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Preview: Houston looks to crush an unbeaten streak on kids night

The U are the only remaining MLS team to have a perfect record at home

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union will look to make it five-straight wins when they host the Houston Dynamo this weekend at Subaru Park. The Union enter the match with a league-leading 15 goals allowed in 22 games, 6 fewer than the next best team, New York City FC. Union coach Jim Curtin said the Eastern Conference leaders will continue to emphasize their lock-tight defense. “We’re going to continue to push to break the record of 27 goals conceded in a 34-game season.” The record was set by Sporting Kansas City in 2017.

The Union are in the middle of a an 11-game home unbeaten streak (6-0-5) and are the only remaining team in the league unbeaten at home. Curtin credits the environment created by the fans. “The last several years we’ve been a hard team top play at home,” he said. “I think a lot of credit has to go to our fans for us being unbeaten there this year. They give us an energy, a belief, a passion that we’re never out of a game.”

In the Union’s previous match against Orlando City SC, Daniel Gazdag’s first-half goal was the difference against a team playing between a marquee friendly against Arsenal and aLamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal against New York Red Bulls, which the Lions won 5-1 to reach the final in early September. The goal was Gazdag’s team-leading 10th of the season and his third-straight game with a goal.

With José Martinez absence due to yellow card accumulation, the Union will welcome the return of captain Alejandro Bedoya, who was out due to yellow card suspension. We will likely see Jack McGlynn remain in midfield, though the question will be whether he’ll play as an 8 or a 6. “Last game Jack McGlynn came in and played in a midfield spot and did a great job for us,” Curtin said. “Obviously we all talk about with the ball how good he is, but I thought he was really good defensively as well.” The Orlando game was McGlynn’s second-straight start and third overall this season. The Union Homegrown has been on a roll since his impressive performances with the USYMNT in the Concacaf U-20 Championships.

With two healthy strikers in Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza, we’ll likely see Leon Flach play as the 6. “If you ask Leon, that’s probably the spot he likes the most, the one he’s the most comfortable in, the 6, “Curtin said. “Sometimes you play with two 6s, sometimes you play with a 6 that sits a little deeper than the other 6, sometimes you play with one there. So we’ll have to decide that. Leon has spent a lot of time before training, after training, improving his stuff with the ball.” Flach had his first assist of the season against D.C. United and even played as a higher 8 in the 2-1 win against Inter Miami.

“Sometimes with Leon we forget he’s still a young player. His work rate defensively is unmatched in the league. He works incredibly hard against the ball, makes so many plays for us that maybe don’t show up statistically.” Flach is currently 6th in the league in tackles won (MLS) and 1st in the league in pressures and middle-third pressures (FBRef).

Houston enters the match with a 1-3-1 (WLT) record in the month of July, dropping their previous match 2-1 at home to Minnesota United. Fáfa Picault scored on 86th minute to pull the hosts back. Picault, a former Union player with the Union from 2019-2019, made 89 MLS appearances for the club and scored 21 goals. Picault scored the first in the come-from-behind victory over the Red Bulls in the 2019 playoffs and had an assist in the 3-0 wi over Chicago in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup semifinals. “There’s a lot of great memories with Fáfa on the field and winning gamed for us,” Curtin said. “Player I loved working with, is part of the time and changing culture here where the Union made a big step forward and he’s a big part of that and always will be.” Picault has 4 goals and 3 assists on the season.

Hector Herrera will be another Houston player worth watching. The popular Mexican international made his Houston debut earlier this month after three seasons with Atlético Madrid and seven with Porto. “Hector Herrera for quite a bit has been the best player Concacaf has had,” Curtin said. “He’s such a great midfielder, can dominate the game with possession.” Herrera captained Mexico to last summer’s Nations League and Concacaf finals, winning the Golden Ball in the latter.

Sebastián Ferreira and Darwin Quintero lead Houston with 7 goals apiece. Adam Lundqvist leads the team with 5 assists. Goalkeeper Steve Clark played in the MLS Cup last season with the Portland Timbers.

After enduring a grueling stretch of May, which resulted in a frustrating string of ties, the Union will begin a stretch of 12 games with 8 of those opponents not in the current playoff picture. “It’s funny,” Curtin said, “when you look at the strength of schedule and the points per game of the teams you play, yes, we do come out as a team on paper, it’s favorable.” Only Cincinnati, Dallas, Red Bulls, and Orlando are currently above the line. “But at the same time, I think we all know as an example this transfer window, how quickly teams can change.” The Union will finish the regular season at home to Toronto, who’ve recently added Italian internationals Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. Despite being near the bottom of the table, Toronto handed the Union one of their two league losses this season.

The Union coverage for the game will begin at 7:30 (Kickoff 7:38) and will be broadcast on PHL 17, ESPN+,