Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Chicago Fire

Photo: Earl Gardner

Jack McInerney’s league-leading seventh goal of the season fired his side into the top half of the Eastern Conference table Saturday with a 1-0 victory at Chicago.

For the majority of the match, the Union were outplayed and left to chase the Fire, who were determined to find their goalscoring touch. But Zac MacMath stood tall, turning in a man of the match performance that kept Chicago out for 90 minutes and earned the young goalkeeper his second clean sheet of 2013.

As time wore down and the Fire’s frustration built, the Union managed to steal all three points against the run of play, with the hard-working McInerney racing behind the defense to latch onto Sebastien Le Toux’s perfect delivery.

First half

With Jeff Parke and Sheanon Williams unavailable through injury and suspension, respectively, John Hackworth was forced to shuffle his back line for the first time this season. Ray Gaddis moved back to his preferred right side, Gabe Farfan manned the left flank, and Bakary Soumare made his highly anticipated first start of the campaign alongside Amobi Okugo. Hackworth made no changes to his front six, with Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll centering Danny Cruz and Michael Farfan, while McInerney and Conor Casey continued with their partnership up front.

McInerney almost helped the Union get to a flying start when he played in Cruz after just three minutes, but the winger’s touch let him down, allowing Logan Pause to recover and snuff out the chance.

That chance proved one of a few isolated incidents in the first half where the Union got forward, as Chicago quickly got onto the ball and took control of the midfield through Pause and Daniel Paladini.

With Patrick Nyarko replacing Sherjill MacDonald to partner with Chris Rolfe, the Fire looked to play quick, direct soccer and challenge the Union right up the gut. But with the visitors sitting deep in their own half, Chicago found the Union hard to break down, despite controlling the ball with ease.

The Union could have grabbed the opener on a counter when Casey played Cruz in behind the defense, but Cruz’s touch was heavy, taking him too close to the endline, where his service eluded everyone in a blue shirt.

Chicago was quickly back on the attack, and MacMath had to be alert to Rolfe’s low drive, though it flew wide of his post.

With the center of the field open for the taking, the Fire began to push numbers forward. Nyarko had the next look on goal, striking a weak volley into MacMath’s waiting arms after Dilly Duka had earned a corner. Moments later, Rolfe was back on the attack after a Union turnover in midfield, but his effort was easily claimed by the Union keeper.

A goal seemed imminent, and Paladini should have put the hosts into the lead on 33 minutes. Nyarko was again the catalyst when he skipped past Okugo and cut the ball into the center of the box. Gabe Farfan could only chest the ball into the path of Paladini, but with the goal gaping, the midfielder could not get his shot past the sprawling MacMath. With the ball still sitting in the box, Chicago had a chance at a follow up, but the Union managed to deflect it out for a corner.

Suddenly beaming with confidence, MacMath rose above two attackers to bravely claim the ensuing corner before tumbling back to earth, the ball held securely.

The Union looked to hit back quickly on the counterattack and Michael Farfan split Wells Thompson and Jalil Anibaba with a through ball to Daniel, but his cross ballooned over his teammates crashing in on goal.

It proved only a brief respite from the Fire’s pressure. Nyarko was giving the Union fits in the 37th minute when he easily blew past Carroll before turning Soumare. Unable to lineup his own shot, Nyarko squared for Rolfe who also found himself handcuffed. Rolfe then laid off for Lindpere, whose powerful drive was beaten away by MacMath at full stretch.

Eager to get in the locker room on level terms, Soumare had more work to do when he nipped in to take the ball off of Nyarko before he could burst in alone.

Second half

The halftime break did little to cool off Nyarko, and he came within inches of opening the scoring just minutes into the second half. When Gonzalo Segares served a deep cross from the left flank, Paladini ghosted in behind Michael Farfan to cut the ball back for Nyarko. Forgoing a settling touch, the Ghanaian spun his shot past MacMath with his first effort only to see it rebound back off the post.

Lucky to still be at 0-0, the Union carved out an opportunity of their own at the other end moments later. With a chance to get the big men into position for a corner in the 50th minute, Casey found space at the near post to snap his header in on Sean Johnson’s goal. The Chicago keeper was equal to the task however. On the second chance service into the box, McInerney was unable to get his head onto the ball at the back post.

Sebastien Le Toux entered the fray for Cruz in the 56th minute as Hackworth looked to throw bodies forward, but it was Chicago who had the next chance. Racing down his right flank, Duka was able to put the ball on his left and cut inside Gabe Farfan. Duka then fired a low drive that forced the best out of MacMath, who got low to push away the effort.

