The Houston Dynamo reverted to a familiar script on Saturday evening, locking down the backline and getting a restart goal to take a much-needed 1-0 win from the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.
Houston's lone goal, and the lone goal of the match, came in the 53rd minute and it was vintage Dynamo. Brad Davis swung in a free kick from 40 yards out, and Ricardo Clark was able to squeeze between two defenders to head home from from inside the six. It was just the third goal the Dynamo had scored in their last five matches, but it was a crucial one that gave them their first win in six.
With the victory, Houston leapfrogged the hosts into fourth place in the Eastern Conference on 40 points. Philadelphia remained in fifth on 39, pending the result of the Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution match.
For the Union it was more of the same as they were shut out for the fourth time in five outings. They've scored just once in the last month as they've seen a once secure hold on a playoff spot nearly slip away.
The offensive struggles weren't for lack of chances, however. Philadelphia's Conor Casey had a trio of first-half headers that he couldn't quite redirect on frame, including one absolute sitter on a perfect cross from Fabinho, while Jack McInerney contrived to push a late 1-v-1 with Tally Hall just wide.
Philly did find the net one time, and it was the source of some controversy. Keon Daniel bent in a 40-yard free kick that Hall misjudged in the 30th minute, allowing the cross to turn into a shot that seemed to put the home side up 1-0. But it was ruled out after defender Amobi Okugo had been adjudged offside on the play.
On the Dynamo side, the Clark goal was a welcome respite from a series of missed chances by the forward pairing of Will Bruin and Cam Weaver. Both spurned great looks in the first half, and Bruin had yet another breakaway in the second that he couldn't convert.
Houston return home next Saturday when they host Chivas USA. The Union have a bye week before beginning their run-in with a Friday night road trip to Sporting KC on Sept. 27.
Philadelphia Union (10-10-9; 39 points) vs. Houston Dynamo (11-10-7; 40 points)
MLS regular season
September 14, 2013 – PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
Attendance: 18,771 (sellout)
Houston: Ricardo Clark 3 (Brad Davis 7) 53
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Warren Creavalle, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Kofi Sarkodie, Jason Johnson (Brian Ownby 83), Ricardo Clark, Giles Barnes (Servando Carrasco 72), Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Cam Weaver (Omar Cummings 79)
Unused substitutes: Erich Marscheider, Anthony Arena, Mike Chabala, Brian Ching
Philadelphia Union: Zac MacMath, Raymon Gaddis (Antoine Hoppenot 70), Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams, Fabinho, Brian Carroll, Danny Cruz (Jack McInerney 61), Keon Daniel (Michael Farfan 71), Sebastian Le Toux, Conor Casey
Unused substitutes: Oka Nikolov, Michael Lahoud, Roger Torres, Aaron Wheeler
Philadelphia: Amobi Okugo (caution) 85
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
Assistant Referees: Eric Proctor, Scott Kachmarik
4th Official: Sorin Stoika