CHESTER, Pa. — Not every game-winning goal is a pristine piece of individual brilliance, but they all count the same.
As Elliott collided with a few defenders in the center of the box, the ball went off the 23-year-old and clanged the top part of the crossbar. The Englishman followed up the hit of the post with an open header at the goal mouth to keep the Union in first place in the Eastern Conference.
“I didn’t know too much about the first play,” Elliott said. “I was in the area, and that’s what counted. I saw it going over the goalkeeper and then I was just waiting to see what was happening like everyone else, to see if it was going to bounce and go or over if it stayed. Luckily it went in the right place, and I’m extremely pleased with it.”
Elliott’s second goal of the 2019 campaign in the 78th minute came after a frustrating 36-minute period between Christian Ramirez’s 42nd-minute equalizer and the game-winner.
Before Elliott knocked the ball into the net, the Union looked lost in the Houston half because of the disciplined approach Wilmer Cabrera’s side had, a mindset that has caused trouble to the Union in previous home matches.
Outside of Ramirez’s goal, which came on his club debut, the Dynamo did not offer much moving forward.
If not for Kacper Przybylko’s fluky goal that went between the legs of Joe Willis in the 18th minute, the Union would have been forced to chase the game down one.
“It was a double pass with Haris and in the end he gave me the ball and I just finished,” Przybylko said. “I also don’t care how it went in. It went in.”
Aug 11, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The Philadelphia Union warm up before a game against the Houston Dynamo at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
“It was also a surprise for ‘Ale’ because he did a great job with the statement,” Przybylko said. “I support him. The whole team supports him. He’s totally right with that.”
Elliott’s strike came at the perfect time for the Union, which came to life for the first time in the second half two minutes earlier when Marco Fabian combined with Ilsinho to force a corner kick.
Overall, it was a disappointing performance for the Union off the heels of the 5-1 win over D.C. United, but they still earned three points in the standings and another week on top of the East, with Atlanta United their closest challenger three points back following a 2-1 win over NYCFC Sunday.
“It’s one of those things that at this time of the year, it sort of happens,” Elliott said of the performance. “The most important thing I think at this part of the year is winning, and sometimes you have to win ugly. That’s exactly what today was. Today we showed we can do that.”
Both teams return to MLS play Saturday. The Union will try to keep their lead atop the East when they face the Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium, while the Dynamo attempt to break out of their four-game funk against the Colorado Rapids.
“This is how it is,” Przybylko said. “If you stay on the top, you win games like this. If you stay down in the table, then you probably lose this game so who cares? Three points.”