Chicago continued to look likeliest to break the deadlock and nearly did so moments later, but MacMath was quicker than Nyarko as he raced off his line to clear the imminent threat.

Antoine Hoppenot replaced Casey on the hour mark as the Union increased their strike force while Chicago continued to grow in the midfield. With half an hour remaining, the Union were sitting ever deeper, allowing Chicago to comfortably control within 35 yards of MacMath’s goal.

But Chicago’s next chance came when the Union were forward after Gaddis won a corner kick. Johnson claimed cleanly in the 69th minute and launched the ball downfield toward the streaking Nyarko. Gaddis could only get the slightest touch on his header as he turned to chase. The two fastest players on the pitch tore off into the Union’s half with Gaddis doing just enough to keep Nyarko from breaking away clean. MacMath was quick off his line to meet them, and Gaddis’ pressure was just enough to keep Nyarko from getting his shot off until MacMath reached the edge of his area and made the vital stop.

Rolfe then nearly set the table in the 74th minute when he showed exquisite touch to win the ball around Gaddis and shoot low to the back post, where Nyarko arrived only seconds late to prod home.

But after Chicago had spurned so many chances to take the lead, McInerney seized his first opportunity and made no mistake. After Hoppenot was bundled over for a seemingly innocuous foul, Le Toux walked up to the ball and, without setting himself, lofted a quick free kick over the Chicago defense. Breaking immediately following the foul, McInerney showed his own skill when he settled in traffic before using his second touch to poke his shot just over Johnson’s body and into the net.

The Toyota Park crowd was stunned as their side struggled to respond to the Union’s opener.

Minutes later, McInerney turned provider, with Hoppenot nearly putting the match to bed. Unfortunately for the Union, the second year striker’s first touch let him down, taking the ball too close to Johnson, who was clattered into by Anibaba for his troubles.

With only minutes remaining Chicago pressed forward for the equalizer, but on 85 minutes, Rolfe’s spinning shot flew well wide of the target. Undeterred, substitute Quincy Amarikwa was the next to race into the Union box. Soumare timed his tackle well, knifing in to get the ball, and was incensed by the theatricality of Amarikwa’s penalty-seeking tumble in the box. The two had words as Amarikwa rose to his feet, and Amarikwa hit the deck again after Soumare dropped his shoulder into the shorter player. Referee Armando Villarreal was unmoved to give a penalty and failed to see the second confrontation as play continued.

Amarikwa nearly got the last laugh when he cracked a volley on MacMath’s net after Gabe Farfan’s clearing header failed to cover much ground, but the Union keeper was not to be beaten on the afternoon.

With the first of 3 matches in 8 days in the books, the Union are off to the best possible start heading into Wednesday’s showdown with Los Angeles Galaxy.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Ray Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Bakary Soumare, Gabriel Farfan; Danny Cruz (Sebastien Le Toux ’56), Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Michael Farfan; Conor Casey (Antoine Hoppenot ’61), Jack McInerney
Unused Substitutes: Chris Konopka, Chris Albright, Matt Kassel, Roger Torres, Kleberson

Chicago Fire
Sean Johnson; Wells Thompson, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares; Dilly Duka (Alex ’63), Daniel Paladini (Quincy Amarikwa ’84), Logan Pause, Joel Lindpere (Maicon Santos ’73); Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko
Unused Substitutes: Paolo Tornaghi, Corben Bone, Michael Videira, Yazid Atouba

Scoring Summary
75 – PHI: McInerney (LeToux)

Discipline Summary
62 – CHI: Duka (caution)

Armando Villarreal

Match Stats

Chicago Fire Philadelphia Union
15 Attempts on Goal 9
6 Shots on Target 2
5 Shots off Target 5
4 Blocked Shots 2
6 Corner Kicks 6
8 Fouls 8
30 Open Play Crosses 10
4 Offsides 2
1 First Yellow Cards 0
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
49 Duels Won 41
54% Duels Won % 45%
411 Total Pass 297
81% Passing Accuracy % 72%
58% Possession 42%


  1. Finally my defense of Zac is warranted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I have many thoughts on this match but let me just say this now. You cannot imagine my joy when at the ’56th minute Danny Cruz was subbed out and I truly knew that the week of having him rammed down our throats was truly over.

