Union / Union match reports

Postgame: Fire 2-1 Union

The game is on ABC in prime time, and this is what they brought to show the random channel surfer?

The Chicago Fire played some of the ugliest, most boring soccer possible to beat Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Saturday night.  They scored one early goal, packed 10 men back near the box for the rest of the game, and lucked out on a second goal gifted to them by the Union’s Stefani Miglioranzi. This was a game so spectacularly boring that any true soccer fan had to wish it was buried on some less visible channel for the night. We might as well have watched Italy play.

You can’t blame the Union for that either. They attacked, they controlled the ball, and they generally played well enough to get a result.

Last season, this Chicago Fire team was one of the most fun to watch in the league. Cuauhtémoc Blanco was leading the attack with creative flair, and every seat in Toyota Park was typically filled. But Saturday night, you saw a very different team. It’s no wonder there were so many empty seats out there. (Attendance was listed at 14,658, but it looked like less.) The Fire got a win, but the product they put on the field was one that you couldn’t sell to anyone. Credit to Union manager Peter Nowak for ripping his former team.

But enough ranting about the Fire. Let’s talk about the Union and some things that stood out from Saturday’s 2-1 loss.

  • Cristian Arrieta has become the weak link on defense.

The Union right back clearly has the talent to play at this level, but either he doesn’t like to hustle or he has the most seemingly effortless (and slow) stride in Major League Soccer. Arrieta got smoked twice by Patrick Nyarko on the same move, with Nyarko getting the quick first step down the end line toward the goal. Each time, Nyarko dished off. The first created Baggio Husidic’s goal in the 14th minute, and the second nearly led to another goal.

Sure, Nyarko is fast, but Arrieta looked like he was going at half speed to chase Nyarko down, much as he has other times this season on goals against the Union. Manager Peter Nowak yanked him at halftime, and it wouldn’t surprise if Arrieta got some pine time to send a message. If there’s an injury, give him a break. If there’s not, Arrieta better start playing at full speed all the time, or he’s going to find that talent alone isn’t enough.

  • Lesson learned? The Union face their first Italy-style defense.

This was the first time the Union faced a team who basically packed in their whole team to stop goals and do little else. The Fire played a 4-5-1, and Brian McBride did little more Saturday than run back and forth as Michael Orozco and Danny Califf played long ball across the back with each other before pushing forth the attack. What the Union didn’t do was navigate the packed defense well with quick, short passes. Nowak clearly made the adjustment at halftime, but other than the Orozco-Califf routine, the changes didn’t work. That should change with a few more matches like this.

  • Stoppage Time Danny Mwanga does it again.

Three straight weeks with goals in stoppage time? That’s simply amazing. How did it happen? A combination of good fortune and good finishing. One thing is clear: If you put Mwanga in the box with the ball at his feet, he’s a threat to score.

But until that goal, he had been invisible for most of the half, often crowded with Sebastien Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno as all three forwards often ended up in the same space. All three to deserve to play, but what formation they’re in and whether they should play together are issues that may need to be addressed.

  • The defense is starting to look good (except Arrieta).

Chris Seitz had some great saves, and Danny Califf and Michael Orozco looked very good back there. Jordan Harvey continues to play mistake-free soccer and push up more in the attack. If Arrieta can jack up the intensity, things may come together.

  • Le Toux on corners – just a bit long.

Le Toux took most of the free kicks Saturday, and he consistently shot his corner kicks too far for the Union to touch them. The Union basically wasted most of their five corners. Maybe Le Toux just needs some more time on them to get them down, because he hit nearly every corner the exact same way. But corner kicks are important scoring opportunities. You need to get at least half of them into the box properly.

  • Nice touch with the Flyers jerseys.

Whatever the Union get fined for going into the pregame wearing Philadelphia Flyers jerseys, it’s worth it.

Player Ratings

Chris Seitz: 7

Some great saves from Seitz, who put on an excellent performance overall. Impossible to blame him for the second goal or, in all likelihood, the first.

Jordan Harvey: 7

Another solid defensive game for Harvey, who pushed forward well throughout the game.

Michael Orozco: 7

Steady all night. Sent some good long balls a few times and is proving adept at that with either foot.

Danny Califf: 7

Califf made play after play. He had one nice sliding stop of a shot on goal and had a near-miss on a shot of his own. Failed to adequately help Arrieta on the first goal and was standing there without an extended foot when Nyarko earned his assist in front of him.

Cristian Arrieta: 4

A little hustle goes a long way, and the lack of it goes even further.

Shea Salinas: 6

Salinas wasn’t the same offensive presence as he was against Houston last week, but he filled in well at right back after being moved there in the second half.

Stefani Miglioranzi: 4

His botched clearance gifted Marco Pappa a goal that won Chicago the game. Needs to cut out the sloppy, studs-up tackles that cost him a yellow card in this one.

Kyle Nakazawa: 6

Moved the ball well from his central role. His halftime substitution was a surprise.

Fred: 5

Fred finally took a shot on goal. Too bad it was from 25 yards out and sailed about 20 yards above the goal. Otherwise, more of the same: Great dribbling, a nice cross or two, but not much cohesiveness with the team.

Sebastien Le Toux: 5

His blistering free kick from 30+ yards stunned Chicago goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra and nearly netted. Minimal impact other than that.

Alejandro Moreno: 4

Marginalized by Chicago’s defense, never got the chance to really affect the flow of play.


Roger Torres: 4

Torres didn’t do much to get noticed after coming in at halftime. We know the teenager can do the spectacular, but he hasn’t shown he can do the solid and consistent yet.

Danny Mwanga: 6

Another great finish.

Nick Zimmerman: n/a

No real impact after subbing in late.

(Image: Joe Cannaday. Check out Cannaday’s cartoons at http://www.joecannaday.com.)


  1. Josh Trott says:

    I’m going to disagree on Harvey. He was covering the Chicago striker on the first goal. While Arrieta got beat, the rest of the defense should have picked up the Fire players in the box, and Harvey should have either made a solid effort to intercept the pass, or have stood up the man receiving the ball on the six yard line. I think that Miglioranzi’s assist earns him at least a three, maybe a two. It was a game until that moment.

    I share the ambivalence about Fred. The one cross was the most spectacular instance of Union technique in the game, and Torres’ failure to get it on goal was disappointing. But other than that I didn’t want him on the field.

    It looks to me like Mwanga is due to start. He shoots on goal. He has no problem with clutch play. That means he can be a great striker.

  2. It’s hard for me to blame Harvey on that first goal. Yeah, he was there, but it was great positioning by Husidic. Califf came over to help Arrieta, but the pass was made at the right time.

    As for Mwanga? The question is who do you bench? Mwanga is a good finisher, but he’s out of place in the midfield. Le Toux and Moreno have both been solid. Mwanga’s time will come, but I’m not sure it comes yet.

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