Game #1 Preview: Philadelphia at Houston

Posted on 18 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The Union opens up the 2011 season on the road against a younger, different looking Dynamo squad. Eager to put their own new pieces to work, the Union hope to build a formidable defensive set-up and find away points to help complement what should be another great year at home.

Philadelphia Union (0-0-0) at Houston Dynamo (0-0-0)
Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX, 8:30PM EST

Projected Philadelphia Union Starting XI

———————Mondragon———————-

Williams——Califf———-Valdes——-Harvey

————-Carroll———-Miglioranzi————

Le Toux—————————————–Mapp

————-Mwanga————Ruiz—————–

QUESTIONABLE: DF Juan Diego Gonzalez (L hip flexor strain); PROBABLE: MF Sebastien Le Toux (L ankle sprain)

Projected Houston Dynamo Starting XI

————————-T. Hall————————–

Freeman—–Boswell——–J. Taylor—–Chabala

Ashe——–Cameron———Palmer———Davis

—————-W. Bruin——–Oduro—————–

OUT: MF Colin Clark (L knee); Francisco Navas Cobo (R hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Brian Ching (R hamstring strain)

Game Notes:

The Union added some real firepower in the offseason – retooling an ailing defense from 2010 with Carlos Valdes, a surefire starter from day one, and veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. Brian Carroll, a former MLS Cup winner and standout midfielder, should anchor the middle of the field this year and act as an efficient connection in transition.

One of the biggest factors of the game will be the quality of the goalkeeper on each side. Replacing the underperforming pair of Seitz and Knighton this year will be Bundesliga vet Faryd Mondragon giving the Union a true rock on paper in between the posts. Carlos Ruiz has already come out and said to Marc Narducci of Philly.com that Faryd Mondragon is “the best goalkeeper in the league”. The Dynamo, however, lost their strongest presence on the field to psuedo-retirement (as he is now on a player/coach contract with DC United) and faces a year of inexperience in the net. Tally Hall, who has been promising in limited appearances, will get his chance in net for a new look Dynamo.

The Union should have Le Toux starting tomorrow despite a nagging injury. Mondragon tweeted earlier this week about some pain in his knee but there has been nothing pointing to him having to miss the opener. The Dynamo will most likely be missing their stud striker Brian Ching as he recovers from a hamstring strain. Ching probably could play but with the season just starting up, I would expect him to sit this one out for fear of an early setback.

The Union come into this opener with a 1-0-1 record vs. Dominic Kinnear and his Dynamo all-time. The win was an especially memorable one. Two highlight reel worthy plays were produced in the Union’s 3-2 victory over Houston. The first a walk the line stunner from Shea Salinas and the second a last gasp winner from Danny Mwanga to secure three points for the Union in their first win away from home.

Houston is undefeated in home openers so beware. They are 2-0-3 all time, beating defending champions from 2009 Real Salt Lake 2-1 last season. Robertson Stadium, however, is definitely not a fortress for the Dynamo as they registered a 6-6-3 record last season at home. Their new stadium (scheduled to open in 2012) can’t come soon enough for Dynamo fans.

Zac MacMath – the Union’s first round pick out of the 2011 SuperDraft – and second year midfielder Amobi Okugo have been called to participate with the U-20 USMNT in the 2011 CONCACAF Championship (March 28th to April 10th). With their two week exit, both MacMath and Okugo will miss the following games – March 26’s home opener vs. Vancouver, April 2’s away match in Los Angeles vs. Galaxy, April 7’s US Open Cup qualifier vs. DC United.

Slipping under the radar, Soccer by Ives came out and reported that the Union have finally put pen to paper on a contract for Michael Farfan’s twin brother Gabriel. Gabriel has been with the team all preseason and was expected to receive a contract. There has been no confirmation from the Union as of yet.

Time is running out! You have until MIDNIGHT tonight to submit your picks for the 2011 Union “Firsts” Contest. Get them in and be in the running for a $50 gift card to PhiladelphiaUnionStore.com.

We’ll be there tomorrow hopefully grabbing some pictures and keeping you up to date on all things happening on and off the field at Robertson Stadium!

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Ralphie Says:

    I would love for Union to play with 2 d-mids and let Mapp and Le Toux go forward. Please, please please Nowak, plan on this!

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