vs. Philadelphia Union
Saturday, March 19, 7:30 p.m. CT
Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX
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All-time record: Philadelphia leads 1-0-1
7:30 p.m. KHOU 11.2 (English)
7:30 p.m. FOX Sports Houston (English)
7:00 p.m. KPRC 950 (English)
7:00 p.m. La Ranchera 850 (Spanish)
7:00 a.m. (Sunday) TV Azteca-51 (Spanish)
Game Guide - downloadable PDF
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LAST YEAR (MLS):
5/29: HOU 2, PHI 3 (Ching 52; Robinson 59 – Salinas 39; Le Toux 69; Mwanga 90)
10/2: PHI 1, HOU 1 (Le Toux 40 – Hainault 11)
- Union earned the club’s first-ever win on the road in their expansion season against Houston, one of just two away wins on the season. ’s 90th-minute goal was the difference in the 3-2 win on May 29.
Coaches' records: Dominic Kinnear vs. Philadelphia (0-1-1) … Peter Nowak vs. Houston (2-1-1)
With the addition of two expansion clubs in 2011, the Houston Dynamo moved to the Eastern Conference and are looking to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs after missing out for the first time last year. The Dynamo finished seventh in the Western Conference in 2010 with 33 points and a 9-15-6 record.
- The Dynamo concluded their preseason schedule with a pair of matches in suburban Atlanta against MLS foes. After a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, the Dynamo finished with a 3-1 win against the New England Revolution.
- Rookie Will Bruin scored a pair of goals midway through the first half, and Alex Dixon added a late tally for the Dynamo.
- Bruin was selected with the 11th overall pick in January’s SuperDraft after the Dynamo made a draft-day deal with the Portland Timbers to gain the slot.
- “It’s definitely an awesome opportunity if (Kinnear) has faith in me to go ahead,” Bruin said to the Houston Chronicle. “Hopefully, Brian (Ching) can heal up quick so he can come back. Obviously, when he’s on the field, there’s just a different feel about it. I’m looking forward to playing Philly. Hopefully, I can get in the game, get some playing time and do some good things.”
- Ching suffered an injury to his right hamstring in the match against Columbus and is listed as doubtful to play in the season opener.
- “Am I 100 percent? No,” Ching said. “Do I think I’ll be 100 percent for this weekend? No, but we’ll see how this week progresses. At this point I’d say I'm doubtful for the weekend just because I don’t want to have another setback.” Said Kinnear: “We’ve played a lot in the preseason without him. We’re used to it a little bit, but I think we’re a much more complete team if he’s healthy and available for us.”
- The Dynamo also have a veteran option available up top in Jason Garey, acquired in the offseason from the Columbus Crew. Garey had six goals in MLS play over the last two seasons with the Crew.
- "He's very smart," Brad Davis said of Garey. "He's another hold-up guy, but he makes very smart runs, holds the ball up in right positions, lays the ball off in the right spots. I like to have a guy like that to hold the ball. And he's not afraid to take one or two touches and try to knock it out wide or create space for himself. Obviously from watching him in Columbus and since he's been here so far, he puts the work in on the field."
- Davis has continued his threat from set pieces during the preseason. He has scored four goals – one penalty kick and three direct from free kicks, including goals against Toronto FC and FC Dallas.
- "He's one of the best in the league, left- or right-footed, whatever you want to say," Kinnear said of Davis to the Chronicle. "He gives you a chance to score. He's at a very high percentage on hitting the target directly or giving guys a chance to score from either corners or dead balls. I think everyone knows on both sides of the ball that if you give him a chance from 30 yards out and in with a dead-ball situation we have a pretty dangerous threat."
The Philadelphia Union kick off their second season with some veteran additions. In their expansion year a season ago, Union finished with 31 points from 30 matches, an 8-15-7 record good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
- The Union have had a jet-setting preseason, finishing up in Greece last week. They defeated Greek third division side Hersonissos FC 5-0 in their preseason finale, after a 1-1 draw with their hosts, Ergotelis FC, in their first match.
- Against Hersonissos, all five goals were scored in the second half, with two each from forwards Chris Agorsor and and the final tally from Danny Mwanga.
- Carlos Ruiz scored the lone Union goal in the first Greek exhibition. The Union’s first major acquisition came with the addition of Colombian international goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.
- The 39-year-old has assumed first-choice role with rookies Thorne Holder and in reserve. Both regulars from a season ago, and Brad Knighton, are no longer with the club.
- "It is great to have an experienced player, such as Faryd, show his desire and commitment to become a member of the Philadelphia Union family," Union coach Peter Nowak said. "We believe he will be a valuable mentor to our younger players."
- The latest addition came in Ruiz, who returns to MLS after two seasons abroad with Aris FC in the Greek top flight. Ruiz is tied for ninth on the all-time MLS goalscoring list with 82.
- "It's a great opportunity for me to come back to Major League Soccer," Ruiz said. "[My goal is to] try to show from the beginning why I'm here, try to work very hard and be an example with my teammates. I'm a very aggressive forward. The passion I feel for this game, I don't think other players feel it like me. I always try to win, no matter what. If it's practice or if it's a game, I always want to win."
- With the addition of Ruiz to an attacking corps that features last year’s rookie standout in Danny Mwanga, as well as youngsters Agorsor and McInerney, there could be more freedom for throughout the Union scheme – which Nowak said could vary widely from a tactical approach, whether a 4-4-2, 4-2-2-2, 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1.
- “When I talked with the coach he told me he wanted me as a forward. In Seattle, Sigi Schmid saw me as a wide midfielder, and so I was more happy to come here and play this position,” said Le Toux. “When I was younger I played as a wide defender and sometimes in the midfield. Because I played a lot of positions when I was younger maybe I am more aware of how to make my runs and help my team, so I try to use that as much as I can.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
- This is the first chance for goalkeeper Tally Hall to step out of the shadow of Pat Onstad. The youngster needs to build his confidence with a strong showing right out of the gate.
- Geoff Cameron will be a focal point of this offense in 2011, and needs to return to his form prior to injury last year. He needs to take chances, because the Dynamo offense needs him to deliver.
- A healthy Sebastien Le Toux is critical for the Union, and the Frenchman is expected to go, despite an ankle injury.
- Faryd Mondragon gets his first look at real MLS action. He needs to help veteran Danny Califf lead a defensive group that was a weak point at times for this club during their expansion season in 2010.
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L knee); Francisco Navas Cobo (R hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Brian Ching (R hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Juan Diego Gonzalez (L hip flexor strain); PROBABLE: MF Sebastien Le Toux (L ankle sprain)