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Philadelphia Union, Houston Dynamo Squander Opportunity In Draw

photo via Philadelphia Union's twitter.

photo via Philadelphia Union’s twitter.

A beautiful night for soccer at PPL Park saw two teams desperate for points to stay in the playoff race battle to a sloppy, goalless draw.  The host Philadelphia Union, in sixth place on goal differential at the start of the match, were coming off an emotional Open Cup final loss on Tuesday and were playing their third game in eight days.

Interim manager Jim Curtin, however, made only one change to the lineup.

Algerian international Rais M’Bolhi replaced Zac MacMath in goal while the rest of the lineup would play on tired legs.  Houston Dynamo, on the other were more rested but battling several key injuries.  The Orange were missing influential Honduran midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia due to a concussion, as well as leading scorer Will Bruin.

The match started quickly for the Union, who nearly took the lead just five minutes in when Conor Casey slammed a shot just wide of the Houston goal.  The Union found themselves in unfamiliar territory for most of the night as it appeared Houston stole the Union playbook.  Houston seemed content to cede possession to the Union, sit back and wait for the chance to spring a counterattack.  This is the exact style the Curtin has instilled in the Union.  The teams played out a rather uneventful half but the second half would be more lively.

The Union also started quickly in the second half when Andrew Wenger made a great run into the Houston box only to see his shot deflected out for a corner kick.  The Union had many more chances on the night but could not get a clear opportunity on goal as the Houston defense did a great job of blocking shots or preventing clean attempts on net.  As a result both M’Bolhi and Houston goalie Tyler Deric had very little work to do.  A late surge by the Union saw several more excellent chances, including a Vincent Nogueira free kick that missed by mere inches.  The Union also thought they had a penalty when Nogueira was tripped in the box as he cut around a defender but nothing was called.  This was met by a chorus of boos by the home fans.  Pedro Ribeiro also had two golden opportunities late, including an open net but his shot went straight to Deric.  He also had a chance to win the game in stoppage time but his shot hit the outside of the post.

It was a sloppy game for two teams that really needed a win but despite results of other matches ending unfavorably for both teams the draw was not as bad a result for Philadelphia as it was for Houston.  The Union just seemed a bit sluggish and not as sharp in the final third as they had recently and their passing suffered as well.  Both teams need to stop dropping points if they want to make the playoffs.  The Philadelphia Union travel to Washington on Saturday to face DC United while Houston will host Chicago Fire on Sunday.

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