Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 1-2 Chicago Fire

Photo: Paul Rudderow

An extremely flat Union side fell 2-1 to the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at PPL Park.

Patrick Nyarko opened the scoring for the visitors when left alone on the far post in the 9th minute. Sheanon Williams was able to equalize, bundling home a Sebastien Le Toux free kick. But a bad giveaway by substitute Leo Fernandes gifted the Fire a winner when Nyarko was able to play in a wide open Mike Magee. Magee made no mistake blasting past the onrushing Zac MacMath late in the second half.

“They had a little bit more heart,” defender Sheanon Williams said after the game. “The last few times we played them, they settled for losing. Definitely with the new people that they brought in, they’re a different team. They’re not the same team that we beat twice.”

Starting left back Ray Gaddis was forced off at halftime after rolling his ankle and was replaced by Fabinho. His status for next Saturday’s match against DC United will be updated during the week.

First half

John Hackworth’s side against Chicago saw Conor Casey return up top with Jack McInerney after serving a one-game suspension. With Keon Daniel suspended one game due to disciplinary committee action, the midfield included Danny Cruz and Sebastien Le Toux out wide with Michael Farfan and Brian Carroll in the middle in front of the Union’s standard back five. In short, starting the game was perhaps Hackworth’s strongest lineup.

But the team came out flat and Chicago dictated play during much of the first half. Hackworth would say afterwards, “That was not our best night. We started off poorly. Performance-wise we have to be better.”

Chicago moved the ball fluidly during the opening minutes, possessing the ball in the Union’s half. After only 9 minutes they were in front.

Following some good combination play between Mike Magee and Joel Lindpere, Lindpere was able to float a cross from the corner of the box on the left side to the far post. Nyarko was completely unmarked and finished first time to the opposite post past a helpless Zac MacMath from about 8 yards.

The Union continued to struggle to find the ball and put together positive possession. It wasn’t until the 22nd minute that the Union registered a shot when Michael Farfan hit a dipping effort that sailed over Sean Johnson’s goal. And it wasn’t until the 35th minute when they finally put a shot on target, a slow roller off of Danny Cruz’s left foot.

Cruz would have the best chance of the half for the Union after Casey was able to split the Chicago center backs with a ball from 30 yards. Cruz latched onto the pass near the top of the box, but his fierce left footed drive was batted away by Johnson.

The Union were able to pick up the pace as the half came to a close. McInerney would have a good shot blocked from the top of the box before having a header saved by Johnson late on.

Ray Gaddis was on the turf requiring treatment with just under 10 minutes left in the half. The injury seemed to happen off the ball, and John Hackworth confirmed after the game that the young left back had rolled his ankle. Gaddis was able to finish out the half, limping badly, but his night was done.

Second half

The Union started the second half much stronger than they started the first. Fabinho, in for Gaddis to start the half, was able to get forward immediately down the left side and put in a low cross across the Chicago box. Conor Casey got on the end of the pass but his left footed shot rolled just wide of the far post with Sean Johnson stranded.

Fabinho again got forward in the 55th minute, this time driving at the Chicago defense before playing a smart ball in behind for Sebastien Le Toux. But the speedy Frenchman could not beat Johnson, who was out early and made himself big to save with his feet from 6 yards.

The Union would find their breakthrough in the 60th minute after a long clearance was chased down by McInerney just outside of the Chicago. He held up the ball wonderfully against the high pressure of former Union defender Bakary Soumare, eventually forcing the big man to foul him near the corner of the box.

Le Toux stepped up to deliver the spot kick, driving it toward the near post. Williams arrived first under pressure to bundle the ball home from the ground with what looked like his shin or his ankle. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest goal ever scored at PPL Park, but the defender will take it.

The equalizer buoyed the Union, who would have a series of corner kicks shortly after the goal.

With the PPL Park crowd coming alive, Le Toux drove each corner into a dangerous location. First, Casey would just miss at the near post. Then, Okugo forced Johnson into a good reaction save with a powerful header. Parke would get onto the next corner only to see his volley cleared off the line. Finally on the fourth corner, McInerney headed over the bar at the far post, relieving the pressure on Chicago.

Chicago would make the Union pay for their missed opportunities. Leo Fernandes replaced Michael Farfan—who seemed to be really coming into the game—in the 73rd minute. Two minutes later, it would be the young midfielder with a costly mistake that led directly to the game winning goal.

Fernandes was easily dispossessed 30 yards from his own goal after a fair shoulder-to-shoulder challenge from Nyarko and picked out Mike Magee. Free on the Union’s right, the former LA Galaxy man made no mistake hitting a 16 yard shot into the top corner past the onrushing MacMath to record his eighth goal in eleven games since joining Chicago.

Looking for a tying goal, The Union swapped Antoine Hoppenot for Danny Cruz in the 82nd minute. With Chicago content to sit deep and allow the Union to drop cross after cross into the box, it has to be thought that Aaron Wheeler could have been a more effective sub.

In the end, it was Amobi Okugo who would have the best chance at an equalizer. After a poor clearance from Johnson went straight to the Union defender inside the Chicago box, Okugo fired his shot just high and wide of the far post from 8 yards.

Zac MacMath was forced into one more big save when Okugo slipped late on, allowing Nyarko a one-on-one opportunity. But his chip was straight into the hands of the Union goalkeeper.

Hoppenot drove into the Chicago box in the dying seconds of the game and went down looking for the Union’s first penalty kick of the season. But the referee judged the challenge to be fair and waived off the young forward’s appeals. Replays showed that, while there was contact between Hoppenot and his defender, the Union striker went down easily.

