Union Head Back to the Road to Face Dynamo

Philadelphia Union (1-5-1)
head to Houston coming off a bye week to begin a three-game road trip against the Dynamo (5-4-1) on
Saturday. Away games haven’t been kind to Philadelphia this year, accounting
for all five of the club’s losses in as many games, but spirits are high coming
off of a dramatic 1-1 tie against Dallas two weeks ago. 

While currently sitting in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, the expansion
side has played less games (7) than any other team in the league. If they can
come away with points in the next three games, momentum would be strong heading
into PPL Park's June 27th opener against Seattle Sounders FC. Philadelphia will
play 13 of their last 20 league matches in a brand new venue, and while two
matches isn’t a sufficient sample size, it appears the young club responds to
the passionate hometown crowd.

Thinking multiple matches in advance is counter-productive though, especially
for the technical staff and players. Their focus is on Houston and taking three
points
 against a team that has alternated wins and losses over
the last nine games after an opening day tie, good for 16 points. Winning in Houston is never easy, and Saturday
figures to be a battle for the Union, especially given Brian Ching’s surprise omission from the U.S. World
Cup roster
.

Let’s jump into a position-by position analysis of both sides.

Goalkeeper – Philadelphia Union

Chris Seitz hasn’t played consistently up to his talent level this season, but
he had his finest performance of the season last game against Dallas. Only Brek
Shea passed the first-year starter, and it’s unlikely any ‘keeper in the world would’ve
be able to do anything about his laser into the top right corner.

Seitz was assertive, decisive and confident, shutting Dallas down on a number
of occasions and keeping the deficit to only a goal. Every Union fan likely
knows that Mwanga’s first career goal
salvaged a point for the Union in the match, but the club wouldn’t have been in
position to do so if not for Seitz.

If he can play with the same focus and the defense can limit Houston’s chances,
Seitz will be able to build on his last performance and continue increasing his
confidence.

Goalkeeper – Houston Dynamo

At age 42, Pat Onstad is
still among the best in MLS at keeping the ball out of the net. With a 1.11 GAA
this year, Major League Soccer's career GAA leader brings vast experience and a
tremendous ability to organize the defense in front of him. What he may have
lost in speed or quickness is compensated for by his superior positioning and
awareness. 

 

There's no question Onstad
will be tough to beat playing at home, but the Union will need to find a way if
they hope to steal their first road points of the season.

 

Defense – Philadelphia
Union

With Brian Ching playing against Philadelphia tomorrow instead of in
Philadelphia with the rest of the U.S. World Cup roster, the Union backline
will have to contend with a striker motivated to prove he should’ve been on a
plane to South Africa in the coming days. Central defender Danny Califf figures
to match up well with the Hawaiian native, but expect a physical battle in the
penalty area.

Each member of the Union's starting defense has shown the individual ability to
be among the better defenders in the league at their respective positions, but
the unit as a whole hasn’t put it all together on a regular basis. The backline
played perhaps its best game against Dallas, but consistency is the key over
the course of a full season. With that in mind, Califf, Micheal Orozco,
Cristian Arrieta and Jordan Harvey will look to put together their second
straight strong performance on Saturday.

Defense – Houston Dynamo

Houston's defense is only giving up a goal per game, good for the fifth best
GAA in the league. Bobby Boswell and Eddie Robinson anchor the middle of the
defense with plenty of experience and talent. Robinson has struggled with
injuries for much of his career and missed two straight games prior to last
weekend’s showdown with D.C., but he appears to be healthy enough to play in
Saturday’s tilt.

Mike Chabala and Richard Mulrooney patrol the left and right flanks, rounding
out one of the better defensive units in MLS. It’s unlikely Philadelphia will
be able to create quite as many chances as they did at home against Dallas, so
they’ll have to bury the ones they do get in order to break through on the
road.

Midfield – Philadelphia Union

Kyle Nakazawa has started the last two games in place of Andrew Jacobson, joining
Stefani Miglioranzi, Roger Torres and Fred in a midfield that has seen very
little rotation when everyone is available. This unit controlled the game
against Dallas, dictating the pace of play and creating chance after chance.
While all but one of the Union’s scoring opportunities were ultimately stifled,
it was a promising display by the home side. If not for a terrific performance
by Dallas goalkeeper Dallas Hartman, Philadelphia could’ve easily scored 3-4
goals.

Shea Salinas has yet to crack the starting lineup in his normal wing midfield
position, but he appears to be Manager Peter Nowak’s first option off the
bench. Salinas provides instant energy and pace every time he steps on the
pitch, nearly netting the equalizer against
Dallas
himself before Danny Mwanga’s late heroics. It’s a safe bet
that we’ll continue to see Salinas contributing on a regular basis, and one has
to wonder if the technical staff will give him a chance to play from the
opening whistle sometime in the near future.

Midfield – Houston Dynamo

Geoff Cameron is out for the season with a torn PCL, and the Dynamo are still
adjusting to life without midfield stars Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, both
of whom are now playing in Europe and for the USMNT World Cup squad. Brad Davis
has continued his evolution as one of the premier midfielders in the league,
leading the team in goals (3) and assists (4) after notching 5 goals and 12
assists in 2009.

Brian Mullen has been strong on the left wing this year, netting two goals and
an assist. A Dynamo since the club’s inception, Mullen is a hard worker and
staple in the starting XI. Lovel Palmer has also become a regular since earning
MLS Goal of the Week honors in his MLS debut with a world-class strike from distance.

Attack – Philadelphia Union

Sebastien Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno will continue building the chemistry
that was disrupted when Le Toux went down with an injury in New York on April
27th. Philadelphia’s leading scorer proved he was back to 100% against Dallas
and the bye week has helped with any lingering soreness. Both Moreno and Le
Toux have played extremely well so far this season, but perhaps Saturday will
be the day that roles reverse and Moreno finds himself on the receiving end of
a Le Toux assist.

The playing time of top rookies Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney will be a hot
topic all season long, especially after each netted their first career goal
within a span of three weeks. Mwanga’s confidence is especially high
and it’ll be interesting to see if Nowak tries to ride his momentum. Playing
time up top isn’t easy to come by given the work rate and endurance of Le Toux
and Moreno, but the Union could feature three forwards at some point in the
match, especially if a late offensive boost is needed.

Attack – Houston Dynamo

All of a sudden, Houston’s frontline is awfully crowded. Brian Ching’s expected
return will provide a huge boost for the Orange, but he isn’t the only one
returning to the club with Cam Weaver also healthy again.

Designated Player Luis Landin is finally beginning to get comfortable
in MLS
, assisting on both of Houston’s goals against D.C.

Dominic Oduro has been a regular starter all season and has made the most of
his opportunity with 2 goals and 3 assists, on pace to blow past his career
highs in both categories. Whether or not he continues to play as much remains
to be seen, as does head coach Dominic Kinnear’s choice formation now that he
has more attacking talent at his disposal. Might we see a 4-3-3 with Ching,
Landin and Oduro all up top? We’ll see soon enough.

Last Match Highlights

Philadelphia 1, Dallas 1

Houston 2, D.C. 0

Philadelphia Union Injury Report

None reported

Houston
Dynamo Injury Report

 

OUT: MF Geoff Cameron (R
knee)

Match Information

Date: Saturday, May 29, 2010

Time: 8:30pm ET (8:00pm ET pre-game show)

Location: Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX

Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox
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