le Toux were out with a hamstring injury and concussion, respectively. Sapong was available for selection, but hadn’t played since injuring his ankle a month prior against Columbus Crew SC. Instead, Roland Alberg was shifted to the forward position, Tranquillo Barnetta was put back at central attacking midfielder, and Warren Creavalle was put in next to Brian Carroll in the double-pivot - a formation usually reserved for when the Philadelphia Union are expected to withstand heavy attacking pressure - not against a Houston Dynamo team that was -3 in goal differential going into the game.

2.) Blake shines - While Andre Blake has looked a little shaky since returning from international duty with Jamaica for the Copa America, the match against Houston was his best performance since returning to the club. He made a couple of brilliant saves to keep the Union in the match while he had nothing in the way of offensive support.

Unfortunately a goalkeeper can’t win games, only prevent a club from losing.

3.) Shots fired - The Union had zero shots on goal during the first half and ended the match with a paltry eight shots, of which only two made it to Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Tranquillo Barnetta’s shot in the 63rd minute and CJ Sapong’s shot in the 80th minute were it for the Union. Here is the entire offensive output for the Union:

Of the remaining shots, three were blocked and three went off target. By contrast, the Dynamo shot 18 times, eight of which were on frame. The Union managed to block only three shots - all of which were outside the eighteen - and the other seven were off target. This is the big reason Houston won - they created chances and shot the ball while the Union were not able to do so.

4.) Yaro’s yellows - Both of Joshua Yaro’s yellow cards are suspect to say the least. Let’s take a look at the first one.

Yaro’s leg is extended to clear the ball, and Alex runs into it. Is it a foul? Probably. Is it a yellow card? I doubt it. Incidental contact at best, no intent to strike Alex, who pretty clearly makes no attempt to try not to run into Yaro’s outstretched leg. Let’s take a look a the second one.

The contact is incidental at best. Barely a foul, never a card. The Union had every right to be upset about this, and I would hope that the MLS Disciplinary Committee reviews this and overturns Yaro’s automatic suspension against D.C. United on Saturday.

5.) Chaco man - You just knew this was going to happen.

He had spoken about how much he was looking forward to playing his old team, and at the death Cristian Maidana hit a clutch free kick to give the Dynamo a much deserved win. Prior to this free kick though, Warren Creavalle committed this foul.

This was a deserved yellow card and a bad foul. As good as he’s looked at times this season, this was particularly bad. He’s not playing the ball, he’s in a dangerous area just outside of the box, and the Union have this pretty well defended. Take a look.

Defensive positioning on Warren Creavalle’s foul and yellow card on Boniek Garcia.
Defensive positioning on Warren Creavalle’s foul and yellow card on Boniek Garcia.

There’s really no call for Creavalle to leave his feet here. Boniek Garcia only has one option at this point, and that’s pushing it out left toward DaMarcus Beasley and if he does that, Keegan Rosenberry has a good angle to intercept it. Creavalle needs to stay on his feet and force the bad pass instead of giving up a free kick just outside of the box. That being said, fair play to Maidana. That free kick was world class, and there was nothing Andre Blake could do about to make a save.