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Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union | MLS Match Preview

HOUSTON DYNAMO vs PHILADELPHIA UNION
BBVA COMPASS STADIUM, Houston, Texas
Aug. 15, 2014 (WEEK 23, MLS Game #211)
9 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Stream on NBCSports.com/TSN2)

A pair of teams in the thick of the race for playoff places in the Eastern Conference meet when the Houston Dynamo take on Philadelphia Union at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night before an NBC Sports Network audience. The teams are separated by five points in the division, with Union holding a tie for fifth place and the final playoff position, four spots ahead of the Dynamo. Union are undefeated in their last four games after a 2-1 home win against Montréal last weekend, and reached the US Open Cup Final at midweek. The Dynamo are back home after a 2-0 loss at Seattle.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. AR1 (bench): Frank Anderson; AR2 (opposite): Kermit Quisenberry; 4th: Ted Unkel
MLS Career: 178 games; FC/gm: 25.2; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 62; pens: 66

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: HOU: Kofi Sarkodie
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: HOU: Will Bruin, Ricardo Clark … PHI: Maurice Edu, Fabinho, Raymon Gaddis
DISABLED LIST: none
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (10 meetings): Dynamo 4 wins, 12 goals … Union 3 wins, 11 goals … Ties 3
AT HOUSTON (5 meetings): Dynamo 3 wins, 8 goals … Union 2 wins, 6 goals … Ties 0
FUTURE MATCH: 9/20: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo, 7 p.m. ET

2014 (MLS):
4/19: PHI 0, HOU 0
• The teams are meeting for the second time this season. They played to a scoreless draw April 19 at PPL Park.
• The draw in the first meeting ended a three-game Dynamo winning streak in the series. The Dynamo have won the last three meetings at BBVA Compass Stadium.
• Union were unbeaten vs. the Dynamo in their first four meetings, until Houston won both legs of an Eastern Conference Semifinal Series between the clubs in 2011.
• Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear vs. PHI: P9 W4 L3 D3 … Jim Curtin vs. HOU: first game

LAST MEETING (MLS)

• Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall wasn't called upon to make a single save on the afternoon, while Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was credited with two saves. The closest either team came to scoring was in the first half when an attempy by Dynamo striker Will Bruin found the woodwork.
• The Dynamo finished a man down when Kofi Sarkodie was shown a second yellow card by referee Armando Villarreal for time-wasting and was sent off in the 82nd minute.
• PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-1-2-3): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Aaron Wheeler, Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis - Brian Carroll - Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira - Andrew Wenger, Conor Casey (Sebastien Le Toux 63), Cristian Maidana (Leo Fernandes 56).
• HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-3-1-2): Tally Hall - Kofi Sarkodie (ejected 82), Jermaine Taylor, David Horst, Corey Ashe - Tony Cascio (Omar Cummings 75), Ricardo Clark (Servando Carrasco 89), Andrew Driver (Warren Creavalle 65) - Boniek Garcia - Giles Barnes, Will Bruin.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

The Houston Dynamo weren’t able to build on their first win in more than two months, falling 2-0 to Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday evening at CenturyLink Field. The Dynamo are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 22 points from 22 games.

LAST MATCH

• The Dynamo had a golden opportunity to grab an early lead in the 26th minute after a shot from Boniek Garcia caught defender Djimi Traore on the arm inside the Sounders FC area, and referee Chris Penso awarded a penalty kick. But goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a huge diving save, denying a stutter-step attempt by the Dynamo's Brad Davis to keep the game scoreless.
• The game's goals came in a six-minute span in the second half. Sounders FC finally broke through in the 69th minute after Marco Pappa was able to give himself room just outside the Houston penalty area before hitting a shot that deflected off Houston defender David Horst, sending ‘keeper Tally Hall in the wrong direction as the ball skipped into the net.
• Seattle extended the lead in the 75th minute after Ricardo Clark was called for a foul for pulling down Obafemi Martins in the box, and referee Penso again pointed to the spot. Hall guessed correctly on Gonzalo Pineda’s attempt to blast his shot up the middle, but the ball deflected under his gloves and into the net.
• Seattle was dealt a big blow in the 86th minute when Martins was shown a second yellow card, this time for a hard tackle from behind, and given his marching orders.
• Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made no changes to the team that defeated D.C. United 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
• HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-4-2): Tally Hall - Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor, David Horst (Andrew Driver 81), DaMarcus Beasley - Boniek Garcia, Luis Garrido, Ricardo Clark (Brian Ownby 78), Brad Davis - Giles Barnes, Will Bruin (Jason Johnson 46).

