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Philadelphia Union 1 – 0 Chicago Fire

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDw8iMXe3MI&[/youtube]

What is that number next to Chicago? Is that a zero? Why yes it is.  The Union pitched their first ever shutout on Saturday night with a deserved 1-0 victory over a tired Chicago team. Sebastien Le Toux scored his 11 th goal of the season for the only goal of the game.

Playing their 3rd game in eight days, Chicago appeared to have heavy legs in the first half as the Union dictated play. Through some substitutions and formation changes, Chicago came into the game in the 2nd half but weren’t able to find an equalizer. Under-performing starting goalkeeper Chris Seitz was dropped in favor of Brad Knighton, while Sheanon Williams was handed his first MLS start with Juan Diego Gonzalez injured.

Chicago almost took an early lead when Steven Kinney headed in a free kick on 9 minutes, but he was correctly judged to be offsides. From there, the Union took control of the game. Stefani Miglioranzi shot high and wide from distance, followed by Le Toux and Danny Mwanga coming close.

It would be the Frenchman who finally converted on 36 minutes though. Justin Mapp, who was terrific playing his former team, found the ball in space 30 yards from goal. Danny Mwanga made a terrific run to the space to the right of Mapp, and when two defenders followed him, Le Toux found himself standing in acres of space. Mapp played in Le Toux, who opened his hips sending Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson diving to his left as Le Toux coolly fired the other way.

Chicago was much better in the 2nd half. Taking control of the ball and keeping possession. Calen Carr was introduced, allowing Freddie Ljungberg to drop deeper and control the attack from the midfield. But even with the increased possession, the Fire failed to create too many quality chances. Carr probably had the best chance when he failed to head home from close range on a quickly fired cross.

The Union did have chances to put the game out of reach in the latter parts of the second half when Le Toux again got behind the defense to fire wide and minutes later Fred drove into the box only to lose the ball and then take a poor dive in the hopes of drawing a penalty. But finally, their failure to put the game out of reach did not come back to haunt them as they were able to keep the clean sheet.

One piece of bad news was that star rookie Danny Mwanga was forced off in the second half with a shoulder injury that he sustained when he was tripped up in the first half. He was due for an x-ray today, but Nowak claimed that the shoulder was slightly separated. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

You can’t argue with results

Brad Knighton was not amazing in goal. He seemed a bit out of sorts in only his second league start for the Union. He did make a huge save in the first half as Ljungberg fired a half volley from very close range that was parried away. But we also saw him chasing down a cross in the second half that almost saw him grab the ball outside of the box. Probably a ball that he would have been better off leaving. But with that said, it’s still a clean sheet. The Union’s defense was stout for the 2nd straight week, but unlike last week when Seitz failed to make the one big save, we saw Knighton come up big on Ljungberg. With a quick turnaround and a midweek game on Wednesday, will Peter Nowak ride the hot hand in goal?

The emergence of a real outside back

Sheanon Williams played all 90 minutes at right back in his MLS debut. With Juan Diego Gonzalez sidelined with a groin injury, Michael Orozco Fiscal partnered Danny Califf in the center, allowing room for the rookie on the outside, where he didn’t disappoint. I hope Jordan Harvey was taking notes, as Williams chose good spots to make runs forward and provided some service AND was able to track back to play good defense. There was definitely a little miscommunication with Williams and a few missed passes, but that is to be expected as he adjusts to life in the MLS and with the Union. But it’s a strong debut in a position that the Union have seemed shaky in all season.

Welcome back Shea

Out with a foot fracture for over 2 months, Shea Salinas returned to play about 20 minutes on Saturday. After a quiet first few minutes, we saw what a real winger can do for the first time in a while in Philadelphia. Salinas grabbed the ball at his own 18 and took it straight up the sideline, showing his signature speed and the ability to take on defenders, as he weaved on a 60 yard run. I talked about it last week in the draw with Kansas City, that the Union lacked width for most of the season. With Salinas getting healthy, there is finally an option out wide in that traditional winger’s role. And with Williams providing such a solid debut at outside back, we could see the pacy Salinas allowed to run in the outside midfield.

