With the first of their two-game Texas road trip in the win column, the beleaguered Union turn to face the Houston Dynamo on Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium. It will be the club’s third match in six days.
Yet even with fatigue, soreness and the Texas heat playing a factor, interim manager Jim Curtin doesn’t expect the red-hot Union to slow down anytime soon.
“We’ll be fine for Houston,” Curtin said, citing the team’s depth. “We will juggle some things obviously with tired legs, but we have a lot of depth now.”
Fresh off a U.S. Open Cup semifinal win over FC Dallas on Tuesday, the 6-8-9 Union have called in reinforcements to face the Dynamo with such a short turnaround.
Headlining the group with be center back Carlos Valdes, who was held out of Tuesday’s match but will start Friday. Brian Carroll and Fabinho are also expected to play a role.
In terms of an X factor, the Union have also ordered young midfielder Pedro Ribeiro to join the team from the Harrisburg City Islanders. The club has been waiting for an excuse to bring Ribeiro into the fold and Friday will be the perfect chance to make an impact.
“He’s a guy I’ve always been high on,” Curtin said. “Not just off the bench, there’s a possibility he starts in this game. Again, we have a lot of tired legs right now. We’re going to put a team on the field tomorrow that can play with Houston and get a result. Pedro’s a guy that we trust. He’s in now with the team and we’ll train today and I’ll see where he’s at physically, and maybe it’s a game where he gets a run.”
However, one of the Union’s additions won’t be World Cup goalkeeper and recent signing, Rais Mbolhi, who has been excused from the team for paperwork reasons. In his place, Zac MacMath has gone 2-0-1, making a pair of penalty kick saves in Tuesday’s win.
“It’s tough, but at the same time, Zac has handled it well,” Curtin said. “There was a little setback with Rais’ visa, but these things happen. But there’s a process of getting a player fully here and there’s a transition period. He’ll be back with us Monday, see where he is mentally, and go from there.”
Just five points behind the Union for playoff position, the 6-12-4 Dynamo have been struggling of late, going 1-2-2 in their last five games and coming off a 2-0 loss the Seattle Sounders, despite the addition of left back, DaMarcus Beasley.
But even though the Dynamo don’t appear dangerous on paper, Curtin considers them a playoff team.
“Dom Kinnear-coached teams are ones that you look at at the beginning of the year, no matter what form they are in, you count that they are going to make the playoffs,” Curtin said. “They did have a tough start, they dug a little bit of a hole but you look at the group now and they are a handful.”
While the Dynamo look to gain traction in the East, the Union continue rolling, going 7-1-4 in their last 12 games in all competitions. The Le Toux-led Union are unbeaten in their last five MLS matches.
“The commitment of the guys has been the most important thing,” Curtin said. “The commitment that they’ve shown, to empty their tank in every game and fight for every ball, has been what’s been really impressive.”
Sounders, Union set for Open Cup championship
With a dominant 6-0 over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders will face the Union on Sept. 16 at PPL Park, for the U.S. Open Cup championship title.
It will be the Sounders’ fifth visit to the Open Cup finals in the last six seasons. The club won the title three consecutive times from 2009 through 2011 but lost in the finals in 2012.
Bethlehem Steel, along with Maccabi Los Angeles, holds the Open Cup record with five titles.