The Houston Dynamo begin the 2011 season by playing host to the expansion class of 2010, Philadelphia Union, who start their second season in MLS.
REFEREE: Abbey Okulaja. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Adam Garner; 4th: Andrew Chapin
MLS Career: 103 games; FC/gm: 27.3; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 16; pens: 24
ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Union 1 win, 4 goals … Dynamo 0 wins, 3 goals … Ties 1
AT ROBERTSON STADIUM (1 meeting): Union 1 win, 3 goals … Dynamo 0 wins, 2 goals … Ties 0
RETURN MATCH: 8/6: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo, 7:30 p.m. ET
LAST YEAR (MLS):
5/29: HOU 2, PHI 3 (Ching 52; Robinson 59 – Salinas 39; Le Toux 69; Mwanga 90)
10/2: PHI 1, HOU 1 (Le Toux 40 – Hainault 11)
- Union earned the club’s first-ever win on the road in their expansion season against Houston, one of just two away wins on the season. Danny Mwanga’s 90th-minute goal was the difference in the 3-2 win on May 29.
Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear v PHI: P2 W0 L1 D1 … Peter Nowak vs. HOU: P4 W2 L1 D1
Moving to the Eastern Conference for 2011 with the addition of the two expansion clubs, the Houston Dynamo are looking to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs after missing out for the first time last year. The Dynamo were seventh in the Western Conference with 33 points from a 9-15-6 record.
- The Dynamo concluded their preseason schedule with a pair of matches in suburban Atlanta against MLS foes. After a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, the Dynamo finished with a 3-1 win against the New England Revolution.
- Rookie Will Bruin scored a pair of goals midway through the first half, and Alex Dixon added a late tally for the Dynamo.
- Here’s Dominic Kinnear’s team: Tally Hall, Hunter Freeman, Andrew Hainault, Jermaine Taylor, Eddie Robinson 70, Kofi Sarkodie, Brad Davis, Jordan Graye, Geoff Cameron, Alex Dixon, Lovel Palmer, Mike Chabala, Corey Ashe, Danny Cruz, Will Bruin, Dominic Oduro, Jason Garey Cam Weaver
- Bruin was selected with the 11th overall pick in January’s SuperDraft, after the Dynamo made a deal with the Portland Timbers to gain the slot.
- “It’s definitely an awesome opportunity if (Kinnear) has faith in me to go ahead,” Bruin said to the Houston Chronicle. “Hopefully, Brian (Ching) can heal up quick so he can come back. Obviously, when he’s on the field, there’s just a different feel about it. I’m looking forward to playing Philly. Hopefully, I can get in the game, get some playing time and do some good things.”
- Ching suffered an injury to his right hamstring in the match against Columbus and was listed as doubtful to play in the season opener.
- “Am I 100 percent? No,” Ching said. “Do I think I’ll be 100 percent for this weekend? No, but we’ll see how this week progresses. At this point I’d say doubtful for the weekend just because I don’t want to have another setback.” Said Kinnear: “We’ve played a lot in the preseason without him. We’re used to it a little bit, but I think we’re a much more complete team if he’s healthy and available for us.”
- The Dynamo also have a veteran option available up top in Jason Garey, acquired in the offseason from the Columbus Crew. Garey had six goals over the last two seasons with the Crew.
- "He's very smart," Brad Davis said of Garey. "He's another hold-up guy, but he makes very smart runs, holds the ball up in right positions, lays the ball off in the right spots. I like to have a guy like that to hold the ball. And he's not afraid to take one or two touches and try to knock it out wide or create space for himself. Obviously from watching him in Columbus and since he's been here so far, he puts the work in on the field."
- Davis has continued his threat from standard situations during the preseason. He’s scored four goals – one penalty kick and three direct from free kicks, including goals against Toronto FC and FC Dallas.
- "He's one of the best in the league, left- or right-footed, whatever you want to say," Kinnear said of Davis to the Chronicle. "He gives you a chance to score. He's at a very high percentage on hitting the target directly or giving guys a chance to score from either corners or dead balls. I think everyone knows on both sides of the ball that if you give him a chance from 30 yards out and in with a dead-ball situation we have a pretty dangerous threat."
Philadelphia Union kick off their second season with some veteran additions. In their expansion year a season ago, Union finished with 31 points from 30 matches, an 8-15-7 record good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
- Union have had a jet-setting preseason, finishing up in Greece last week. They defeated Greek third division side Hersonissos FC 5-0 in their preseason finale, after a 1-1 draw with their hosts, Ergotelis FC, in their first.
- Against Hersonissos, all five goals were scored in the second half, with two apiece from forwards Chris Agorsor and Jack McInerney and the final tally from Danny Mwanga.
- Carlos Ruiz scored the lone Union goal in the first Greek exhibition. Union’s first major acquisition came with the addition of Colombian international goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.
- The 39-year-old has assumed a first-choice role with rookies Thorne Holder and Zac MacMath in reserve; both regulars from a season ago, Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton, are no longer with the club.
- "It is great to have an experienced player, such as Faryd, show his desire and commitment to become a member of the Philadelphia Union family," Union coach Peter Nowak said. "We believe he will be a valuable mentor to our younger players."
- The latest addition came in Ruiz, who returns to MLS after two seasons abroad with Aris FC in the Greek top flight. Ruiz is tied for ninth on the all-time MLS goalscoring list with 82.
- "It's a great opportunity for me to come back to Major League Soccer," Ruiz said. "[My goal is to] try to show from the beginning why I'm here, try to work very hard and be an example with my teammates. I'm a very aggressive forward. The passion I feel for this game, I don't think other players feel it like me. I always try to win, no matter what. If it's practice or if it's a game, I always want to win."
- With the addition of Ruiz to an attacking corps that features last year’s rookie standout in Danny Mwanga, as well as youngsters Agorsor and McInerney, there could be more freedom for Sebastien Le Toux throughout the Union scheme – which Nowak said could vary widely from a tactical approach, whether a 4-4-2, 4-2-2-2, 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1.
- “When I talked with the coach he told me he wanted me as a forward. In Seattle Sigi Schmid saw me as a wide midfielder, and so I was more happy to come here and play this position,” said Le Toux. “When I was younger I played as a wide defender and sometimes in the midfield. Because I played a lot of positions when I was younger maybe I am more aware of how to make my runs and help my team, so I try to use that as much as I can.”