The Union will play their first ever playoff game on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. against the Houston Dynamo. In anticipation of the game I reached out to Zach Woosley, Managing Editor of Dynamo Theory, for some insight into the Union's playoff opponent. We touched on a number of topics, including a Dynamo scouting report, an out of market view of the Union team and organization, and a series prediction. Many thanks to Zach for his time.
For those Union fans who have not seen a whole lot of the Dynamo this season, what's their biggest strength? Their biggest weakness? What sort of tempo do they want to play?
Zach Woosley, Dynamo Theory: The Dynamo's biggest strength is experience. Despite the roster turnover in the offseason, there are still plenty of veterans on this team that have been through cup runs and understand what it takes to win in the playoffs, the question becomes is that experience enough to overcome the fact that this team tends to make glaring defensive mistakes. In some games, Tally Hall or luck has saved them from those mistakes, but in others they've had no such luck and paid the price. As for tempo, expect a grinding, physical style of play. The Dynamo won't push, speed isn't their game. Instead, they'll try to hold possession and pick their spots, especially on the road in the first leg.
The Dynamo are unbeaten over their last six games? What's been the key to their recent success?
Offensive consistency. The Dynamo have struggled to get goals most of the year but down the stretch they've been scoring more and in most cases, scoring first. It's a huge advantage for Houston when they can get on the scoreboard and then dictate the game rather than trying to chase it. In addition, the defense has been better in the final six games, limiting the mistakes that have plagued them most of the year. A settled back line has a lot to do with that I'm sure.
The Union are 2-0-2 all-time against the Dynamo. What makes you think Houston can break through over these next two games?
Because it's the playoffs and if we've learned one thing about the postseason in MLS, it's that trends rarely hold and the unexpected always happens. This Dynamo team is peaking at the right time as well and I've always stressed that the key to winning an MLS Cup is to be playing your best soccer in October, which Houston is doing. That said, this will be a tough series and no one is over looking the Union at all. Having the second leg at home helps as well since the Dynamo have played immensely better all season at Robertson on the smaller, cramped for space pitch.
It's always interesting to hear the thoughts and opinions of someone outside your home market. What are your thoughts on the Union (the team and the franchise)?
The Union are one of the bright spot franchises in the league. Seattle and Portland get a lot of praise, and rightly so, but the things being done in Philly by both the team and the Sons of Ben are impressive. More impressive is the fact that as a second-year team in the league, the Union not only made the playoffs but nearly won the Eastern Conference. Between the stadium, the fan support and the commitment from the FO to putting forth a quality product, there's a lot to like about the Union.
Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis has had an unbelievable season (he led all of MLS with 16 assists). Why should he be named MLS MVP? Also, what's he have to do to get Jurgen Klinsmann to call him into a USMNT camp?
Brad Davis is the MVP. Period. It's not a shot against any of the other great players this season in MLS but there is zero doubt in my mind that if you remove Davis from the Dynamo, they do not make the playoffs. He started every game, had a career year with 16 assist and was involved is a ridiculous percentage of the Dynamo's goals and goal scoring opportunities. He may not be the flashiest player, but there is no question he was the single most valuable player to his team this season. As for a USMNT call-up, it's absurd he hasn't gotten a sniff in recent years. He's consistently one of the best American wide midfielders and deserves a chance to prove it at the international level.
Give us a few players, other than Davis, who we should keep an eye on over these two games.
Carlo Costly. The big powerful Honduran forward finally scored against the Galaxy in the season finale. We've been waiting for that goal and with the weight of that off his shoulders, look out. A confident and fired up Costly could reak havoc in the playoffs. Also keep an eye on Tally Hall, when he's on his game (which he often is), he can completely shut down a team and drive them crazy at the same time with some amazing saves. Finally, Adam Moffat. Don't leave our defensive midfielder on the ball in space from 35-45 yards away from your goal, his long range shot is powerful and ridiculously accurate...just ask Portland and LA.
How do you see this two-game set playing out? Give us a winner and the final aggregate scoreline.
I think the first leg will be ugly and physical, the Dynamo will be happy to leave PPL Park with a draw and try to wrap things up at home. I expect them to sit back and look for chances to exploit the Union defense, but they won't be overly aggressive and risk leaving an opening at the back that can be exploited. If they can accomplish that, the second leg will be all about the Dynamo utilizing their home field advantage and trying to score early to put all the pressure on the Union. Call me crazy, but I think the Dynamo win the tie 3-1.
Thanks to Zach for dropping some Dynamo knowledge on us. Vist his site here.