Welcome back to another edition of Three Takeaways, a segment in which I dive in after each Philadelphia Union match, revisit and take a closer look at what went well and what ultimately did not.
On Wednesday, July 25, the Philadelphia Union traveled to Houston, TX to take on the Houston Dynamo. Both teams were visible fatigued, each playing their third game in eight days.
After 90 minutes, it was the visiting Union who came out on top, defeating the Dynamo 3-1, with two goals coming after Houston’s Tomás Martínez was ejected from the game in the 59th minute.
There’s certainly a lot to talk about with this one, so I’ll get right to it.
Throughout the majority of the match, the Dynamo controlled the ball, pushing the Union back and maintaining a consistent attack, coming close to putting a few more past Andre Blake than just one.
Houston spent the majority of the contest on the front foot, in their attacking third, forcing several key saves from the Union’s youthful back line, which was anchored by Blake.
Even after Martínez’s controversial ejection, Houston managed to maintain continued pressure on the Union. Had Martínez not received a straight red, the score very well could have been reversed.
Additionally, the only goal that the Union possibly deserved was the penalty kick won by Fabian Herbers and converted by Fafa Picault in 90 + 6’. Both Alejandro Bedoya and Corey Burke appeared offsides on their goals.
Houston isn’t the strongest outfit either, as the Dynamo currently sit in ninth place in the Western Conference. If Philly wants to push and make a playoff run in the second half of the season, they’ll have to up the ante against comparable and lesser teams like Houston.
Handling the Counter
Of the things the Union did do well was handle the counter, both offensively and defensively, while thwarting, pushing and pinning Houston back into their own half throughout the second half.
Houston brought a strong counter-attack, which was handled fairly well by the Boys-in-Blue. Arguably the only time the backline bent and broke was off a counter-like scenario in the 10th minute, when Mauro Manotas slotted his shot past Blake to fire the Dynamo ahead.
On the few occasions the Union had their own opportunity to counter, they used it well. Despite failing to score off them, the Union did generate some good chances that forced the Dynamo into some rather tight positions.
I still would like to see more from the Union in the attacking third, especially when countering the opposition. That said, the Union were fantastic in their defensive end tonight, which I hope to see more of.
Strong Performance From the Backline
Again, this was Houston’s game to lose, not Philadelphia’s. Despite this, I was impressed with how the back line held their ground time and time again.
I think it’s fair to say that without Mark McKenzie and Austin Trusty, the Union would’ve been dominated by the consistent and persistent attack of Houston. Both young defenders put their hearts, and in some cases their bodies, on the line to keep the ball away from Blake’s net.
McKenzie and Trusty have matured rapidly over the last few months, and are clearly the future of the Union backline. Hopefully, they’ll continue to grow in the years to come, and they’ll become a core part of an exciting and young team.
Please be sure to read the latest Three Takeaways next week, when Lister breaks down Philly’s performance in the Rose City, where the Union will play against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, August 4.