TEAM NEWS

• The Dynamo lost a sixth consecutive game away from home, suffering their seventh loss overall in their last 10 matches.
• “It's always difficult. I think every year is the same, trying to get [to the MLS Cup Playoffs],” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “It's hard, and once you get there, it's what you do. That little spell of games without a win has put us in a hole, so we have to start winning some games if we want to make the playoffs.”
• The Dynamo were also shut out at the attacking end for the sixth time in that 10-game span. Their minus-19 goal differential equals the largest in MLS, along with the Montréal Impact.
• “We have an opportunity with the penalty I missed in the first half, I had the opportunity to put my team up 1-0,” Brad Davis said. “We’re playing well, we’re getting good opportunities on the road and it’s just things like that. It’s not like we were played off the park by any means. It was a wide-open game; we were just unable to take our chances.”
• The Dynamo missed a third penalty kick out of five taken this season, tied for the Chicago Fire for the most unsuccessful spot kicks in the league this season.
• There was a forced injury change at the start of the second half with striker Will Bruin suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Jason Johnson, who was making his first league appearance since June 6.
• “Made a couple of mistakes and a little bit of luck goes their way and there you have it,” Kinnear said. “I thought it was a pretty even game, thought we looked real good in the first half, but they came out with a good push of energy in the second half. Thought we looked good and it takes a little deflection and the momentum swings their way.”
• The unchanged team for the Dynamo made second consecutive MLS starts for DaMarcus Beasley, at left back, and Luis Garrido in a holding role.
• “I thought they were good. I thought they both looked good,” said Kinnear. “I think they've been good the two games they've played for us. They've been good additions to the team.”

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union extended their undefeated streak to five games, defeating the Montréal Impact 2-1 on Saturday evening at PPL Park. Union are in a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 27 points from 23 games.

LAST MATCH

• Union took the lead after 12 minutes, capitalizing on an Impact defensive gaffe. After a long goal kick was sent nearly the length of the field, Montreal defender Krzysztof Krol tried to head the ball back to goalkeeper Troy Perkins. But Sebastien Le Toux pounced on the back pass, raced around Perkins and scored into an open goal.
• The lead was doubled in the 63rd minute when Le Toux hit for his second. Andrew Wenger made a marauding run and found Le Toux outside the area on the right, and he danced around a couple of defenders before hitting a shot from the top of the box through traffic and past Perkins.
• The Impact cut the lead in the 79th minute when Maxim Tissot redirected a long cross from the right from Andres Romero, but they could get no closer than that.
• Union interim manager Jim Curtin made one change to the team that reached a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park. Carlos Valdes came into the team in place of Amobi Okugo.
• PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Carlos Valdes, Raymon Gaddis - Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu - Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira (Fred 86), Danny Cruz (Andrew Wenger 62) - Conor Casey (Brian Brown 72).

TEAM NEWS

• Union extended their overall undefeated streak to five matches in league play, and their home undefeated run to four games. They have lost just once in seven league games under interim manager Jim Curtin.
• We’re going to be a team now that’s a real factor in the Eastern Conference and I’m not talking about fifth place,” said Curtin. “I’m talking about second or third. Like I’ve said I want to push for those spots and make a real run at this thing.”
• Sebastien Le Toux scored a pair of goals in a game for the third time this season. He has 10 goals in league play, tied for sixth in the MLS Golden Boot standings; he’s scored double-digits in goals in a season for the third time in his MLS career.
• Six of Le Toux’s 10 goals have come in the last seven matches, since he’s been installed into the Union first team by Curtin.
• “Since Jim took over, he told me exactly what he wants me to do on this team and my position on the field,” said Le Toux. “I’m not kind of in a no-man’s land not knowing what position he wants me to play.”
• Carlos Valdes made his first appearance for the club since the final game of the 2012 season, after returning from his loan spell. His last competitive match of any sort had come playing for Colombia in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
• “Carlos was excellent,” Curtin said. “He was a beast back there. He wins all his battles. He doesn’t try to do too much passing out of the back for his first game back. … He’s familiar with some of the guys, but it’s been a while. So for him to come into the group and play that well for us, I was very, very happy.”
• Said Valdes: “For some moments of the game, I felt like my body was heavy. The confidence was coming because of the people, because of the fans who like the way that I play. I was trying to do the best that I could.”
• With the return of Valdes, Maurice Edu moved back into a defensive midfield role. Edu had made five consecutive starts in central defense.
• “We knew Carlos was going to be ready to play after seeing him this week and I’m very happy with White right now I think that he deserves to be on the field,” said Curtin. “Maurice did play center back in the All-Star Game and it’s clear he can play both spots. I think he was good in the midfield, breaking up plays and making tackles.”
• Union maintained their scheme of having Le Toux as a lone striker with Vincent Nogueira as the attacking midfielder underneath.
• “He plays in that role a little higher up the field but you can see he likes to come back and get the ball and a lot of the situations we might not get out of cleanly he could get us out of if he were in that deeper spot,” Curtin said. “When [Cristian Maidana] gets back that’s when Vincent will play a little deeper and I get excited thinking about that.”
• On Tuesday, Union advanced to their first final in club history, defeating FC Dallas in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes in their US Open Cup semifinal at Toyota Stadium. Amobi Okugo put Union ahead early in the second half, but Fabian Castillo leveled terms nine minutes from the end. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath saved two penalties during the post-match decider.
• Union will now play host to the U.S. Open Cup final, against either Seattle Sounders FC or the Chicago Fire.
• Here’s the Union team: Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Maurice Edu, Raymon Gaddis, Ethan White, Michael Lahoud, Amobi Okugo, Vincent Nogueira, Sebastian Le Toux (Cristian Maidana 98), Andrew Wenger (Danny Cruz 90), Conor Casey (Brian Brown 67).