Houston, TX – The Houston Dynamo, Major League Soccer's in- goal advantage into its second leg 1 win at PPL Park over the weekend.
Including the end of the regular season, Houston has pieced together a seven- game unbeaten streak to finish second in the Eastern Conference. Its win at PPL Park on Sunday has shown that Houston has been able to carry that form over into the postseason.
The Dynamo's opening leg victory marked the first postseason road win in club history as well as the first time in five two-legged playoff affairs that they have opened with a win.
Andre Hainault scored the opening goal in the first leg, his fifth goal in all competitions for the Dynamo. All of the defender's goals have come on the road in October.
"It's funny that I score all my goals on the road and they've come late in the season, but I'll take them when they come," Hainault said.
Brad Davis, the league's assist leader, delivered the set piece that was met by Hainault. Whenever the midfielder is on the ball, according to Geoff Cameron, his teammates automatically switch on, knowing that a scoring opportunity is likely to follow.
"When you have a guy like Brad who can whip a ball in and then you have guys like myself, Carlo [Costly], Ching [Brian], you got Calen [Carr] and you got Andre Hainault, all big guys running around in the box something is bound to happen," Cameron said. "Anytime he's on the ball we think we're going to score so that's a great mind-set to be able to have."
Philadelphia faces a tough task at hand, needing to win by a two-goal margin in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday.
It is certainly an attainable result for the Union, as they have already gone to Robertson Stadium and won, defeating the Dynamo 1-0 in their first game of the regular season.
Danny Califf, who provided the lone goal in Philadelphia's win at Houston this season, is confident that the Union can clinch a result on Thursday.
"I think we have all the confidence that we can go there and win," said Califf. "If not 2-0, we'll take it and we'll go into overtime and take our chances."
Union head coach Peter Nowak has also revealed that losing at home on Sunday could be a blessing in disguise.
"It may be good for this team to go into the second leg not feeling the pressure to defend a 1-1 tie or a 1-0 goal difference," Nowak said. "So it maybe is a good thing that the pressure is off right now and we have nothing to lose going into Houston."
Nowak tinkered with his tactics at home, deploying Stefani Miglioranzi as sweeper between center backs Califf and Carlos Valdes to help cope with Houston's deadly crossing and aerial abilities.
The strategy failed, as Houston scored twice in the opening half. Nowak reverted back to a system he has favored all year, pushing Miglioranzi back into the center of midfield to partner Brian Carroll.
"I think we were trying to get an extra guy in the box to deal with their crosses and things like that," said Califf. "That left a lot of room for [Carroll] to have to cover on his own.
"I think we were much more effective in the second half when we pushed an extra guy into midfield to help [Carroll] out so he didn't have to cover 40 yards square by himself."
With no need to play defensively on Thursday, Nowak is unlikely to make the same tactical mistake for the second leg.