The Houston Dynamo are coming off a 3-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake and hope to rebound their efforts against the Philadelphia Union, another club in need of points in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Dynamo will be without Raul Rodriguez though they may get Kofi Sarkodie and Luis Garrido (both listed as probable) along with DaMarcus Beasley and Alex Lima (listed as doubtful) back into the fold. The Dynamo have been thin at the back since Beasley and Sarkodie's injuries so getting one or both back could help the team eliminate the kinds of mistakes that led to Real Salt Lake pulling away last week.
In our preview of the match we discussed the unpredictable Philadelphia Union side and games to keep an eye that could impact the Dynamo playoff hopes, but we wanted to learn about our friends from Philadelphia so we spoke with Eugene Rupinski of the Brotherly Game to see what's up with the Union.
Dynamo Theory: Consistency has been an issue for the Union all year as each time they begin a winning streak their luck turns sour and each time the losses or draws mount up things turn around again. Lately there has been a microcosm within those consistency struggles to a more extreme extent as the last 6 results produced a 2-2-2 record. Is there any single area or two to blame for putting together complete performances?
The Brotherly Game: I think it has a great deal to do with consistency. There always seems to be someone injured, someone suspended, or lately out on international duty. While these things happen over the course of a season, I can't recall a team that isn't able to get their preferred starting XI out on the field like the Philadelphia Union. The team hasn't been able to gel and get anything going for it.
At least two starters will be returning this week: Cristian Maidana is back from being suspended and Andre Blake is back from international duty with Jamaica. Maurice Edu is also back in training after being out for quite some time with a groin injury, so it remains to be seen if he will get any minutes against the Dynamo or if they're keeping him out for the US Open Cup match in two weeks.
DT: Sitting just 2 points behind Montreal for the last playoff spot, each game takes on an increasing importance. How does the Union intend to prepare against a Dynamo side that is just as desperate for 3 points?
tBG: I think it all points to the US Open Cup Final honestly. Most of the fans are looking at this match and the next against the New England Revolution as tune-ups for that match. The Union's are still mathematically alive in the playoffs, but Montreal is six points up with two games in hand. I know Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia, so maybe he'll have a miracle for the Union. Otherwise it's all about the US Open Cup.
That being said, the Union won't just roll over and die. There are guys playing for spots and contracts next year, so Dynamo fans (and players) shouldn't take this match for granted.
DT: Warren Creavalle is still pretty loved by Dynamo fans and players alike. How has his reception been since his arrival in Philadelphia and how would you critique his performance so far?
tBG: The jury is still out on Warren here mostly because we haven't seen him get much playing time - just 72 minutes in three appearances. I think some fans here were a bit upset since it seemed at first glance that the Union gave up Sheanon Williams for Creavalle, however the Union also got the money and cap space to sign Tranquillo Barnetta. That being said, Creavalle and Williams will most likely always be linked (unfairly so in my opinion) by a lot of the fans here.
Personally I think Warren is in the right place here in Philadelphia. He has two fantastic mentors in Brian Carroll and Maurice Edu to help him continually develop at the central defensive midfielder role. While he's a bench option now, I wouldn't be surprised to see him gradually take over that starting job in the next couple of seasons.
Projected Lineup: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Steven Vitoria, Richie Marquez, Ray Gaddis; Brian Carroll, Vincent Nogueira; Tranquillo Barnetta, Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux, CJ Sapong
Prediction: The Union have been terrible at home, and I don't see this going well for them. 2-1 Dynamo
For my answers to Eugene's excellent questions head on over to the Brotherly Game to check them out!