BRIDGEVIEW, IL. – It took only two shots on goal, a bit of luck, and some phenomenal goalkeeping, but the Philadelphia Union pulled off a victory on the road. The Union came into Toyota Park looking to move into a playoff spot, as they were behind the 5th seed Columbus Crew by mere tie-breaker. The home side was looking to finally get their season going in front of the home crowd, as sparse as it was with just 12,205 in attendance.
To an extent, both teams accomplished their goals, as Jack McInerney scored to give the Union a 1-0 victory, while the Fire were successful in controlling a vast majority of the play in the game.
Despite how well the team played, it is hard not to disappointed with the results as Chicago could not finish their shots despite a shaky Philadelphia defense. Zac MacMath deserves a great amount of credit for the Union’s success, as he kept his team in a game that saw the Fire hold possession for more than 65% of the second half. There was one instance where MacMath nearly feel with the ball into his own net, but was very effective for the remainder of the game.
Besides MacMath, who was named the Man of the Match, the next largest contributor to the Union’s play was the Fire’s lack of finishing. The duo of usual midfielders Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko – who came as close to a goal as possible, sending a drive towards net that hit the goalpost and stayed out of the net – consistently gave the team scoring chances but simply could not find the back of the net and nothing got past MacMath.
The Fire applied consistent pressure for most of the game before McInerney struck in the seventy-fifth minute of play, casting a huge shadow over the very good play of the Fire throughout the game. The decision to bring in Sebastien Le Toux proved big for Philadelphia, as Le Toux would pick up an assist on the goal.
Despite the failure to finish on any of their several chances, Fire Coach Frank Klopas expressed faith in the tandem of Rolfe and Nyarko. Klopas said in his post-game press conference, that “they combined well. They showed well. You can see by the opportunities. [Nyarko] was dangerous, their ability to play off each other and stay more connected. Pushing [Paladini] a little bit higher up the field because everyone has to defend. You need their energy mostly in the final third. As a team we are pretty hard. Patrick, when he got the ball, was very good off the dribble. He created a lot of opportunities but he didn’t get rewarded with a goal. The little things are hurting us right now. Over 90 minutes you get the chances and you don’t score, you can say it is a little unfair but it’s soccer. We got to go back and be focused.”
Certainly, there a plenty of positives to draw from the match despite the result. The team displayed the ability to create scoring opportunities with ease. The Fire seemed to have the edge physically, winning forty-nine draws out of ninety, or fifty-four percent. The Fire had a nine percent edge in passing accuracy and completed one hundred and fourteen more passes than the Union. The defense contributed to the offense, as Jalil Anibaba made a solid tackle two minutes into the game that resulted in a powerful counterattack, and Sean Johnson fed the ball all the way up to Nyarko for a semi-breakaway before MacMath eventually beat Nyarko to kill the opportunity.
Fire captain Logan Pause knows what it will take for the team to bounce back next week, and believes that the team will respond well to the opportunity to pick up three points in the second game of the home-and-home with the Union in Philadelphia. “The big thing for us is getting past it mentally and moving on. We know that things aren’t going well. We’re sitting toward the bottom of the table, and we don’t feel like this is where this team should be. Obviously, this is a tough one to swallow today, especially since I felt like we did more than enough to get some points, in front of home fans disappointing them.”, said Pause, who has captained the club in each of the past three seasons.
With the loss, the Fire remain in eighth place in the conference with seven points, and have been shut out in five of their first nine games this season. Philadelphia has moved past Columbus and into the fifth and final playoff spot with fifteen points, eight ahead of the Fire.