The Philadelphia Union will need to improve to surpass Houston in the MLS playoffs, when the two sides meet on Thursday.
Facing a very experienced Houston Dynamo team, Peter Nowak’s side seemed to stumble out of the gate in their maiden MLS playoffs campaign, going down 2-1 at home on Sunday in the first of two legs in their Conference semi-final.
Philadelphia defender Danny Califf said his side were not defensively sound, as they conceded twice in the opening half-hour.
“I think we need to be ready for their (Houston’s) set pieces from the outset,” Califf said.
“We knew that was going to be a strength of theirs going in, and we didn’t do a very good job on the first set piece. We need to do our jobs from the opening whistle.”
Califf was obviously not happy with the result, but he was also under the impression that the second goal – scored by Dynamo’s Calen Carr – should not have been allowed.
“I thought he (Carr) was offside. I thought that Stefani, myself, and Gabe were all in a line and he was behind us. So I’m not exactly sure what ended up happening,” he said.
Union manager Nowak is undeterred by their one-goal deficit heading to Houston on Thursday.
“We had a lot of chances. The last part is to finish them. We have to expose their potential weak points. But this loss may be good for this team. Knowing we don’t have to defend, and we have no pressure on us to hold a lead,” he said.
That mindset is also constant throughout the Philadelphia locker room.
“I certainly have all the belief in the world that we can come back and really put our stamp on this series, and show everyone the kind of character we’ve had all season,” Califf said.
“Plus, I would imagine we’ll probably go back to our 4-2-2-2.”
“The fact that it’s a two-game series and that we know that, it just puts it into the fact that it’s crystal clear that we need to win.”