Dec 2, 2009, 2:19 PM EDT
The MLS schedule makers were none too kind to the Union, who today host the Houston Dynamo in what will be their third game in a week (4PM/Live Well HD/Telefutura). They were completely outplayed in every facet of the game against Colorado on Wednesday night, a game which they lost 4-1. As well as they played last Saturday in beating Chivas USA 3-0 that's how awful they were against the Rapids Wednesday night.
The good news is that the Union beat Houston the last time they meet, a 3-2 Union win which was the first road win in franchise history. Danny Mwanaga was the stoppage time hero for the second week in a row as he scored the game winner. Mwanga, who has been nursing a shoulder sprain is lister as probable for today.
Putting aside the awful first touches and lack of creativity the most glaring concern from Wednesday night was the nonexistent marking. It didn't matter whether Colorado was lining up set pieces, or coming at them during the run of play, the Union's marking was atrocious. Were it not for some breakaway opportunities which went begging the Rapids could have easily rung up six or seven goals.
I cannot imagine Peter Nowak was pleased after watching the game tape. Although marking was a team-wide problem the most egregious example was committed by Amobi Okugo on Omar Cummings' second goal which came off a corner kick. It almost appeared as if he thought they were zonal marking, which they clearly weren't. It will be interesting to see whether Nowak sticks with Okugo despite committing such a glaring mistake.
Houston enters the match already eliminated from playoff contention. Their starting keeper, Pat Onstad, is coming off of a concussion suffered in Houston's most recent match, a 3-2 win over D.C. United last weekend. According to the MLS website Onstad is listed as probable.
Their coach, Domonic Kinnear, will not be on the sidelines after being handed a suspension for shaking hands with D.C. United coach Ben Olsen while outside the technical area. I am not making that up. The handshake occurred after a crunching tackle from United's Julius James. Olsen claims he was apologizing for the tackle, while the fourth official claims the coaches were having words. Okkkkkaayyyyy.
As I mentioned, the Union back four is going to have to do a better job of marking this week. Brian Ching and Brad Davis are Houston's two main offensive threats, and will present a significant challenge. Defensively, Houston is anchored by MLS veteran Bobby Boswell, who may struggle with Danny Mwanga's pace.
What am I looking for from the Union? I'd like to see Nowak utilize Shea Salinas, who scored an unbelivable goal the last time these two teams meet. Assuming he's back to full fitness why not take advantage of his speed on the outside? I'd let Salinas play instead of Fred and have him run the flank all day. Also, I've said it a million times and I'll say it again – I appreciate what Alejandro Moreno brings to the table, but I think I've had enough. Just pair Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux up top already.
If they Union hope to improve on their 4-2-4 mark at PPL they'll have to actually, you know, play sound defense. They desperately need a certified ball winner in the back. Until they find that person things will remain porous in the back.
Union Player Most Likely to See Red: Andrew Jacobson, who is slowly trying to develop into a hardman for the Union.
Final Score Prediction: Union rebound from Wednesday's debacle in Colorado to win it 2-1.
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