Preview: Philly, Houston clash in crucial Eastern tilt

Philadelphia Union will be looking to jumpstart another unbeaten run at home when the Houston Dynamo come to PPL Park on Saturday evening in a vital Eastern Conference matchup for both clubs. Union are coming off a 1-1 draw at midweek at the Chicago Fire. The Dynamo last posted an impressive victory, a 3-1 win against Seattle Sounders FC.

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REFEREE: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Peter Manikowski; JAR (opposite): Chris Strickland; 4th: Ismail Elfath
MLS Career: 149 games; FC/gm: 28.4; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 48; pens: 49

INJURY REPORT: PHILADELPHIA UNION – QUESTIONABLE: FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain) …

HOUSTON DYNAMO – OUT: FW Will Bruin (L knee surgery); MF Danny Cruz (R quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Calen Carr (concussion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: HOU: Brad Davis … PHI: Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: HOU: Danny Cruz, Cam Weaver … PHI: Danny Califf, Danny Mwanga, Carlos Valdes

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (3 meetings): Union 2 wins, 5 goals … Dynamo 0 wins, 3 goals … Ties 1
AT PPL PARK (1 meeting): Union 0 win, 1 goal … Dynamo 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 1
•    Union won for the second consecutive season in Houston, as they made Danny Califf’s fifth-minute goal stand up for a 1-0 victory March 19 at Robertson Stadium in the first meeting this season.
•    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

LAST MEETING (MLS)
3/19: HOU 0, PHI 1 (Califf 5)
•    The only goal of the game came after just five minutes. A long throw into the box from Sheanon Williams from the right was turned onto the post by Sebastien Le Toux, but Danny Califf was there to prod home the rebound.
•    HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-1-3-2): Tally Hall - Hunter Freeman (Danny Cruz 74), Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault - Lovel Palmer - Corey Ashe, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis - Will Bruin (Dominic Oduro 61), Jason Garey (Cam Weaver 57).
•    PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey - Kyle Nakazawa (Gabriel Farfan 70), Stefani Miglioranzi, Brian Carroll, Justin Mapp (Danny Mwanga 58) - Carlos Ruiz (Amobi Okugo 85), Sebastien Le Toux.

PHILADELPHIA UNION
Philadelphia Union extended their away unbeaten streak to four games, coming away from Toyota Park with a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Wednesday evening. Union have 32 points from 21 matches on the year, in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    Union took the lead after 34 minutes against the run of play. Veljko Paunovic picked up a loose ball about 30 yards from goal, took a touch and ripped a left-footed effort into the lower left corner.
•    The Fire pulled even thanks to a fortunate bounce of their own in the 54th minute. A Union defender cleared a Nyarko cross, but just to the top of the box, and Pardo ran onto it, slotting a low shot into the left corner for his first MLS goal.
•    Union manager Peter Nowak made four changes to the team that dropped a 2-1 decision to the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park. Michael Farfan came in at right back for the suspended Sheanon Williams, and Stefani Miglioranzi, Roger Torres and Veljko Paunovic came into the side in place of Kyle Nakazawa, Keon Daniel and Danny Mwanga.
•    PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Faryd Mondragon - Michael Farfan, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan - Brian Carroll, Stefani Miglioranzi - Sebastien Le Toux, Roger Torres (Danny Mwanga 61), Justin Mapp (Keon Daniel 87) - Veljko Paunovic (Kyle Nakazawa 75).

TEAM NEWS
•    Veljko Paunovic made his first start since July 2, missing two league games entirely and coming on as a substitute the Friday before vs. Colorado.
•    “I think Pauno stepped up,” said Union coach John Hackworth. “We asked him to play a different role tonight. We started him out high alone, with attacking players joining him. But he wasn’t really finding the game early, so we moved him farther wide, switched him with [Sebastien Le Toux], and that allowed him freedom to come find the ball underneath. It was better for him once we did that.”
•    Paunovic scored his second MLS goal, his first coming June 25 vs. Chivas USA.
•    “He had a good game and obviously a fantastic goal,” Hackworth said of Paunovic. “But then again, through the second half, he put the ball on floor, tried to control things, gave us some composure. So that was really good.”
•    Peter Nowak was not on the sidelines after undergoing a minor surgical procedure on his back. Hackworth handled the bench duties for the Chicago game; Nowak is expected to be back on the touchline for the Houston match.
•    “In the end, I think we have to be satisfied with the game,” Paunovic said. “We got one point. This was a very hard game for us, a very hard place for us to win. They showed they are a solid squad and they pushed very hard all game. So I think one point is not bad.”
•    Union have come away with six of a possible 12 points from their last four away matches, since a 1-0 loss at Vancouver on June 18.
•    “I think it was a hard-fought game," said defender Danny Califf. "The tempo went back and forth. The momentum swung back and forth between both teams during certain periods of the game. I think we both had good chances to score but we didn’t. It’s never nice to kiss your sister but it’s better than losing I guess.”

