CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union got a better result than they usually do against the Houston Dynamo – but still not the one they wanted.
Despite holding Houston to zero shots on goal and generating most of the dangerous scoring opportunities, Philly battled the hobbled Dynamo to a scoreless draw in a key Eastern Conference matchup Saturday.
The sixth-place Union (9-9-11), unbeaten in their last five, will likely remain just outside the playoff picture in the East, still five points ahead of the eighth-place Dynamo (9-13-6).
With Philly pushing hard for the win, Vincent Nogueira was taken down in the box in the 85th minute but didn’t draw a penalty, much to the chagrin of the 18,462 fans at PPL Park.
In the 87th minute, Nogueira’s free kick from just outside the box curled just wide off the post. And in stoppage time, rookie Pedro Ribeiro hit the post on a sharply-angled shot as the Dynamo remained unbeaten in their last four.
The Union, who are 0-4-2 in their last six meetings with the Dynamo, were the more dominant team throughout, especially in the first half when striker Conor Casey got a couple of golden scoring opportunities.
The first came in the sixth minute when the burly striker shot just wide off of a Cristian Maidana cross. Then, in the 23rd minute, Sebastien Le Toux slid a perfect pass across the box to Casey, before Houston’s David Horst blocked the shot.
Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric’s only first-half save also came on Casey, after the striker controlled a Le Toux cross on a counter (and a nifty Maidana dummy). And in the first minute of the second half, Deric again stopped Casey – this one from point-blank range on a rebound attempt following an Andrew Wenger shot.
Houston tried to beat the Union over the top a few times in the first half, with most of their dangerous runs getting called offside.
Early in the second half, Ricardo Clark had a shot get deflected and sail just over the bar for Houston. And in the 77th minute, a dangerous corner kick from Brad Davis dangled precariously in the box for a few moments.
But Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi ended up not needing to make any saves in what was his second start for the Union.
For the Union, who were coming off an extra-time loss in the US Open Cup final on Tuesday, center back Ethan White left with a hamstring injury early in the second half. Amobi Okugo, who had been the odd man out in the midfield, came on in White’s place, with Maurice Edu sliding from midfield to center back.
The Union make the short trip down I-95 to take on East leaders D.C United next Saturday. The Dynamo return home to face the Chicago Fire next Sunday.
Philadelphia Union (9-9-11; 38 points) vs. Houston Dynamo (9-13-6; 33 points)
MLS regular season
September 20, 2014 – PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
Houston Dynamo: Tyler Deric; Kofi Sarkodie, David Horst, AJ Cochran, DaMarcus Beasley; Andrew Driver (Brian Ownby 82), Luis Garrido (Alexander Lopez 74), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Giles Barnes, Omar Cummings (Jason Johnson 89)
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Lisch, Eric Brunner, Servando Carrasco, Anthony Arena
Philadelphia Union: Rais Mbolhi; Sheanon Williams, Ethan White (Amobi Okugo 52), Carlos Valdes, Raymon Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueria, Christian Maidana, Andrew Wenger, Sebastien Le Toux (Fred 85), Conor Casey (Pedro Ribeiro 61)
Substitutes Not Used: Zac MacMath, Fabinho, Danny Cruz, Brian Carroll
HOU: Kofi Sarkodie (caution) 75
Referee: Geoff Gamble
Referee’s assistants: Daniel Belleau, Danny Thornberry
Fourth official: Chris Penso