Houston Dynamo at Philadelphia Union
Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 6:30 p.m. CT
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
With the Union's eight-game season-opening winless skid ended by back-to-back wins, it's suddenly sunny in Philadelphia again. That newfound and most welcome momentum will be put to the test on Wednesday, when the Houston Dynamo visit Talen Energy Stadium for the first midweek game of the 2017 season for both teams.
This one figures to provide timely examinations of weak points on each side.
For the Dynamo, it's a promising chance to arrest their woeful 2017 track record away from BBVA Compass Stadium. The Orange have been unbeatable at home, with a 6-0-1 mark and a gaudy 19 goals scored in Houston. Yet they are 0-3 on their travels, with only two goals to their credit, both of them coming in their first road trip of the year, a 4-2 loss at Portland way back on March 18. Starting Wednesday, four of their next five games are away from the Bayou City.
Conversely, the once-leaky Union have been quite stout in recent weeks, posting three consecutive clean sheets despite a spate of injuries. Erick "Cubo" Torres, Mauro Manotas and the rest of Houston's pacey, aggressive frontline figure to test that resilience, especially on the counterattack. Can Oguchi Onyewu and his colleagues hold down the fort in Chester?
Saturday's 4-0 thumping of D.C. United at RFK Stadium was surely satisfying for everyone in Philly colors, but none more than Onyewu, who scored a decisive goal and anchored a shutout display on his return to his hometown – and on his 35th birthday, no less.
The result also marked a breakthrough for Haris Medunjanin, the Bosnian holding midfielder who has shown both superlative passing quality and wafer-thin defensive chops in his first season in MLS. Medunjanin hammered a swerving long-range drive past Bill Hamid to set the tone on Saturday, and followed it up with two assists. Has the one-two punch of wins over I-95 rivals United and the New York Red Bulls fully lifted the gloom hanging over Philly?
"This team really turned the corner in the Red Bull game," Union coach Jim Curtin said in D.C. "We've been through about as difficult a time and difficult a stretch as we could have gone through, and I think we are stronger because of it."
This week Curtin will have to decide how to balance his team's minutes, mindful that the Colorado Rapids visit Chester on Saturday.
- Suspended: None
- Int'l Duty: Derrick Jones (US U-20s)
- Injury Report: OUT – D Josh Yaro (shoulder surgery), M Maurice Edu (left ankle/left tibia surgery recovery), M Brian Carroll (lumbar disc herniation); QUESTIONABLE – M Roland Alberg (left quad strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Andre Blake – Raymon Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu, Fabinho – Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin – Chris Pontius, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault – C.J. Sapong
Notes: Medunjanin became just the second player in Union history to record a goal and multiple assists in an MLS game last weekend, when he scored and tallied two assists at D.C. Sebastien Le Toux is the other player to achieve the feat, notching a goal and three assists for Philadelphia in a win against San Jose in 2014.
Striker Alberth Elis limped off with a first-half hamstring injury and looks doubtful for Wednesday, though on Monday Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera said the strain "is not too bad" and that Elis will accompany the team on this week's two-game road trip to Philly and Atlanta (Saturday).
Elis' fellow wide attacker Romell Quioto also left Friday's game early with a knock, but seems more likely to be ready to face the Union. If he's not, Cabrera could bring in Andrew Wenger up top alongside Torres and Manotas in the Dynamo's usual 4-3-3 formation, or switch back to the diamond 4-4-2 shape they've experimented with in search of a firmer defensive posture.
In the bigger picture, Houston know they must transfer their strong mentality on home soil to different circumstances on the road.
“Guys get up for [playing at home],” veteran defender A.J. DeLaGarza said over the weekend. “On the flip side, when we go on away games we have to find that energy and get excited about crowds being quiet.”
- Suspended: None
- Int'l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D George Malki (torn ACL), M Eric Alexander (right knee MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: F Alberth Elis (right hamstring strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): Joe Willis – A.J. DeLaGarza, Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, DaMarcus Beasley – Ricardo Clark, Juan David Cabezas, Alex – Mauro Manotas, Erick Torres, Romell Quioto
Notes: In their last seven meetings with the Union, Houston have held Philadelphia scoreless six times ... Dating back to July 2015, the Dynamo have won just two of their last 28 away matches (2-18-8). Houston have been outscored 8-2 in three road games this year, all losses.
- Overall: Philadelphia 4 wins (13 goals) … Houston 6 wins (15 goals) … Ties 4
- At Philadelphia: Philadelphia 2 wins (7 goals) … Houston 1 win (4 goals) … Ties 4
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Assistant Referees: Jason White, Logan Brown
Fourth Official: Mark Geiger