Undermanned and exhausted, Philadelphia Union find obvious excuses too easy in Houston

The Philadelphia Union were playing their second road game in four days and were missing six regulars for Saturday’s game against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.

It showed.

Failing to overcome the Houston heat and the challenges of playing with a very different attacking corps, the Union never got much going in a 1-0 setback to the Dynamo.

“It was hard,” Union striker Conor Casey said. “We were missing a couple of guys and it’s a very difficult place to play here with the heat. With that said, we’ve still got to find a way to do a better job with the ball and make it a little easier on ourselves.”

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Joining Casey up top was Aaron Wheeler, who was making his MLS starting debut. Also for the Union; forward Antoine Hoppenot made his first start of the season (and did so as a winger); Leo Fernandes made his second career start; Don Anding made his MLS debut; and deep reserves Roger Torres and Matt Kassel saw time as second-half subs after each playing in just two games before Saturday.

Union manager John Hackworth was forced into such a different lineup due to injuries to midfielders Michael Farfan, Danny Cruz, Kléberson and Michael Lahoud, as well as the international absences of key starters Jack McInerney and Keon Daniel.

“I think it was a great opportunity for some of our younger guys,” Hackworth said. “I had no problem with how they played. I think they all did great.”

What Hackworth did have a problem was how his team had “a lot of silly turnovers and that meant we were working a lot harder.” And even though he used an attack-minded lineup and told his team to press the hosts, the Union were back on their heels most of the game and allowed 21 attempts on goal.

The breakthrough for the Dynamo came in the 59th minute with a goal from Ricardo Clark -- which proved to be enough to send the Dynamo to their first win since May 8.

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“I just watched it a bunch of times,” Hackworth said of the goal. “We don’t defend collectively as a group. We leave the guy open in the box and you can’t do that at this level.”

The Union, meanwhile, didn’t have many scoring opportunities as they limp back to Philly with one point on their pocket from this week’s grueling two-game road trip through Real Salt Lake and Houston.

“We didn’t really establish what we wanted to do with the ball,” Casey said. “Today just wasn’t a very good day in general. But I think the past month has been pretty consistent, so we just have to go back to what we were doing and take it from there.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.