Player Ratings

GK Brad Knighton – 8

Huge save on Ljungberg in the first half. Some adventurous goalkeeping in the second half. But in the end, it’s still a shutout.

RB Sheanon Wiliams – 7

Still has to adapt to the speed and strength of the league, but a promising debut. Made some good runs and provided a few crosses.

CB Danny Califf – 7

Decent showing from the captain. Was strong in the air in the absence of Gonzalez and kept the ball from getting to Knighton.

CB Michael Orozco Fiscal – 7

Moved into the center against the Fire. Best contribution to the game was probably leveling the whiny Ljungberg late in the second half. But no notable gaffes.

LB Jordan Harvey – 7

Deserves his 7 just for being involved in keeping the clean sheet. Not beaten defensively all game, but still failed to provide much coming forward. If Williams remains solid, could Harvey be the odd man out?

RM Justin Mapp – 8

One of Mapp’s best outings since leaving Chicago. Solid in possession, willing to take defenders on and almost always finding a good pass. Provided decent service as well.

CM Stefani Miglioranzi – 7

Typical game from the defensive midfielder. Dropped deep to break up the Chicago attack and provided some distribution.

CM Andrew Jacobson – 7

Better in the center this week, rather than on the wing, as he was deployed last week. Was able to link the defense and the forwards well, and was also able to provide runs off the strikers in the final third.

LM Sebastien Le Toux – 8

Another goal for the MVP candidate. Was dangerous all day, attacking from the wide positions in the first half and from striker in the second half. Had a good chance to put the game away but fired wide, but another great performance.

F Danny Mwanga – 7

Lots of good running for the rookie. Created space for Le Toux’s goal with a smart run and almost scored on a chance of his own in the first half. Hopefully his shoulder is not seriously injured.

F Alejandro Moreno – 6

Typical game from Moreno. Some good passes, no shots, and plenty of going to the ground. Hopefully Mwanga’s injury is not serious, because Moreno is not the striker that will lead us to the playoffs.

Subs

Fred – 5

Came on for the injured Mwanga at the 55 minute mark, moving Le Toux to forward. Provided no width and took an awful dive on his best run of the match.

Shea Salinas – 7

Great to see the speedy winger back on the pitch, getting in for 20 minutes after taking off Moreno. Ran well with the ball and proved that his injury has not slowed him at all. Hopefully he gets to full fitness soon.

Kyle Nakazawa – n/a

Played the last 13 minutes and failed to get many touches on the ball.

(Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz. For more of his photos from the game, click here.)

9 Comments

  1. A shutout?! We need one more to avoid having the lowest number of them of all time in an MLS season.

    When I saw Sheanon Wiliams on the pitch I said, “He’s horrible.” I was going off the Chivas game, where every touch he had was nervous, and every tackle was a foul. Last night he proved me wrong- there was still a touch of nerves, but he was in the right place often, and even had an open shot on goal that he muffed.

    I suppose everyone else has done this already, but we are only four points behind Toronto, who are currently third in the East (The last playoff spot for our conference, probably) with seven games to play. It’s possible we still make the playoffs. I know past performance is the best indicator of future performance, but we could beat anybody- even the talented Energy Drinks and Galaxy. I think fifteen points out of seven would put us in.

  2. The way it works is that the top 2 teams from each conference get playoff berths, followed by the next 4 best teams, regardless of conference. The Union are sitting on 24 points, 9 points behind Seattle and San Jose, who have 33 points and would be the 8th seed. The Union have played 1 game more than San Jose and 1 fewer than Seattle.

  3. I’m done with Moreno. He was clearly and blatantly fouled 9 or 10 times by the ogre Conde, but received almost no calls because he flopped 14 or 15 other times. If I was a referee I wouldn’t give him any calls either. I don’t want to see any more of him this season. There’s a reason he was unprotected in the draft and should be again this year.

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