There was a lot to like about the Philadelphia Union’s first road win this past Saturday at the Houston Dynamo. It was a much needed win for many reasons including the standings and the confidence of the players. Here are some observations as I watched this one on Fox Soccer Channel.
SCORING THE FIRST GOAL
For only the second time this season, the Union scored the game's first goal. In each case they have come out with a win, although admittedly not an easy win. Scoring first gives you confidence. It’s difficult for any team to always be chasing the game, more so in the case of an expansion team.
SEITZ IN GOAL
To me, this was Seitz's best game, and it comes on the heels of his previous best, the draw vs Dallas. He only had one save, but I thought his positioning was better, he seemed more confident and in command. Not sure what he could have done on the two goals given up. On the Brian Ching goal, the veteran forward beat at least three Union players in the air.
TWO WEEKS FOR NOWAK
I think that Peter Nowak and his coaching staff did well with extra time to rest and prepare his players for a very good Houston team who plays well at home. The Union also had to deal with some extreme Houston heat. I know it gets hotter in Houston later in the summer, but even in May it can be sweltering. I liked the team’s approach to the game. They didn’t sit back as the road team, not even when the game was tied. Nowak went for the win with his substitutions and it paid off.
ONE CHANGE IN THE LINEUP
Nowak made one change in his starting lineup and it was a good one. Shea Salinas got the start and all night long he gave Houston trouble, whether he was on the left side, the right, or even the middle. His goal was magnificent and worthy of a goal of the week choice in MLS. Salinas started in place of the talented Roger Torres who came off the bench for the first time this season.
The Union made two changes in the game and both moves paid off. Nowak took out Fred in the 54th minute, bringing in Danny Mwanga. Then in the 62nd he inserted Roger Torres for Salinas. Both moves paid off with Torres assisting on the Le Toux goal, while Mwanga got the game winner.
Inserting Torres as a sub, rather than starting him, gave Roger a chance to see how the game was going. Now you insert Torres with fresh legs and fresh ideas against a perhaps tiring Houston team, and the rest is history. As for Mwanga, Nowak got him in early enough to give Danny a feel for the game. He also was able to move Le Toux out wider to give the team a different look. All Le Toux did was get the game-tying goal, then an assist on the game winner.
UNDER THE RADAR
Maybe lost in the headlines of all of this were a couple of other points.
The team picked up 4 yellow cards, but did not lose poise. If this was earlier in the season surely one of those players might have picked up a second yellow which could have changed this game.
Also, how about the work rate of Alejandro Moreno. He gives you the same effort every game. If you read the box score, you only see that he played 90. If you watch the game, you see how he runs, with and without the ball. How he holds up play, how he draws fouls. He opens up space for Le Toux and vice versa. He battles for every ball.
So now it’s an unbeaten streak of two games. Can the Union get to a three match unbeaten run, or better yet, win two straight?
We’ll take a closer look later in the week as the Union visit the Chicago Fire on Saturday.