  3. Stunning that we stole two points from that game. Zac rocked. Carroll and Garfan also had excellent games, I thought. Soumare looked good. I am now deeply concerned about Hackworth, who I have refrained from criticizing this far this year. But his stubborn lineup choices and odd substitions are gravely concerning.

    • JediLos11 says:

      I thought Soumare showed why the Parke and Okugo pairing is preferred.
      Carroll had a strong defensive outing but really seemed gassed around the 80th.

      • Great One says:

        Had to know this comment was coming from you… Zac finally made your defense of him warranted, outstanding game.

      • Soumare played well, I thought. I think you just want him gone or can’t swallow your pride.

      • JediLos11 says:

        I thought he looked slow in speed and in reading the game…easily turned inside out in his own 18 at least twice.
        Its hard to say anybody in our back line played well after this game.
        From you point of view, how did he play well?

      • The Black Hand says:

        He played two matches…in three years. I say we hang on to him for a bit.

      • Steve l. says:

        Los in my opinion he was gassed because he was doing his job and Keon’s job

    • Subs were good

      • Ha! Yes the two subs were good…but where was the glaring third…especially in a week where fitness is going to be such an issue

    • The Black Hand says:

      Hack paid no mind to the busy week ahead.

  4. JediLos11 says:

    Really only took four positives away from this game.
    Obviously, our #1! Good work Zac!
    Casey continues to do his work, really has been overachieving.
    That pass…
    …that control…#9 is gonna be hard to ignore come gold cup.

  5. The Black Hand says:

    Atta boy MacMath!!!! Stood tall and stole one for the club.

  6. MacMath man of the Match. That is excellent news. It is amazing to see how the quick restart worked so well; a nanosecond and it reverses the imbalance of time of possession, shots and control. What a game to watch! Thanks, boys, for a good game to watch and a good result.

  7. Great One says:

    First off, I want to say the positives, since there were many negatives. Obviously it’s great to take the win. Zac had an amazing game, hopefully this pushes him forward the rest of the season. Jack continually shows how good he is. Even aside from the goal, he tracked back on defense, received the ball, ran off the ball, and made some great passes. Really excited about him. Marfan had a tough game but put in some great effort. Soumare looked mostly solid, the only times he looked off were when Nyarko ran right at him, and everyone seemed to have trouble with him. It is only Soumares first game. Casey continues to impress. It was nice to see Letoux contribute again as well.
    Now onto the negatives, the majority of which began with John Hackworth. We were reminded by the commentators constantly in the first half how bad Chicago is this year… As they control the game and dominate us. We also are reminded the only other teams to score as little are NY and NE, both of which scored twice on us. Just frustrating to hear as I see the mostly same lineup trotted out every game. Hackworths strategy was just plain awful here, we could not have sat any deeper, and it let them just throw players at our back line all game. Had it not been Chicago, this would have cost us the game. How did we not use a third sub?!?!
    We were reminded why last week was an aberration, as Cruz’s touch was back to normal.
    That being said, Cruz was light years beyond Keon in this game. He offered absolutely nothing, at all. Even the commenters were questioning how the hell he was in the game by the end. This has been him mostly all year.
    Carroll was dead legged out there after pretty much half time. He was routinely late to players after that, and his touch grew increasingly worse, culminating in that give away that almost allowed them to level the game in the 79th minute.
    In the end this year one of two things will happen. Our emerging young talent will overcome other team limitations and we will succeed… Or Hackworths lineup and strategic decisions will destroy the team.
    PS-the announcers didn’t seriously mention Zac as a USMNT candidate did they?

    • Hey you try talking for 90 minutes straight. you’ll say some dumb things too.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      RE: MacMath to USMNT. I heard that, too, but I think they kind of thought better of it as they started saying it. They mostly just wanted to say, this kid could also come good.

    • Great One you know what your talking about. One of the few that do. I agree with everything. Most defenders in this league have problems with Nyarko running right at them, and they play every week. Not using the 3rd sub is baffling, but so is Hacks starting 11 every week. The Union are beyond lucky to be where they are right now.

  8. Southside Johnny says:

    I hate having the forwards leashed up in the first half on the road. We pressure high well and it disrupts things enough to help the midfield a lot — and they need all the help they can get. Zack was a different guy and I liked this guy a lot. Baky still looks a little slow and rusty, but I thought he did pretty well for his first start. Carroll was Carroll. Defended well but no help for the attack with aimless clearances. Danny is back to normal. Keon has mutated to DM. Michael just isn’t sharp so far this year. Gabe is so much better than Gaddis at LB and Gaddis is respectable at RB. Casey and Mac are fun to watch as they surprise with deft touch and relentless aggression. Overall, grand larceny.

