Chester, PA – The Philadelphia Union secured their third straight win, and a team record fourth consecutive shutout, by means of a 2-0 victory over visiting Houston Dynamo.
With both teams carrying a two game win streak, it was the Union that dominated the first half. Ilsinho looked much more comfortable in his new #10 role, compared to the previous game at DC United, starting with a 3rd minute ball out wide to Chris Pontius that was crossed just over an open Fafa Picault’s head.
The Union would open the scoring in the 17th minute as C.J. Sapong, playing with his back to the goal, delivered a header back to Ilsinho who again found Pontius on the right wing. This time Pontius’ cross was on point, as Picault flew over defending A.J. DeLaGarza and buried his header just under the bar to put Philadelphia up 1-0.
The Dynamo continued to struggle up front the entire half. Houston striker Alberth Elis (5 goals on the season) was ruled out with a hamstring injury from Friday’s win over Vancouver, and Romell Quioto struggled up front on the left, misplacing many passes and lacking control on the wing. Philadelphia effectively clogged up the middle passing lanes with 9 men behind the ball, and the combination of Gaddis and Fabinho effectively kept most of the Houston wing play in check.
The Union struck again in the 38th minute in similar fashion to their first. Sapong made a crucial tackle and found Pontius on the right, who this time crossed the ball low and back towards the 18 where Ilsinho was waiting, placing the ball down the middle past Joe Willis to make it 2-0.
Houston almost pulled one back just a minute later as Mauro Monotas broke in on Union keeper Andre Blake, but the Philadelphia goalie made a critical save, holding the Union lead at two going into the half.
Philadelphia would play much more defensively in the second half, but still created a scoring opportunity in the 54th minute as Ilsinho played a seeking ball through the middle to a streaking Picault, who just missed the net wide, short side. Andre Blake would have work to do as Houston played more aggressively up top, bringing on winger Andrew Wenger and the 23-year-old English national Joseph Holland for his MLS debut to replace the mostly ineffective Monotas and Quioto. Union right back Ray Gaddis barely escaped what looked like a clear second yellow in the 59th minute, leaving Houston’s coach Wilmer Cabrera irate, and Union coach Jim Curtin to wisely bring on Keegan Rosenberry in his place.
Dynamo top scorer Erick “Cubo” Torres was left frustrated and off the goal sheet, his closest effort being a shot well over the bar in the 90th minute. Houston seemed to have scored an extra time consolation after that, but Andrew Wenger had let the ball cross the line before playing it back for the tap in.
“We took our foot off the gas maybe a little in the second,” Jim Curtin said after the game. “I thought our fans were excellent tonight. It’s again something to build on…”
Union winger Chris Pontius, who had two assists, said he feels “comfortable” on the right side of the pitch. While not having any goals this year, after a stellar 12 goal performance in 2016, Pontius seems to have taken more of a distributer role as tonight’s performance gave him his 6th assist, tying a career high only 11 games into the season.
The Union next play Colorado at home on Saturday, while Houston travels to play Atlanta on the same day.