Philadelphia Union look to conquer the Houston Dynamo

May 13, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11) jumps on defender Oguchi Onyewu (5) back after scoring during the second half against the D.C. United at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Philadelphia Union defeated D.C. United 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11) jumps on defender Oguchi Onyewu (5) back after scoring during the second half against the D.C. United at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Philadelphia Union defeated D.C. United 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Don’t look now but after their dismal start to the season, the Philadelphia Union are suddenly surging.

The ins and outs

Philadelphia Union (2-4-4) vs. Houston Dynamo (6-3-1)

When: Wednesday 7:30 p.m. ET – Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, PA)

Where to watch: The Comcast Network

Streaming: MLS Live

PRO Referees: Jorge Gonzalez, Jason White (AR1), Logan Brown (AR2), Mark Geiger

Coaches: Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union) – Wilmer Cabrera (Houston Dynamo)

Unlikely performances

More from Philadelphia Union

If you guessed that the Philadelphia Union would follow their 15-game winless streak with back to back convincing wins, go to Vegas and please take me with you. But while the team has improved and seems to be righting the ship, the Houston Dynamo will provide a true challenge. Thanks to a dynamic attack led by a little magic from Erick “Cubo” Torres, the Dynamo have climbed to the top of the Western Conference. They’ve battered the competition all season but have struggled on the road.

Houston has lost all three road games that they have played in opening the door for the Philadelphia Union to win a crucial matchup. The Union haven’t been particularly good at home but with their form improving, things could change. This is a match that could go either way especially with 90-degree heat expected to hit Chester on Wednesday. For a view from the other side, we welcome Alex Del Barrio of CBS Houston in this week’s Opposition’s corner.

Opposition’s Corner

Chuck: The Houston Dynamo have had their share of road woes, what’s behind those and do you think that they can get over the hump in Philadelphia?

Alex: This may sound like an excuse, but I think all the losses on the road have been circumstantial. The first one was against Portland, a tough place to play for any club in the league and they had problems early in the year even at home where they laid down in the second half and their creators gave them problems. They didn’t have Quioto in the game against New England and the windy conditions there took away their set pieces and in Toronto, Quioto was still not in full fitness and the Dynamo were using a different alignment that turned out to be way too conservative for their talent.

I think this road match against Philly is important as they need to start winning away from home. All due respect to the Union and the fact that they have seemingly started to right the ship, the Dynamo are hungry for a road win and I think they will finally get one on Wednesday.

Chuck: This game also brings a matchup of unexpected Golden Boot contenders in CJ Sapong and Cubo Torres, who do you have finishing the season with more goals?

Alex: As much as I love the start Cubo is on, the Dynamo have a balanced attack that is looking to get Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto more involved. I expect Torres to get some more rest along the way and a reminder that 4 of Torres’ goals have come on the PK. I think Sapong has slightly more creativity that Torres and less competition for the goals so I think he will ultimately have more at the end of the year, but either one winning won’t shock me.

Chuck: Players to watch for each team and why.

Alex: For Houston, it will be Mauro Manotas and Alex. Manotas likely will start at one of the wing spots if Alberth Ellis doesn’t play. He’s been strong during Cubo’s absence due to a concussion and has helped the Dynamo not miss a beat. He needs to become more accurate in the box and less tentative, but is proven goal scorer and very accurate with his passing. Alex has been one of the best playmakers in the league and has a nose for the open man. He’s also very good in the box and a strong dribbler. Will have at least one assist on Wednesday.

For the Union, Haris Medujanin scares me. Strong offensive minded midfielders have given the Dynamo problems this season. Diego Valeri and David Guzman of Portland, for example, both scored as the Dynamo midfield struggled to keep up. I expect Medujanin to challenge for a goal at some point in the match.

Chuck: Score prediction and who are your goal scorers?

Alex: I will say 2-1 Dynamo win for their first road victory. I think Romell Quioto and Torres will score for the Dynamo and Medujanin will score a late goal for Philadelphia. I don’t expect Ellis to play and Manotas is usually the third option when he’s on the pitch with the other two talented forwards.

Possible lineups/ Injury report

Jim Curtin is gunning for a win in this matchup so there shouldn’t be much rotation expected except the possibility of Oguchi Onyewu sitting in favor of Richie Marquez. Roland Alberg isn’t back in training yet, so another start from Ilsinho at the 10 will likely happen. Joshua Yaro is back in training but isn’t cleared to begin rehabbing in Bethlehem yet. The usual lack of updates on Maurice Edu but overall, the team is pretty healthy to face Houston. A lineup may look like the one below:

Keys to the game

Strength from the back: While the Philadelphia Union have been outscoring teams lately with a plus seven goal difference in their past four games, it has been the defense that is truly impressive. The Union have not allowed a goal in 273 minutes while keeping three straight clean sheets. While that run will likely come to an end soon, defensive excellence will be needed to stop the Dynamo.

Next: A critical week lies ahead for Keegan Rosenberry

Set piece excellence: While Haris Medunjanin’s rocket goal was nice to open the scoring against DC United, it was his assist to Onyewu’s header that broke DC’s will. With pinpoint deliveries from Medunjanin on set pieces, the Philadelphia Union are always a threat from dead ball situations. The team’s center backs are also good in the air giving the Union an advantage on set pieces. Every goal counts.