    • frankswild says:

      Calling Daniel a DM is an insult to DMs. I used to be a fan of the guy but I think he could use some time off or perhaps he should be fired into the sun

      • I used to be a fan of his as well. Not so much lately. He’s great on set pieces but has no attacking prowess and turns the ball over too much for my taste. What do we have to lose to sub in Kleb except perhaps we may end up being a better team. Sit Daniel for a while or use him as sub. Problem is if you listen to Hack’s recent presser on Daniel, he’s in love with the guy and thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread (Bimbo of course). This is one of the reasons I have truly learned to despise Hack as our coach. He seems out of touch with reality.

  9. Hackworth’s ingame management is horrible. First, I’m starting to feel like he has his “favorites”. Our midfield is horrible for 4 straight games.
    We play the same midfield, and even after seeing it get run over what does he do? Subs in two strikers, cause obviously that’s why we can’t keep possession. sure the Le Toux one worked out fine, and honestly he’s a better option than Cruz anyway. But i would have rather seen someone come into midfield instead of subbing Hoppenot for Casey.
    We didn’t even use our last sub, when we needed someone in midfield who didn’t turn the ball over. Keon and Carrol were both at fought for turnovers in our own half, but man Daniel needs to stop starting. I’m fine leaving Cruz in, but I saw Jack in the midfield way to many times, with Daniel not even in sight. Where the hell was he playing?

    • Oh your just now starting to realize Hack has his favorites. Should of started to realize after preseason. Hack is gonna be the reason why we don’t make the playoffs.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He already is the reason, Doc.
        No reason to run Casey out, when the big dogs are on deck. It will be interesting to see who faces LA.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      The choice to not use the third sub was an interesting one. Keon Daniel may not have had the best game, but as a stabilizing, possession-oriented midfielder who takes few chances, he is the type of guy who is hardwired for killing games at the end. Other than him, who else would you take out? I think that explains the choice. (Not that I agree with it, mind you.) Had Lahoud been healthy and in the 18, he probably would have come in for Daniel.

      • Scottymac says:

        The problem is he’s killing games at the beginning and middle. There is ZERO justification for Daniel over Kleberson or Torres. I’m ready to try Konopka over Daniel at this point.

      • Is Lahoud hurt? He seemed like a good option to have, to provide some additional cover for our shuffling defenders.

    • Nice lucky win. Le Toux cool under pressure. Great pass and nice run by McInerney. MacMath is growing more confident. Soumare played well considering the jackass who manages this team. Carroll was a mess and Daniels was an absolute noshow. How do you not give a world class player minutes in a game like this? Kleberson should have been brought in to start the 2nd half! I still believe Hackworth needs to go after this season. The 3 points is great but it should not have been that difficult.

  10. Terrible game from both sides. Why is he not using the DP? Even the commentators where at a loss on that one.

    • Especially when Daniel was lost and lazy all game.

    • It’s stunning when, at 0-0, the commentators say the obvious move is to swap Keon for Kleberson, then after the U go up 1-0 they still say Keon isn’t giving you enough, swap him for Kleberson. He only has EPL and WC experience, he might handle himself okay. Our does Hack troll these boards and refuse to play Kleb to show he doesn’t cave to outside pressure?

  11. What a game for our goalie! Now we can finally bed all the “what game has he ever saved points” comments for a time. I think he is having a good year given the circumstances of being thrown to the wolves last season with at least one concussion thrown in.
    Now Keon- that was his worst game. We have to see someone else in his position against LA. Is it possible everyone east of State College knows this except our coach?
    Did Seba assist his way into the starting line up?
    Can Jack keep this up?

  12. Henry O'Hara says:

    I am very glad that Le Toux was back in action. He doesn’t have to play 90 minutes but he should play.

