Houston, TX - On a humid Saturday night, Philadelphia Union fell to Houston Dynamo late, 1-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium. The temperature in Houston at kickoff hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 60% humidity, which made the temperature feel closer to 100 degrees. Under Major League Soccer rules, a mandatory water break in each half must be used if the temperature is higher than 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff, which referee Edvin Jurisevic did implement in both halves on Saturday’s match.
Pre-match selection drama for Jim Curtin
With Philadelphia’s striker stable in disarray due to injuries, Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin opted to start Roland Alberg in the false nine role. Because Alberg played in the false nine role, Tranquillo Barnetta moved up to his comfortable number ten role, with the double pivot featuring Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle.
Andre Blake continues to be among MLS' best
In the first half, Union goalkeeper Andre Blake continually to show spectators why he has earned the most votes of any keeper in the Fan Vote for the 2016 MLS All-Star Game. In the 20th minute, Blake robbed fellow Jamaican International Giles Barnes of a certain goal. Barnes received the ball off a Jalil Anibaba cross and earmarked his header for the bottom right corner of the net. Blake lunged to his right and kept the ball out of the net to keep the game level at zero.
Less than ten minutes later, Blake would come through again for the Union. In the 29th minute, the 25-year-old goalkeeper made another quick save off of a Will Bruin header from close range by jumping to his left and catching Bruin’s header into his chest.
Roland Alberg struggles as the false nine
As the first half whistle was blown, Philadelphia were left to evaluate their false nine implementation. While Alberg is technically gifted in the number ten role, it was clear from the first half that the Dutch International struggled in the position and did not create as much as many have come to expect recently.
The returning CJ Sapong would replace Alberg in the 63rd minute. Sapong made an impact on not only the stat sheet by registering a shot on goal, but also his presence caused the Houston centerbacks to have to play him more tightly than Alberg.
The Union were dealt a severe blow to quest to claim all three points on the night, when Joshua Yaro was sent off for his second yellow card in the 87th minute. Yaro went one-on-one with Dyanmo forward Mauro Manotas on top of the box.
Manotas appeared to cut outside on Yaro and fell over in an obvious flop. But Jurisevic saw something differently and handed the Georgetown University rookie centerback his second yellow card and subsequent walking papers.
Cristian Maidana gets revenge against former team
In the end, it was a former Union player that did the Blue and Gold in. Cristian Maidana, who was substituted on for the Dynamo in the 69th minute, stood over a free kick just outside the box in the fifth and last minute of stoppage time. The Argentine midfielder hit a powerful line drive to past Blake to give Houston the 1-0 lead and all three points on the night.
Where do both teams go from here?
Philadelphia will look to rebound next Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, when D.C. United comes to Chester. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM EST. Houston will be back in action against Orlando City SC next Friday at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Kickoff for the Friday night matchup is at 8 PM EST.