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Know Your Opponent: Philadelphia Union

The Houston Dynamo have their first midweek test of the season tonight against the Philadelphia Union (2-4-4, 10 points) at Talen Energy Stadium. Philadelphia got off to a rough start to the season, but are unbeaten in their last four games and have won two straight. Glenn Davis takes a closer look at their squad going into tonight's game.

After a 15-match winless streak stretching into last year, Philadelphia has exploded with a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls and then a 4-0 win over D.C. United. What has keyed this turnaround in the last couple of weeks?

Better collective play and a team that is defending better. Goals breed confidence and have magical powers but for me the turn-around game was New York Red Bulls.

An Andre Blake save keyed the way the script was going to be written on this night. Players settling in, less self-inflicted moments are all contributing, as well as general good fortune.

I do like the fulcrum in midfield in Haris Medunjanin from Bosnia who is sort of running the show. I look forward to seeing him against the Dynamo in an area where he will confront Alex. The two players combined have 11 assists.

When Alejandro Bedoya came into the team, it seemed that they tried to force him into an advanced playmaker role. How has his role shifted this year in their midfield?

I think players are best where they are comfortable but managers are sometimes finding ways to get others on the field and find combinations that suit individuals best. 

In this case it was very clear that Alejandro Bedoya was soldiering on, playing in a central role as a #10 that forces one to have his backs to opponents. You also get closed down from so many varying angles in a central role but it seems to be working next to Haris Medunjajin now in a deeper lying role.

Some players are better with the security of the sideline and that is Alejandro Bedoya, who has the work ethic of a man with three lungs and has an altered role than he has with the national team. The Union expect and need a lot out of him.

Philadelphia also comes into the match with three consecutive shutouts, even with a rookie – Jack Elliott – and a 35-year-old – Oguchi Onyewu – holding down the center back spots the last two weeks. Is this just about their back five, or is it their team defense that limits opposing teams?

Defending is collective and individual and comes from a team mentality in many ways, it has to be prideful. Onyewu took a seat for a few games and now has had a run back in the team after returning against New York and has worked well with a young center back in Jack Elliot. I would not say they are the most mobile pairing but they have other attributes.

It will be interesting to see if the Dynamo get their vaunted wide game going and can pull them out of the middle where they will not be as comfortable.

Let's not forget who you have in goal in Andre Blake who was last year's MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, besting the likes of Tim Howard and a bevy of excellent MLS goalkeepers. He can make saves that are remarkable and the rumors continue to persist that he will head overseas in the summer. Time will tell but he inspires confidence in any set of defenders in front of him.