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Match report: Fire 1-1 Union

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And while the Union offense isn’t necessarily broken, but it only coalesces for the briefest of moments before returning to an unfocused state.

In front of 10,557 Saturday night at Toyota Park just west of downtown Chicago, the Philadelphia Union found fleeting success and are no closer to re-discovering their identity.

The first fifteen minutes was an exhibition in direct soccer. Both teams were playing with a recessed striker, so the midfield was like I-676 during rush hour. In the 6th minute, Carroll played Le Toux over the top and the striker’s half-volleyed cross was headed wide of goal by Justin Mapp.

Moments later, Cory Gibbs left the match and Jalil Anibaba stepped into the middle of defense. It was a move that showed Chicago’s weakness at center back, but the Union failed to push.

But in the 13th, Le Toux’s corner was deflected over a diving Sean Johnson and wide of net. This bit of contact brought the game to life. The Fire instituted a high pressure defensive system, with the strikers hunting as a unit. It took the wind out of Philadelphia’s sails and allowed Marco Pappa to push higher up the pitch and become involved in the offense.

Pappa is everything the Union keep telling us Justin Mapp is. He is an outlet that starts the offense and makes good decisions to involve his strikers. In the 19th, Pappa broke upfield and played a wall ball with Dom Oduro. Receiving the ball back 22 yards out, Pappa powered a left-footed volley at Mondragon, who covered well.

Pappa was involved again minutes later when he used a slick first touch to beat Michael Farfan and float an early cross to the penalty spot. Gabe Farfan’s covering broke up a good opportunity.

The worrying thought at this point was that the Fire had a plan, they just weren’t confident enough to put the final product together. The Union, on the other hand, looked lost.

Roger Torres struggled to create space all night. He finally found some in the 33rd minute and tried to slot in Le Toux down the right channel. The pass was deflected to the middle of the field where Veljko Paunovic deftly touched it to the left and fired a brilliant low shot beyond Sean Johnson.

Brian Carroll was assessed a yellow card moments later as he sought to shut down the Fire’s counterattack with his third hard foul of the match.

The Fire continued to look dangerous on the counter, and Nyarko hit a volley just over the bar in the 40th minute.

There were no changes at halftime, but the Fire were clearly in the ascendancy. Nine minutes into the half, the Union suffered a defensive shutdown and Patrick Nyarko took space up the right channel and laid a low cross to Dom Oduro. He tried to backheel the ball in but Valdes covered well. Unfortunately the rebound came out to Pavel Pardo who finished low on his Fire debut.

Immediately, the Union had a chance to go back ahead. Roger Torres lifted a free kick to Carlos Valdes in space, but his header was too high with nobody near him.

With Danny Mwanga’s late introduction, the Union sought to take all three points. Mwanga was played in by Le Toux but his first touch took him away from goal and Josip Mikulic cleared.

Mikulic had a fantastic match, taking Mwanga out of the game after sixty-five minutes of bashing bodies with Paunovic and Le Toux.

Last time the Union and Fire played, Carlos Ruiz pulled a rabbit from his hat with a powerful winner from forty yards out.

Ruiz is gone now, and he seems to have taken the magic with him.


  1. What in the world was Mwanga thinking when he didn’t take that shot at the end? That possibly cost us 2 points. He deserves a 3 on the player ratings for that alone.

    Also, Miglioranzi is to blame on the Fire goal. Pulled a Nakazawa from last friday and let his mark run in behind him. Valdes was ball-watching too on the initial serve. Even though he managed to stop that attack, he deserves some blame for the goal for pulling Mondragon out of position.

    • PhillyHotspur says:

      Is it me or was there little sweat on Migs at the end of that game ?

    • Agreed Migs & Valdes were sleeping on the Fire goal but it was just awful how Marfan let his man beat him and make the cross into the box. Way too easy and he needs to share the blame.

  2. The only saving grace from last night’s game was that LeToux very marginally looked like he was getting some of his touch back. The rest of the game was horrendous.

    It’s time to get a “Shoot the damn ball!” chant going for Saturday’s game.

