CHESTER, Pa. – As soon as the final whistle blew in the Philadelphia Union’s 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo in the first-leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday, Philly players began talking about how ready they are for the decisive second-leg.
Their chance to prove it has arrived.
Trailing by a goal, the Union will be looking to score early in Thursday’s second-leg game at Robertson Stadium (8:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, live chat on MLS.soccer.com), before shifting their priorities to taking the aggregate lead and advancing to this weekend’s Eastern Conference final.
“Fortunately for us, it’s a two-leg affair,” Union midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi. “We’re still in a very good position to go there and battle for a position in the Eastern Conference Championship. One goal is all it’s going to take from us [to tie it], and I think we have more than that in us.”
While certainly not in a favorable position, the Union at least feel fortunate that they go into Thursday’s game knowing what they need to do. And it’s no secret what that it is: putting a lot of pressure on the Houston defense from the start.
“I don’t think it becomes easier but it makes it more clear for us,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. “We certainly know exactly what we have to do going into the game. In this case, it changes a little for sure when you’re talking about the selection and who’s going to be in the starting 11.”
Few people outside the Union locker room know exactly what that starting 11 will look like. But regardless of who starts and who comes off the bench, Philly feel confident that if they follow up on their performance in the first game of the series – when they finished with 11 shots on target – they’ll be able to break through and score at least once.
“Everyone knows what it requires,” Hackworth said. “We just have to be a little bit more effective in our attack. There are some things we can do to maybe put them in a better position and allow them a chance to execute in front of goal.”
Of course, the Union have to also be mindful of not falling into an even deeper hole against a Dynamo team that will look to counter and continue to use their set-piece prowess to find the back of the net. Luckily for Philly, they have typically defended well this season when they push a lot of numbers forward.
“They have an advantage going into it. They know we’re going to come in and attack them,” Hackworth said of the Dynamo. “I think it will make for a pretty interesting game. And I think if I were in Houston’s shoes, I’d be looking to get that next goal to make sure they don’t leave it until the last minute.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org