  13. Steve l. says:

    First off, good game Zach, please keep that up. Baky’s game was a wan for me, ome good points some not so good points, but he hasn’t played in so long and nyarko is really fast. I think Carroll was tired towards the end of the game as a result of covering for Keon the whole game. Keon needs to sit, still can’t figure out how he gets such a long leash and others don’t get any playing time ( sure Torres may not play D but neither does Keon, and kleberson may not be fit but Keon walks around for half the game anyway). I was ok with the subs with the exception of the third one not being used, if you are going to pack it in with essentially 3 forwards on the field take one off and put another midfielder or defender in. Cruz is growing on me, would still rather see farfan on the right and Cruz on the bench, but he is growing on me.how can everyone including commentators see that Keon should be out of the game and hackworth can’t? We may have got the points, but our boys in blue still don’t pass the eye test. That being said I still think we sort out the midfield and we are a playoff team.

    • Steve l. says:

      Baky’s game was a wash

      • Keeping in mind our back line hasn’t been performing well with Parke and Williams in there the last few games giving up goals to teams that just don’t score against everyone else. Despite the fact Zac had a good game, it’s what, only our second shutout all season. Have to give some credit to the defenders, Soumare included. He did well enough.

      • Kenso Josh says:

        It’s Chicago. They got chances. It was only MacMath that stopped them. No backline credit.

    • JediLos117 says:

      In regards to Carroll and Daniel. It was painfully obvious that one should have been subbed following the goal (Daniel maybe pre goal).
      For me Daniel for Kleberson is the only viable option of the bench at that time. Daniel more so as his contributions offensively and defensively were minimal (if any). And Carroll offers more defensively to close out the game.
      I have to wonder if the coaching staff rates Kleberson in a see out a win situation as a liability and thus gambled with keeping Daniel in.

      • I’m not saying Baky was bad, just that he did some good things and some bad things, but the bad things can be reasoned away. And I agree with you kleberson should have been subbed in for Daniel. But how they an see kleberson as a bigger risk than Daniel to see out a game boggles me. Rick I think most of our defensive lapses will go away when the midfield gets sorted, not saying the D still won’t have brain farts, but a lot of the issues to me area with the mids letting guys like nyarko getting free time to get a head of steam or letting late runners into the box freely like they did against NE.

      • Kenso Josh says:

        beat on the dribble twice, giving a guy two yards ten yards from goal?

        Nothing can explain that away. It’s poor play from a CB.

      • Yeah, it’s almost like this is the first time he’s seen the field in a competitive game in 8 months or something.
        And only the 2nd time in like 12+ months!

      • Steve l. says:

        My point exactly, do I think he had a great game, no. But I think he did ok, and the things he did wrong( with the exception of the shoulder bumb) can be explain because of rust and ack of game shape. Lets be honest the rest of the defense have been making some of those mistakes and they’ve been playing.

      • The Black Hand says:

        The tackle, before the shoulder, was excellent. Soumare didn’t seem to have a very fast reaction-time, but that can be remedied with more playing time. I think that it would be wise to play him a bit more, if only to increase his trade value.

  14. Awesome. I don’t even have to comment – since everyone else has the same vision.

    We all did laugh yesterday when even the commentators are dumbfounded by Hack’s decisions.

    And Keon – can someone steal his visa again? Dear God.

  15. This team wins in spite of Hackworth.

  16. I think we’re seeing what Hackball has to offer. It’s not pretty and might only net the U about 40 pts this season, but they’re not terrible.

  17. Ok, we have a midweek tilt says:

    Gaddis – Williams (CB) – Okugo – Garfan
    Marfan – Kleberson – Cruz
    Le Toux – Jack
    Not giving up on Soumare or demoting Casey, but neither is fit and the idea of Baky exhausted and chasing the Galaxy scares me. Both those guys (and someone else for Cruz) for Chicago.

    Also want Torres in the 18 in case Klebby can’t go 90.

    • Jaap Stam says:

      Hack will NOT play Kleberson. He is very, very uncomfortable around DP’s. if he hasn’t played Kleberson by now he NEVER will. It sucks but we must face facts and be realistic. Hack hates DP’s.

      • Steve l. says:

        Jaap, I don’t think it’s that he hates DP’s. I think he is just enamored with Keon for some reason.

  18. Jaap Stam says:

    Zachary McMath was great. Best I’ve ever seen him play. Major step forward for the young lad. Breakthrough game!

    • Agreed. Even better, he seemed like he’s corrected some of his issues with going into ‘turtle mode’ on close-in shots. I’m feeling much more hopeful about the season.

    • The Black Hand says:

      He absolutely made himself more proactive, in the area. He didn’t sit on his heels. Improved play from our young keeper, who needs the confidence boost. Now if he can prove that this wasn’t a fluke, we will have something. It would be nice to have our defense and keeper on the same page, for once.

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