REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Peter Manikowski; 4th: Edvin Jurisevic
HOUSTON DYNAMO - OUT: FW Cam Weaver (R hip)
PHILADELPHIA UNION - OUT: GK Thorne Holder (concussion); FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Michael Farfan (R foot contusion); FW Veljko Paunovic (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Justin Mapp (L quad strain)
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow): HOU: Danny Cruz, Adam Moffat ... PHI: Brian Carroll, Gabriel Farfan, Stefani Miglioranzi, Sheanon Williams
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 0 wins, 4 GF...PHI 2 wins, 6 GF...Ties 2
2011 HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 0 wins, 1 GF; PHI 1 win, 2 GF; 1 ties
AT ROBERTSON STADIUM:3/19: HOU 0, PHI 1 (Califf 5)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: HOU 1 win, 2 GF; PHI 0 wins, 1 GF; 0 ties
- For the first time in five two-leg series in their playoff history, the Dynamo opened with a victory. It was also the first time they've won on the road in the postseason in club history.
- “I think we knew they would be a counterattacking team and that they would sit back, try to defend, and then throw numbers forward. And that is exactly what they did,” said Brad Davis.
- Including the final two games of the regular season, the Dynamo have now won three in a row on the road -- something they last did late in 2007.
- Tally Hall was credited with 10 saves for the game, two shy of the all-time MLS playoff record, set in 1996 (Mark Dodd, DAL) and 2005 (Joe Cannon, COL).
- “It seemed like every couple of minutes I was going back there, patting him on the back, and saying, ‘Good job there,’” Andre Hainault said. “I don’t like doing that, but he was big for us, and we’re going to need a big performance from him on Thursday.”
- After starting four of the final five league games in attack after missing the first five months with a concussion, Calen Carr was given the start in the playoff opener and scored his first postseason goal.
- “Any time the coach has enough confidence in you to give you a start, you want to play well,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “He seemed confident when he stepped on the field, and he had a good goal.”
- Hainault scored his fifth goal in all competitions since coming to Houston. All have come in October (the goal in Philadelphia his first in the playoffs), and all on the road.
- “It’s funny that I score all my goals on the road and they’ve come late in the season, but I’ll take them when they come,” Hainault said.
- The league's assist leader, Davis, set up the first goal with a set-piece service. "When you have a guy like Brad who can whip a ball in and then you have guys like myself, Carlo [Costly], Ching [Brian], you got Calen [Carr] and you got Andre Hainault, all big guys running around in the box something is bound to happen. ... Anytime he’s on the ball we think we’re going to score so that’s a great mindset to be able to have," said Geoff Cameron.
- The big surprise from Union team manager Peter Nowak came from the opening whistle, when he installed Stefani Miglioranzi as a sweeper between center backs Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes.
- “We decided to [play with 5 defenders] not just from a defensive standpoint, but from an offensive standpoint as well," Nowak said. "We could push (our fullbacks) up further on the wings. I think that we weren’t balanced as well in the first half. There were some easy passes going to our wings. It was easy for Houston to put some passes together."
- After the break, Nowak pushed Miglioranzi forward into the center of midfield alongside Brian Carroll, returning to a back four.
- “I think we were trying to get an extra guy in the box to deal with their crosses and things like that. That left a lot of room for (Carroll) to have to cover on his own," said Califf. "I think we were much more effective in the second half when we pushed an extra guy into midfield to help (Carroll) out so he didn’t have to cover 40 yards square by himself."
- In addition, Union's three second-half substitutes -- Jack McInerney, Roger Torres and Freddy Adu -- helped increase the pressure on the Houston goal after the interval.
- “[Houston] move the ball from side to side and there’s a lot of running involved,” Nowak said. “We cannot play a couple of guys just looking at the game. So we need to see. But I don’t necessarily disagree that they brought us life and brought us something different.”
- After going a club-record eight games without losing from Sept. 7-Oct. 15, Union have now lost their last two matches.
- “It may be good for this team to go into the second leg not feeling the pressure to defend a 1-1 tie or a 1-0 goal difference,” Nowak said. “So it maybe is a good thing that the pressure is off right now and we have nothing to lose going into Houston."
- Union are returning to Robertson Stadium where they've seen their most success of any road venue. They won for the first time ever away from home in their inaugural season, and started this year with a 1-0 win there.
- “I think we have all the confidence that we can go there and win,” said Califf, who scored the lone goal earlier this year. "If not 2-0, we’ll take it and we’ll go into overtime and take our chances."