Play-by-play Plus: Loss puts greater emphasis on home game against Houston Dynamo

The latest column from Union play-by-play man JP Dellacamera

Following his club’s loss to San Jose on Sunday, Union manager John Hackworth gave several quotes in the postgame including this one that resonated the most:

“That level of play is unacceptable for this club and this organization all the way around.”

That's a quote you would rather hear from a coach earlier in the season, surely not this late. Now is the time to be playing your best, when the games are more difficult to win.

Now is the time where individuals need to step up and carry the load.

Now becomes Saturday versus a struggling Houston Dynamo team at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets)   that needs the points as much as the Union do.

We're finally seeing some separation as Montreal, New York and Sporting Kansas City are starting to distance themselves from the rest of the group. This would mean that the Union, New England, Houston, Chicago and Columbus are battling for two remaining playoff spots.

This past weekend, the Union could have surely helped themselves with a win, with New England, Houston, Chicago, and Columbus all losing. Had Houston and New England won, the Union would have dropped to sixth place.

So now there is one week to prepare for a Houston team that really needs to turn things around. Following a win over Seattle, the Dynamo has not won in their last four games, losing three of them.

Their defensive play has been unusually poor, allowing five goals at Montreal and four at home last Sunday vs. the New York Red Bulls.

In Sunday's game they were without Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor (international duty) plus Corey Ashe was out with an injury. They will have some, if not all of these players back for Saturday.

For the Union, how do they get their offense back on track?

Jack McInerney's torrid start to the season (10 goals in first 14 games) seems like a distant memory. He hasn't scored in his last 11 games, and has looked more frustrated than dangerous.

Hackworth has removed him from games lately, because it's just not working. But once McInerney scores one, you have to feel that more will come. He is one of those players that continue to be in the right situations at the right time on the field to come away with a goal.

But right now, the struggle is to get that first one.

In the meantime, Conor Casey who has been carrying much of the load, hasn't scored in his last four games, and Sebastien Le Toux, more of a playmaker than goal scorer in 2013 has not registered a goal in his last 10 games.

So if McInerney, Casey and Le Toux are your top three offensive threats and they are not scoring, who picks up that slack? Right now, the answer unfortunately is no one.

Following that 2-0 win vs. D.C. United at PPL Park in August, the Union has scored one goal in their last four games, having been shut out three times. Were it not for some solid defensive play in two of those games (0-0 draws), the club would be on a four-game losing streak.

Hackworth would like to keep the lineup consistent if he can, hoping that this leads to more cohesion and better results down the stretch, but he may have to change things on Saturday to generate some offense.

Defensively, the club has regained normalcy with the return of Amobi Okugo at central defense.

Okugo has missed the last two games due to suspension for yellow card accumulation plus a red card in the same game versus New England. Okugo will help to solidify the defense, but the offense is the area that's been letting the team down lately.

We'll see if and what the other lineup changes may be when the Union hosts the Dynamo Saturday at PPL Park.

The game will be carried on the Comcast Network starting with the pregame show at 7 p.m.