With strikers on the shelf, Andre Blake heroics not enough for Philadelphia

HOUSTON—For 94 minutes on Saturday, the Philadelphia Union did enough to earn a draw on a muggy night against the Houston Dynamo. But a 94th-minute free-kick beauty from former Union playmaker Cristian Maidana took care of that, and the Union were defeated, 1-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday.

Disappointed by the last-minute loss, Union head coach Jim Curtin believed his team did enough to earn a point, while noting they “couldn’t muster the extra energy to push and get a goal.” They were additionally hampered by the late ejection of defender Josh Yaro, who picked up a debated second yellow card in the 87th minute, forcing them to sub dangerous midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta for another defender.

The Eastern Conference leaders, Philadelphia entered Saturday’s game having scored a league-high 29 goals, but the Dynamo defense stifled the Union attack. At halftime, Philadelphia had zero shots on target; by game’s end, they upped that to two.

“At the end of the day, credit to Houston,” Curtin said. “I think [interim head coach Wade Barrett] has done a very good job making them very organized and difficult to break down.”

Part of the problem could have been the Union’s three missing strikers.

CJ [Sapong] is our starting striker, and he’s just coming back from injury,” Curtin said. “That was his first 30 minutes and I thought he did good job in the short time that he played. [Rookie] Fabian Herbers has been injured with his hamstring, so we miss him, he’s a good young striker. And Sebastian LeToux had a concussion, so we had to juggle a little bit.”

That juggling act resulted in Roland Alberg as the central attacking midfielder. Curtin praised Alberg’s work, considering he was playing out of position.

“He did a good job holding the ball and drawing some fouls,” Curtin said.

The loss was minutes from being a nil-nil draw and Union keeper Andre Blake was a big reason why. The Jamaica international recorded six saves to keep the Dynamo off the scorer’s sheet before the Maidana free kick.

Blake's efforts in defeat didn't go unnoticed by his head coach.

“He’s done a great job keeping us in games,” said Curtin. “He’s the reason we’re right at the top of the Eastern Conference right now and we look for him to continue his form in the second half of the year.”