HOUSTON DYNAMO
The Houston Dynamo returned home and got back on track, defeating Seattle Sounders FC 3-1 on Saturday evening at Robertson Stadium. The Dynamo have 27 points from 22 games on the season, sitting in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    The Dynamo took the lead after seven minutes. Geoff Cameron sent in a cross that Brian Ching was unable to bring down, but Colin Clark was right there in the six-yard box to settle the ball and put home a left-footed shot.
•    The home side doubled its lead in the 23rd minute when Cameron took a layoff from Brad Davis and put a curling ball in the box, where Ching sent a well-placed header just inside the left post.
•    Seattle pulled within one in the 36th minute when forward Fredy Montero drew a foul in the penalty box after Corey Ashe caught him from behind. Referee Niko Bratsis immediately pointed to the spot, and Alvaro Fernandez converted the penalty kick.
•    But the Dynamo restored their margin in the 70th minute after a furious sequence that saw Houston take three shots. Cam Weaver and Adam Moffat both saw efforts from distance blocked until Clark finally sent a right-footed pass across the box that Ching buried from the corner of the six-yard box.
•    Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made five changes to the team that fell 3-0 to Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center. Hunter Freeman and Bobby Boswell came into the back four for Kofi Sarkodie and Jermaine Taylor, Colin Clark and Adam Moffat entered the midfield for Danny Cruz and the suspended Je-Vaughn Watson, and Brian Ching started up top for Cam Weaver.
•    HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-4-2): Tally Hall - Hunter Freeman, Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe - Colin Clark (Alex Dixon 90), Adam Moffat, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis - Will Bruin (Cam Weaver 31), Brian Ching (Jason Garey 87).

TEAM NEWS
•    The Dynamo scored more than two goals in a game for the first time since a 4-1 win vs. D.C. United on April 29. They are now looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since April 10-17.
•    “I told them afterwards I think it’s the best we have played this year,” Dynamo boss Dominic Kinnear said. “Energy was good, enthusiasm was excellent, and we scored a couple good goals in the beginning of the game, which gave us some energy and some confidence.”
•    Brian Ching scored two goals for the Dynamo, his second and third of the season (his first came June 25 vs. D.C. United). It was the first time since last Aug. 21, when he scored a hat trick, that Ching hit for multiple goals in a game.
•    “I thought we did a pretty good job of pressuring them and winning some second balls. I thought Brian Ching’s movement tonight in the box was excellent. I thought the energy was good, and that was a key for us tonight,” Kinnear said.
•    Brad Davis recorded his 10th assist of the season in the 3-1 win against Seattle, the third consecutive season he’s hit double-digits in assists, and the fourth time in six league seasons with the Dynamo.
•    “Tonight it looked like everybody was on top of things. Adam [Moffat] came in, his first start for us, and made a good contribution. For myself, I feel like I owe the team a little bit, so I wanted to make an impact,” said Ching. “I was fortunate to get some great crosses in tonight and put the ball in the ball in the back of the net.”
•    But there was bad news coming out of the Seattle match. Will Bruin was forced off the field after just a half-hour after suffering an injury to his left knee, and he underwent surgery to repair damage to the lateral meniscus. He will miss 4-6 weeks.
•    As well, winger Danny Cruz will be out of action for the same timeframe after suffering a torn quadriceps muscle.
•    Calen Carr has started to make his return back from a concussion, though he still has yet to receive medical clearance to participate in full training.
•    “We brought him here because we know what type of forward he is,” said Kinnear. “He’s one of those players that has good pace and can get behind the defense. We knew his condition before he came but we also knew that he’s the type of forward we can use. He’s progressing and hopefully his health can give us four forwards soon.”