Union eager to retake top Eastern spot in Houston matchup

Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga

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CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union did not want to leave Chicago with just one point after Wednesday’s midweek game at Toyota Park, but they also realized it could have been worse.

“It’s never nice to kiss your sister,” said Union defender Danny Califf following the club’s mostly forgettable 1-1 tie, “but it’s better than losing, I guess.”

Just three days after their underwhelming result, the Union will look for a decidedly more upbeat feeling when they host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at PPL Park (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

In other words, they want three points.

While the Union (8-5-8) are still on solid footing in second place in the Eastern Conference, they’ve earned just one point in the two games since their 12-day layoff to entertain foreign clubs.

The Dynamo (6-7-9), meanwhile, currently sit in fifth place in the East, but they could pull to within two points of Philly with a victory on Saturday.

“It’s not like we’re worried about them catching us,” Union striker Sebastien Le Toux said. “We just want to keep space between [them and] us and maybe try to make it bigger.”

Philly opened the season with a 1-0 win over Houston on a rare goal from Califf and a sterling MLS debut from goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón – a road triumph that set the tone for what would become a far better second year for the Union.

The Dynamo, however, come into PPL Park for Saturday’s game with a different look after acquiring Honduran international striker Carlo Costly on Thursday. Costly, who has 18 goals in 46 appearances for the Honduras national team, joins a talented Dynamo side that includes four MLS All-Stars – goalkeeper Tally Hall, defenders Corey Ashe and Geoff Cameron, and midfielder Brad Davis.

The Union could be set to make a big splash of their own soon, but until they do, they’ll need to find a way to avoid a midseason lull. More specifically, they will need to fill in the hole up top vacated by leading scorer Carlos Ruiz, who has just signed a contract with Veracruz of Mexico.

Serbian Veljko Paunović came to the rescue for Philly with a goal from distance against the Fire, but much of the scoring burden will now fall on Le Toux. He netted 14 goals a year ago, but has yet to score in the run of play this season despite playing all 1,890 minutes.

The Frenchman, though, isn’t feeling any extra personal responsibility.

“We showed at the beginning of the year [that] everyone can score,” added Le Toux. “There’s not any more pressure just because Carlos is not with us right now. It’s just a little different.” 

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.