Union's Paunovic may play against the Dynamo

Posted: November 02, 2011

The Union expressed optimism that forward-midfielder Veljko Paunovic, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, will be ready for Thursday's second leg of the two-game aggregate goal Major League Soccer Eastern Conference semifinal series at Houston against the Dynamo.

The Union remained typically tight-lipped about revealing their lineup for a game in which they will start with a one-goal disadvantage, having lost the first leg of the series, 2-1, on Sunday. The team with the most total goals in the two-game series after regulation will advance.

If the goal totals are tied after regulation, the teams will play two 15-minute overtimes in their entirety and if it is still tied, then it will be decided by penalty kicks.

In 17 games this season, the 34-year-old Paunovic had three goals and three assists. His most recent appearance was in the second-to-last game, going 72 minutes in a 1-1 draw against visiting Toronto on Oct. 15.

Paunovic then missed the regular-season finale Oct. 20 at the New York Red Bulls, and was sidelined for Sunday's first game against Houston.

"We are hopeful he will be ready to go," said Union assistant coach John Hackworth while substituting for team manager Peter Nowak during Tuesday's weekly news conference.

Hackworth says that Paunovic's veteran leadership would be welcome.

"Paunovic has been instrumental to us down the stretch and one of those guys with lot of experience who gives the young guys a tremendous amount of confidence just by the way he acts on and off the field," Hackworth said. "He is versatile for us to play a forward or in the midfield and allows us to get some matchups we think we can take advantage of. We hope we have him available because he is a big piece of our team."

Even though the two-game format is different than the regular season, the fact that the Union are in essence down a goal isn't. This season they came back to either tie or win a game after trailing by at least one goal seven times. Six resulted in draws and a seventh was a win (see chart).

"We have come back before this year and we know what we have to do," said Sebastien Le Toux, who scored Sunday's lone goal for the Union. "This team has a lot of confidence going to Houston."

By the way, Le Toux says there is no question that his free kick in the 54th minute should have been called a hand ball on Houston's Brad Davis inside the box, which would have awarded the Union a penalty kick.

While the television angles showed it from the back, Le Toux was looking directly at Davis.

"There is no question he put his hand up to stop it," Le Toux said.

Kicking Back

This season, the Union have come back to win or tie a combined seven times after trailing by at least one goal. Here is a summary of those games:


May 11     vs. Los Angeles       1-0             1-1

June 4     at Colorado             1-0             1-1

June 25 vs. Chivas USA       1-0             3-2 win

July 2     at D.C. United          2-1             2-2

Aug. 13 FC Dallas             2-1             2-2

Sept. 7     New England          4-1             4-4

Sept. 23 at Kansas City          1-0             1-1

- Marc Narducci

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com, or @sjnard on Twitter.

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