PBPP: Second Season Begins in Houston

Houston a tough opening day opponent for Philadelphia

Just as they did a season
ago, the Philadelphia Union will open their 2011 campaign on the road. Unlike last year, though, they are much
more settled at the key position of goalkeeper.

There was no question that
Colombian 'keeper Faryd Mondgragon was brought in to be the number one man in goal as
the Union addressed their biggest weakness of 2010. The addition of the two Colombians (central defender
Carlos Valdes), and the acquisition of defensive midfielder Brian Carroll
should make Philly a much tougher team to break down.

Add in Carlos Ruiz to the
offense and the team appears to have a head start on another issue, that of
adding some balance to the offense. 
When you look at 2010, Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga combined for
21 of the team's 
35 goals, 60 percent of the club’s offense. Figure that in 2011 both of
those players will receive some tighter marking, so the arrival of Ruiz comes
at a good time.

The team appears to be
healthy heading into Houston for Saturday’s game on 6abc, which begins
with the pre-game show at 8:00pm.

Houston will be a worthy
opponent and an improved team from a year ago when they missed out on the
playoffs for the first time. They
gave up the same number of goals as Philadelphia did last year (49), which was
tied for 15
th out of 16 teams. Having injured midfielder Geoff Cameron back makes
Houston stronger, along with the addition of Jamaican international central defender
Jermaine Taylor.

The biggest question mark is
in goal where Tally Hall replaces Pat Onstad. As good as his potential is, 
the jury is still out when you have played just five
games in your MLS career. Hall will have to prove to be worthy of
the number one spot.

Midfielder Brad Davis makes
this team so dangerous with his crosses from the left side, and even more
dangerous on his set pieces. He’s
coming off of a preseason where he connected for four goals and six assists.

Brian Ching is always a
player to watch, but at the moment he is listed as doubtful with a hamstring
strain. If you’re Houston, why
risk him when your next two games come up quickly, on the road at Seattle and
New York.

Two players to keep an eye on, if they start for Houston, are rookies Kofi Sarkodie and Will Bruin. No rookie has ever started on opening
day for the Dynamo, but these two have a good shot. Sarkodie, a right back out of the University of Akron, has
blazing speed and terrific offensive tendencies operating as a right back. Bruin, a forward out of Indiana, is a
big man with skill who scored six goals in the preseason, including two in the
final exhibition vs New England.

All in all, I’m looking
forward to a goo
d matchup on Saturday and the start of the Union’s second
season. To all of the Union
supporters watching at home, or at the viewing parties, or in person in
Houston, enjoy the game.

CLICK HERE to learn about full and partial season ticket plans. CLICK HERE for single game tickets.

Related:

WATCH: Dynamo Preview

Union Focused on Limiting Set Pieces in Houston

Le Toux Fully Fit Heading into Union Opener