Match Review: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union
The Philadelphia Union were not the best team on the field on Saturday afternoon, but they took three points from Toyota Park. In a game where the Union didn’t seem nearly as dangerous as the Chicago Fire, Jack McInerney scored for the Union, and Philadelphia still left Bridgeview, Illinois with a win.
Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, Okugo, Soumare, G. Farfan; Carroll; Cruz, Daniel, M. Farfan; Casey, McInerney
Chicago: Johnson; Thompson, Anibaba, Berry, Segares; Pause; Duka, Paladini, Lindpere; Rolfe; Nyarko
In the first half of the game, neither team got into much of a rhythm. With the exception of a few good plays, there were interceptions and bad passes all over the field. The best players on both teams made little-to-no impact on the game, and the match seemed destined to end 0-0 and go down as one of the Union’s ugliest games of the season. Chris Rolfe was one Chicago player who didn’t have a very remarkable performance. Rolfe had several shots throughout the night, but none of them went into the net. However, this may not have been entirely due to mistakes or bad decision making on Rolfe’s part. For example, in the 21st minute, Rolfe received the ball on the right side of the field from midfielder Dilly Duka. Rolfe dribbled the ball towards the middle of the field and closer to the goal. He took a shot that went wide to the left of the net. This miss wasn’t entirely due to poor finishing or bad decision making with the ball, but because Union defenders were in good positions to prevent Rolfe from taking a good shot. Rolfe had four shots throughout the game. Three of them were either outside the eighteen yard box or near the edge of the box. His only shot that was close to the six yard box was from a cross that he barely got his foot on in the 33rd minute. Union defenders – and defenders throughout MLS – understand that Chris Rolfe is a talented playmaker and scoring threat, and therefore always make an effort to ensure that all of his shots are as far away from the goal as possible. In the 33rd minute, Chicago had one of their best scoring chances of the afternoon. Patrick Nyarko, playing in the absence of forward Sherjill MacDoanld, took the ball to the left of the eighteen yard box. He dribbled past Philadelphia’s Amobi Okugo and crossed the ball to Chris Rolfe who, as previously mentioned, barely got a foot on the ball and sent it right at Gabriel Farfan. The ball deflected off of Farfan and landed right in front of Daniel Paladini who shot it right at Zac MacMath. The ball deflected off of MacMath and fell to Dilly Duka, who knocked it up into the air and over into the path of Daniel Paladini who shot it at a Philadelhia defender before it went out for a corner kick.
In the second half, Chicago was much more dangerous than the Philadelphia Union, however the Union were the team that scored the game’s only goal in the last 45 minutes. In the 48th minute, Gonzalo Segares made a run to cross the ball from the left side of the eighteen yard box. The cross reached Daniel Paladini near the far post, who tapped the ball over to Patrick Nyarko in the center of the box. Nyarko shot the ball, however it hit off the post and went out for a goal kick. Throughout the night, Patrick Nyarko was Chicago’s most dangerous player. Filling in for Sherjill MacDonald at the top of a 4-4-1-1 formation, Nyarko was constantly getting into fantastic goalscoring positions and creating wonderful goalscoring chances for his teammates. Even if MacDonald is back on the field next week, expect Nyarko to be playing a similar role, if not the same role, next week when the Fire come to PPL Park. In the 75th minute, Jack McInerney scored his seventh goal of the season for the Union. Sebastien Le Toux, who was subbed on for Danny Cruz, took a quick free kick from the right side of the midfield that flew over the heads of all the field players’ heads and landed right in front of McInerney, who was making a run in space between Chicago defenders Jalil Anibaba and Wells Thompson. He took a shot that deflected off of Sean Johnson and went into the back of the net. It was a bit surprising to see McInerney score after he had been quiet for the most part throughout the game up until when he scored his goal. However, McInerney often plays like a poacher, as he did on Saturday. Poachers are like jack-in-the boxes. They always surprise you when you don’t expect them to. They’re usually quiet before they sneak into a goalscoring position and knock the ball into the net. McInerney’s goal was a good poacher’s goal. He made a run into space that Anibaba and Thompson had left open for him to exploit. He made a fantastic run to get on the end of Le Toux’s free kick and took a good shot, even though it deflected off of Sean Johnson before it went into the net.
The Union didn’t play particularly well during the game. They didn’t create many good plays and their attack didn’t seem very dangerous throughout the match. The Fire, on the other hand, got their act together in the second half and seemed the most likely to score and earn three points. The Fire had more shots than the Union (Fire:15-Union:9), they had more shots on goal (Fire:6-Union:2), and they had more possession (Fire:58%-Union:42%). Philadelphia is lucky that they were playing a team that has been having trouble finding ways to score so far this season. But next week, Chicago very possibly may put some of their chances into the back of the net, especially if Patrick Nyarko plays as well as he played on Saturday. The Union need to stay alert and get all of their attacking players involved in the game. Michael Farfan, Conor Casey, Keon Daniel, and Danny Cruz all need to keep more possession, move the ball up the field, and create more scoring chances. All of these players were quiet for the most part on Saturday. The Fire are clearly a beatable team, but that doesn’t mean that the Union should just assume that they will beat them again next week. The Union’s attack needs to look more alive. That could mean moving players to different parts of the field or replacing them in the starting lineup. No matter what, the Union need to stay more focused and alert. Chicago proved they can fight hard and be dangerous. Though they are 8th place in the standings and only have scored six goals so far this season, they are not a team to be taken lightly.