The City of Brotherly Love heads on down to Texas...
Houston Dynamo, by Zach Woosley: Things are looking up for the Dynamo. Back to back home games against weak Eastern Conference opponents have given Houston a golden opportunity to break their win/loss pattern and with their 2-0 victory over D.C. United, they are halfway there. More importantly, they are getting healthy. Cam Weaver, Richard Mulrooney, Eddie Robinson and Luis Landin all returned and, after a prolonged battle over a transfer certificate, Joseph Ngwenya is also officially with the team as well. Basically, Houston did what they should have against D.C. United, which is the worst team in MLS this season. Now it's time to deal with the Philadelphia Union, which isn't really that much better.
In addition, the World Cup break is quickly approaching which will give Kinnear's guys a chance to rest and recover ahead of a busy late June and July that sees Houston with both MLS and SuperLiga matches to contend with.
Philadelphia Union, by Anthony Burkhart: Dare we say Chris Seitz? His only goal allowed against FC Dallas was a precision finish into the top corner by Brek Shea. Peter Nowak has continued to stick with Seitz even though the young keeper has had his fair share of gaffs so far this season. While it would be foolish to say Seitz has turned it around, he had a great game against FC Dallas and maybe, just maybe, that form will continue as the Union head down to Houston.
Houston: Are you tired of reading my comments about consistency yet? Sorry to beat the drum again, but there is no reason that the Dynamo couldn't be close to LA on points if not for their strange pattern of good and bad performances this season. Despite some good wins and a solid point total so far, this team is clearly better than the results have shown. Until they put two good games together, though, it will be easy for people to doubt the team's potential. There really isn't much more to criticize at this point considering when the team is on their game, they look like MLS Cup contenders, they just have to get on a run of good form before I'm accused of having orange tinted goggles on.
Philadelphia: Defense has gotten the bad words in the past, but it’s about time the offense gets its fair share of criticism. Since the Union's win over D.C. United back in April, Philadelphia's offense has scored just five goals in six games. Sebastien Le Toux's absence certainly hasn’t helped, but it's a cause for concern when no one else on the squad can step up and provide the goals.
Houston: Dominic Kinnear could have the most complete roster he's had all season on Saturday night. With the exception of Ching and Cameron, it's all hands on deck for the Dynamo. The Landin/Oduro partnership up front worked splendidly against D.C., so I don't see any reason for that to change this week. There are plenty of options in the midfield if Kinnear wants to tinker. With Joseph Ngwenya available, he could potentially play in the central attacking role, allowing Brad Davis to return to the outside. Of course, this would mean Danny Cruz would lose his spot after an outstanding performance against D.C. Really, it's a good problem to have. I expect Davis to remain in the middle with Mullan and Cruz on the outside. Defensively, a back line of Chabala, Robinson, Boswell and Hainault/Mulrooney seems likely. With Philly's speed, I'd lean toward the quicker Hainault.
Philadelphia: Against FC Dallas, Philadelphia generated seven shots and many, many good chances. It took until the 94th minute to break through, but the offense was playing as well as it has in a long stretch of time. It’s hard to expect that to continue, though. The defense will need to be on its best performance as they will now have to unexpectedly deal with Brian Ching, who was left off the World Cup roster. If a tie game gets to the second half, Philadelphia will probably be pretty content with playing for just that.
Houston: The Houston summer is here and with it comes high temperatures and high humidity. Sure it affects the Dynamo, but it really affects visiting teams. D.C. United look whipped by the end of the match last weekend and a lot of it wasn't from the scoreline. It's tough on players to perform at a high level for 90 minutes when it's 90+ degrees, but add in humidity that causes you to sweat during the walk from your front door to your car and you can understand why it's a potential advantage. With the Union's propensity for red cards this season, they'll have to keep their cool, which isn't easy to do during the summer in Houston.
Philadelphia: The Union will have to deal with their first really hot game of the year. Houston weather will be in the mid-90s this Saturday. While it is a night game, the Texas heat will still be lingering at kickoff. A tough road venue, coupled with the heat, will certainly be a tall task for Philadelphia.
Houston: Here we go, can the Dynamo break the win/loss trend? Every time I pick them to do, they let me down but I'm going to do it again anyway. Houston wins 2-0.
Philadelphia: Road games have been ugly this season, plain and simple. There is little reason to believe this Saturday will be any different of an end result. Danny Mwanga’s goal to salvage a point gave the team a boost of morale, but that was two weeks ago. Houston 3, Philadelphia 1.
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