Things are heating up down the stretch of the MLS season, and matchups become more and more critical.
None more critical than those between two teams hanging on to their playoff lives, and struggling to do so.
The Philadelphia Union have hung tough in or around the fourth position in the Eastern Conference standings for a while now, and with eight points in their last five home matches, the PLL Park crowd seems to be a cure for most of their woes.
Philadelphia have really struggled to score in the recent going, having managed just a single goal in their last four matches, but three of those have been on the road. Jack McInerney, who looked like the next big thing a few months ago, has been stuck on 10 goals since June 2nd. Yes, it’s been three months since their main striker has scored. That’s 11 matches, 14 if you count the three he missed on international duty.
The Houston Dynamo have almost entirely wasted their franchise-best start to the season. Having fallen out of the playoff position entirely, the defense especially has been sluggish of late, as evident by Thierry Henry’s goal last week when he quite literally waltzed between the two central defenders.
However, they have won five of the last six meetings between these two teams, and seem to have the Union’s number. Last time out, it was the Dynamo who pulled it off at BBVA Stadium.
One thing to note, Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear will not appear in the match, as he did not make the trip to Philadelphia after being ejected from Sunday’s loss. Also suspended is Boniek Garcia.
It’s quite clear this match means the world for both teams. A win for either could mean a vault into a position not only securely into the playoff hunt, but with six matches remaining, the potential room for error three points would provide would mean each side could relax, take a deep breath, and look ahead to the home stretch.
“We’ve got to get back on the right track,” said Houston defender Brad Davis. “We’ve got to go out and put our best foot forward. It’s that time of year where it doesn’t matter anymore; it’s time to win games.”
Can anyone pull it off?