Last Saturday was a bit of a disappointment for the Dynamo in Montreal, losing 4-2 to the expansion Impact. A week later, the men in orange have an opportunity to redeem themselves with yet another Eastern Conference opponent coming into town. The Philadelphia Union have had their share of turmoil and turnover this season, but are coming off of a 4-0 upset of Sporting Kansas City in MLS and a 5-2 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the U.S. Open Cup under interim coach John Hackworth. The coaching change and some new faces in the squad seemed to have breathed new life into a team that reached the playoffs last year.
Winning when it matters
Taking a look at the head-to-head records between Houston and Philadelphia reveals that the Dynamo have struggled against the Union, who have defeated the Dynamo twice in Houston and tied twice more at PPL Park. However, these records only take into account MLS regular season play. The two teams met in last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals, and there the Dynamo were able to defeat the Union twice: 2-1 in the first leg in Philadelphia and 1-0 in the return leg for the final game at Robertson Stadium. With the 3-1 aggregate victory, Houston then defeated Sporting Kansas City to be crowned Eastern Conference Champions.
Saturday's game could mark the first appearance of new Dynamo signing Boniek Garcia. The Honduran midfielder arrived in town earlier this week and has been training with the team since Thursday. The Dynamo have been eagerly awaiting his arrival after trying unsuccesfully to sign him in the past. Garcia will wear No. 27 for the Dynamo, and is able to play a variety of positions. His addition to the team, along with a quick turnaround with a game on Tuesday and the loss of Adam Moffat to suspension means that we may see a brand-new lineup on Saturday night.
Philadelphia looks very different than it has in its first two seasons in MLS. Gone are former head coach Peter Nowak, leading scorer Sebastian Le Toux, former captain Danny Califf and 2010 No. 1 draft pick Danny Mwanga. Le Toux, Califf and Mwanga were dealt by Nowak in separate trade deals to different MLS sides. Le Toux was sent to Vancouver during the offseason for allocation money, Califf was traded to Chivas USA in return for midfielder Michael Lahoud and allocation money and Mwanga was dealt to Portland in exchange for forward Jorge Perlaza.
After the deals and the worst start in Union history, Nowak was dismissed on June 13 and assistant coach John Hackworth was named interim coach. Earlier this week, the Union announced the signing of former MLS Defender of the Year finalist Bakary Soumare. Saturday's match will be the first that he is eligible to play for Philadelphia. The Union will be missing defender Raymon Gaddis, which will mean more lineup shuffling on their part.
Players to watch
Despite a disappointing track record this season, the Union have a young squad that is capable of going up against the league's best, evidenced by their thrashing of Kansas City. Here's three players to keep your eyes on:
- Freddy Adu -- Once the future of American soccer, Adu signed with MLS at the age of 14 to play for D.C. United. He has since played all over the world, but never quite lived up to his initial billing. But just because he's not the next Pele doesn't mean that he doesn't have some serious skill. Still only 23 years old, the attack midfielder is capable of producing some brilliant individual moments.
- Carlos Valdes -- The only player on the Union to play all 13 games this season, Valdes has been a rock at the back. While Philadelphia's attack may have issues, Valdes and the defense have only allowed 15 goals this year, good for joint-least in the league. Valdes will be going up against the red-hot Will Bruin, who has scored nine times this year and at least once in each of the past three games.
- Zac MacMath -- One of the youngest goalkeepers in MLS, the 20-year old has posted four shutouts in eleven games played. In his eleven games, Macmath has allowed slightly more than a goaljust over a goal per game. The second year shot-stopper will be going up a team in the Dynamo that has scored at least two goals in each of its last three games.
Ticket and broadcast information
Limited tickets are still available for the match on Saturday night. If you haven't been able to get out to the new BBVA Compass Stadium yet, now is your chance. To purchase tickets, call (713) 276-GOAL or click here. The match will be broadcast on television locally on FOX Sports Houston (English) and MultiMedios Houston (Spanish). Radio broadcasts will be on SportsTalk 790 (English) and La Ranchera 850 (Spanish). The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. CT, radio broadcasts begin at 7 p.m. CT for pre-game shows.