The Eagles and Cowboys isn’t the only Philadelphia vs Texas showdown this weekend as The Philadelphia Union face the Houston Dynamo. With just two games remaining before the Open Cup final, there’s a lot to watch out for..here are the five main talking points.
5: Goalie Glory
The Union goalkeeper situation has been an interesting one to follow from the season’s opening game until now. But as the Open Cup final approaches, many predicted hometown hero John McCarthy to almost certainly get the start in net following his impressive cup perfomances and clutch shootout wins. But in league play, it’s been international star Andre Blake who has been stealing the show. With two games left before the Open Cup Final, a big performance from either keeper could well dictate who gets the start in the final. The lineup is yet to be announced for todays game, but watch out for whoever gets the start against Houston..it could well have lasting implications.
4: An old flame
Right Back Sheanon Williams faces his former team later today. After spending six seasons with the team, he was traded to Houston earlier in the year and has since made eight appearances for the team. Williams knows the playing style of the Union perhaps better than any other player who isn’t on the Union’s roster. He knows where they are dangerous and how they like to work the ball..making him a threat on more than just his footballing ability. Both sides have remained amicable in press conferences and it will be great to see the reception he receives from his former team. It’s set to be a spicy contest as it is, but seeing Williams in a Houston Dynamo jersey will take some getting used to, especially if he puts in a good performance and potentially decides the game.
Captain Maurice Edu returned to full training this week despite feeling some discomfort. Edu is recovering from a groin injury that has kept him sidelined during a crucial run of games for the Union. With Andrew Wenger still doubtful, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of rotation in tonights game to keep as many pairs of fresh legs for the Open Cup final as possible. At MOST expect Edu to have a 20 minute spell on the pitch to gain some match fitness. It will be interesting to see how guys like Lahoud continue to perform in his place however and if any outsiders can prove their worth and earn a spot in the starting eleven for the biggest game of the season..the stage is there and so are the potential minutes if Curtin focuses on conserving as many big names as he can. The choice of bringing on everyones’ favourite Venezuelan for Fabinho was an interesting one…expect a few more questionable calls tonight.
2: Maidana’s Moment
After controversially spitting on Lee Nguyen in the closing moments of the recent Revs showdown, Maidana faced a two game suspension and now returns to the lineup..and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Union have struggled with the absence of the playmaker leading the league in assists, with Barnetta having spells in the central role but still failing to be efficient in central midfield..a role way outside of his comfort zone. More crucially however with the Open Cup final just around the corner, it’s important Chaco gets back to full match fitness as soon as possible and continues to build up a chemistry with Barnetta, considering how dangerous the two can be when in full flow.
1: Who put the ball in the back of the net?
The Union have had trouble all season finding and maintaining hot streaks when it comes to composure in front of the goal. Sapong had a brief spurt as has Le Toux but as a whole, the Union have struggled to finish chances..especially when it’s not Maidana creating them. A struggling Houston side who have just four points from their last five could prove to be the perfect team for the Union to experiment with different types of build up play. The team have all the right pieces but haven’t yet completed the jigsaw. With the focus obviously being on the Open Cup, the team have to find ways to score. Expect a more aggressive style of play now that the team is almost back to full strength and can finally begin to play the style of Soccer that Curtin has tried to implement.