  3. Totally outplayed by a 2 win team last night. Mondragon is singlehandedly responsible for that not being a loss. Lets not forget that Mapp was dribbling, and dribbling, and dribbling (into multiple defenders again and again and again). Also looks like our D’s vulnerability to quick through balls and speedy strikers has been exposed the last 2 games. After watching that whole game, I literally felt like somebody urinated on me for 90 minutes.

  4. And does anyone with more insight have any idea why Amobi is getting no PT in games that matter?? Can he be any worse of an option that Carroll?

    • I’d like to see Amobi get PT, but Caroll is your sacrifice? He didn’t have a great game last night, but he saved a goal, not to mention his season-long, excellent contributions. I was, however, shocked to see Migs in over Okugo

  5. Lets just hope we never see that exact formation of players ever again…….

    It clearly didn’t work on any level….

    And how on earth is Mapp making it 85 minutes on the pitch last night ? he looked gassed by halftime….

    And LeToux….WTF is up w/ his CK attempts ? can he simply get the ball up ?

    And Valdes missed another sitter w/ his head right in front of the goal………what a waste

    easily , the most frustrating game outside of that disaster in LA.

  6. On the Fire goal, Farfan was beaten too easily, Mondragon too slow to get up, Valdes clears to the middle, Migs too slow to react…Where is the confidence in front of goal? Valdes and Mwanga both looking for a pass in front of penalty spot?!?! WTF?!?! Also how long has it been since we played with two defensive midfielders? Could it be that since Torres (defensive liability) started, we revert back to two D mids? Torres was invisible all game but did make me laugh when he fell over his feet…

    • Being harsh on Torres there …. once he dropped back to find the ball he was the only midfield player who looked for the forward, positive pass. Taking him out for Mwanga was a joke. After that we REALLY didn’t have any midfield to speak of.

  7. Our lineups do not make sense. Good shot by the Serb and a couple nice saves by the Dragon got us a point. There is nothing else to say but go get three on Saturday.

  8. Andrew Desiderio says:

    After last night’s game I have to air some issues:
    -First and foremost, the Union are in first/second place not because of the coaching staff, but in spite of the coaching staff. Simply stating we should be happy to be at the top in the second year is settling below what can be achieved. With proper tactics and player selections the Union would have at least 6-10 more points then they do currently. After playing like crap the first half…not much changed tactically for the beginning of the second.
    – Whoever bashed Ruiz and all the negative drama he brought with him simply can’t deny that he was the only one who could consistently finish. The excuse that many chances are being created is getting old, and doesn’t matter if nobody can finish them…there isn’t a rule on how many times you have to pass the ball before shooting it
    -Mapp was awful last night…him and Le Toux pick the ball up at half and just start dribbling into the three to four opposing players with no plan at all…not to mention if I see Le Toux standing next to our defense (marfan last night) one more time…what is a “forward” doing back that far…hold the shape and give the other forward some options (I know Rooney tracks back but lets not kid ourselves)
    -Marfan is going to be a great player, but he is not a RB and all of his strengths are useless at the position, play him at mid or find a defender who can cover all the back four positions
    -last night’s formation contained 5 center mids and a “forward“ (Le Toux) who doesn’t really play forward and can’t score in the run of play. Carroll has proven he can man the holding roll himself so why play an another DM, and if so why not Okugo vs. Miglioranzi. Where is the width? I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what Keon did to piss the coaching staff off. Why would the coaching staff bring in naka for torres and wait to bring in Keon for Mapp with 5 minutes to go?
    -what has happened to Mwanga? It’s not the he is playing bad, it’s that we have seen him do so much more. How do you not shoot on the last play of the game, who exactly are you passing to in the 6 yard box. For now the Mwanga of Galaxy and Rapids (away)heroics seems a far distant memory?

  9. A great display of 3rd division football from both sides!

    Now, can we spend some money and get some reall soccer players on the team.

    At this rate I am reexamining my season tickets purchase.

    If they don’t want to spend money on the team, no reason for the fans.

    Horrible performance. Just painfull to watch both teams play the game.

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