Match preview: Union out to keep lid on slow-boiling Eastern Conference foe Houston


Six matches remain in the 2013 regular season.

That’s 18 points up for grabs.

Beginning Saturday against the Houston Dynamo at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets) , the Union will be looking to accumulate enough points to earn a second playoff berth in four seasons.

The Union (10-9-9, 39 points) haven’t won since Aug. 10, going the next four matches with two draws and two losses.

The final countdown begins now.

“I think three points this Saturday puts us in a position to still be involved in that playoff race,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “That’s our focus, more so than needing three points to jump into the top three. Right now, things are so tight, we want to focus on the only thing we can control, which is our result against Houston. The players know it. It’s clear. Everybody understands the importance of it.”

Houston will get a boost with the return of Brad Davis from international duty.

Though the Dynamo (10-10-7, 37 points) haven’t been as crisp as past seasons, they’re always a tough test for the Union.

“I look at (manager) Dominic Kinnear teams and every year he gets his team ready,” Hackworth said. “That’s why he’s been one of the best coaches in MLS for as long as he has. We know we’re going to get a very different Houston team than we saw last time, they get a couple guys back from injury. Brad Davis comes back from the National Team, it’ll be a drastically different team than the one that played against New York.”

The Union last played at San Jose and came away with a frustrating 1-0 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Philadelphia has been terrific all season at rebounding. It hasn’t dropped two in a row all season.

Hackworth even intimated there could be changes in the lineup when Houston visits.

“I think there’s more positions open this week probably than there has been really maybe all season because we wanted to emphasize the fact that it was unacceptable on many levels on Sunday night,” Hackworth said. “Now, I think that bodes well for when guys are working hard in training that they smell that a little bit. They know that there’s an opportunity there. When the coaching staff isn’t happy with the performance, the logical thing is maybe to interject a new face in there or change something tactically.”

In the last four games, the Union have scored just one goal.

Hackworth and the technical staff have watched the tape. They know how quickly that can change. With six matches left, that time is now.

“I think the pressure is now on our front five, our two strikers and three attacking-minded midfielders,” Hackworth said. “Whether it’s Keon Daniel, Conor Casey, (Jack) McInerney, Sebastien (Le Toux), (Danny) Cruz or Michael Farfan, whoever we put in there, someone on our team has to start making the big plays that all teams need. Now we’re in position where we need to have a guy step up and make a play -- make a big play for this team.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at

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