Scouting Report: Union look to avenge playoff ouster vs. Dynamo
The brand new BBVA Compass Stadium hosts Saturday night's matchup between the upstart Union and the 2011 MLS Cup finalist Houston Dynamo.
Dominic Kinnear's Dynamo are coming off a disappointing 4-2 loss at Stade Saputo in Montreal. Prior to that game, the club needed a late push to earn a 3-3 home draw with Toronto. The Dynamo find themselves in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points and a 5-5-5 record.
Philadelphia are 2-2-2 all-time against Houston. Prior to last year's first-round playoff matchup, the Union had not lost to the Dynamo in four tries, but goals from Calen Carr and Andre Hainault sealed a 2-1 first leg win at PPL Park. Houston won the second leg 1-0 on a Brian Ching goal, eliminating Philadelphia from the playoffs 3-1 on aggregate.
Forward Will Bruin is enjoying a breakout sophomore season with the club. He's scored nine goals this season and is now tied with Thierry Henry for third best in MLS in that department.
There's really nothing fancy about Bruin's game. He's a great finisher, similar to Chris Wondolowski. He positions himself well, uses his 6-2 frame, and just has a knack for scoring goals at opportune times. His brace against Toronto came in the final 20 minutes and earned his team a point at home. Bruin has started all but one game this year.
Either Ching or Mac Kandji should play alongside Bruin in Houston's usual 4-4-2 shape. Ching has struggled by his standards, with just one goal this season. He does have three assists, however. Kandji also only has one goal, but he's played about one third of the minutes that Ching has so far this season. Forward Carr is injured and unavailable.
Look for Colin Clark on the right side of the midfield, with MLS All-Star Brad Davis on the left. The best left foot in the league, Davis is slowly starting to find a rhythm. He's second on the team with three goals, and as always, leads the team in assists with four.
The attacking midfield role has been a bit of a weak point for Houston these last two years. Luiz Camargo was acquired last season to play that role, but has been mostly inconsistent since coming to Texas. The Dynamo recently made a DP signing, bringing Honduras international Boniek Garcia to the club. Garcia is more of a wide midfield player, but it's unclear how Kinnear intends to use him. He is available for Saturday's game.
Holding midfielder Adam Moffatt is serving a red card suspension and will not play Saturday. That means Kinnear can either go with Camargo in that role or ask Je-Vaughn Watson to play a bit deeper. Watson is, however, listed as doubtful for this game.
Typically stout, the Dynamo defense has really struggled lately. Center halves Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron have looked out of sorts. Cameron returned from international duty with the USA and should now be settling back into league play. Boswell is incredibly experienced and very solid when he's on his game. Left back Corey Ashe was an all-star selection last year, along with goalkeeper Tally Hall. Right back Andrew Hainault is a Canadian international.
It's a backline that has tremendous potential both defensively and also offensively on set pieces. It's just not clicking right now.
Keys to the Game
Houston is just one of two teams without a home loss this season. They've struggled immensely on the road, but they play well in the Texas heat.
Since back-to-back shutouts on May 12 and 15, the Dynamo have now conceded 15 goals in their last six games. That's a good sign for the Philadelphia offense, which scored nine combined goals in the last two games, including Tuesday's 5-2 U.S. Open Cup win vs. the Harrisburg City Islanders. The smaller Union offense will be playing against a larger, more physical Houston backline.
Set pieces are always an area of focus against Houston, and that's still the case for this matchup. Brad Davis still has a ton of targets to aim for, with Boswell, Hainault, Cameron and Ching on the field. Philadelphia have historically struggled with set pieces, but played an excellent defensive game in the 4-0 shutout over Kansas City. Interim head coach John Hackworth has made set piece defense a priority in training since taking over. Newly signed center back Bakary Soumare is expected to make a substantial impact when he sees the field for the Union, but that won't happen on Saturday as Philadelphia look for a small measure of revenge for the way last season ended.
WATCH: Union-Dynamo preview