A Philadelphia win would have seen them in second place, one point behind first place New York and one point ahead of third place Kansas City. Instead, the Union remain in fourth with Houston, who defeated Columbus,  at their heels and just one point back.

“We have been pretty inconsistent this year with winning,” McInerney said. “No one expected us to win in Vancouver, and we would have expected to win today. I think we just have to put it behind us and come out hard against D.C. [United].”

It was, as John Hackworth said after the game, “a huge missed opportunity.”

The Union will look to rebound next Saturday, when last place DC United  travel to PPL Park.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Ray Gaddis (Fabinho 45′), Brian Carroll, Danny Cruz (Antoine Hoppenot 83′), Michael Farfan (Leo Fernandes 74′), Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey, Jack McInereny.
Unused subs: Chris Konopka, Aaron Wheeler, Michael Lahoud, Kleberson

Chicago Fire
Sean Johnson, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares, Austin Berry, Bakary Soumare, Alex (Dan Paldini 74′), Joel Lindpere (Dilly Duka 67′), Patrick Nyarko, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris Rolfe (Quincy Amarikwa 67′), Mike Magee
Unused subs: Paolo Tonaghi, Hunter Jumper, Maicon Santos, Logan Pause

Scoring Summary
9 – CHI: Patrick Nyarko
60 – PHI: Sheanon Williams
75 – CHI: Mike Magee

Discipline Summary
6 – CHI: Jalil Anibaba (foul)
40 – CHI: Alex (foul)
85 – PHI: Antoine Hoppenot (foul)

Philadelphia Union Chicago Fire
19 Attempts on Goal 12
5 Shots on Target 5
11 Shots off Target 3
3 Blocked Shots 4
9 Corner Kicks 6
9 Fouls 17
32 Open Play Crosses 12
3 Offsides 1
1 First Yellow Cards 2
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
50 Duels Won 51
49% Duels Won % 50%
358 Total Pass 276
77% Passing Accuracy % 65%
57.2% Possession 42.8%


  1. So what was the deal with the refs letting Chicago guard Williams’s long throws like a basketball throw-in? The Laws say you get two yards, and I thought jumping at a throw-in was an automatic caution. He asked for space the first time and the refs refused. Did Jason Kreis get a rule change passed?

  2. Chicago’s game plan worked well. Pressure the Union’s two man midfield and make them pass backwards or turn the ball over. Larentowicz was pressing Carroll and Farfan so high up the pitch, they had nowhere to go.

    Unless Farfan was carrying a knock, subbing him off for Fernandez didn’t make any sense there. I know that Hackworth is high on him, but it’s really a tough spot to put a rookie in, given how Chicago was pressuring our midfield. You need to be able to hold the ball under lots of pressure and Leo couldn’t do that. If only we had a player on our roster with that kind of skill as well as one who is able to create vs a tiring defense. /sarcasm.

    Tactically, we’re in the soccer Stone Age with his 4-2-4. It leaves us so exposed in certain areas (outmanned in midfield and at the far post when defending, etc) and smart teams know how to prepare for it. Since we seem to be going backward with our tactics, I can’t wait until Hack rolls out his version of the WM.

  3. Hackworth is such a narrow minded non-coach. Why wasn’t Wheeler brought in? Anyone could see that a stronger player was needed to battle Chicago’s defense. Instead Hoppenot is subbed in. This is not managing the game. Cruz and Hoppenot is all Hackworth knows about soccer! Fabinho needs to start. The only thing Williams brings to the team is a throw in. Carroll needs to retire and Farfan made me actually miss Daniels. Gaddis is unjustly played out of position. Fabinho comes in and makes plays Gaddis obviously can’t. MacMath goes down on the Magee goal after making great saves all game long. Jack McKinerney is NOT a playmaker and needs to play his role. He doesn’t have the skills to be anything but a poacher. It’s going to get tougher over the next 4 games including DC. The skill on this team sucks. Only a handful of players can actually trap the ball without letting it bounce 5 feet away from them. That includes Roger Torres who is being persecuted by Hackworth! What does this team work on in practice? Cruz has that cannon ball style down pat, too bad it’s not soccer. Soumare can play defense. Too bad Hackworth the non-coach doesn’t known how to coach to a players strengths which is why this roster is littered with starters who wouldn’t start under a real pro coach. He needs to go.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Hackworth doesn’t know how to NOT sub Hopp in the 80th minute. That’s just what happens. Don’t you know that? Hack = Andy Reid. It’s getting old fast.

  4. Has Fernandes shown a SINGLE goddamn thing ever since he started getting minutes? My god, what a joke.

  5. I thought McMath made himself awfully small on Magee’s goal. Magee took a hell of a shot putting it into the roof of the net, but it would’ve been nice to see MacMath make it a bit harder for him.

    • It was a bad play on his part, and a shame cause he played well otherwise and even did what he should of done on that second half stoppage time shot (against Nyarko I think, he stayed big and made a fairly simple save 1v1).

      • Yep, exactly. Magee is skilled enough he may very well bury the shot no matter what MacMath does. But by going down so early and making himself small, he made Magee’s job a whole lot easier.
        I also agree that MacMath played well otherwise.

  6. To steal a line from someone on this site, on what planet is Leo fernandes your best option in the midfield!!!! I just wish Hackworth would say “I hate roger Torres and kleberson and would rather lose a game because of my ego!” Then I would understand because that was ridiculous. A bit disappointed in jack, because his touches were bad and he shouldve had the tying goal. Anyone else think the last 5 minutes looked like the state high school championship???? Long ball hell.

  7. I know the team is young. I guess the team is filled with hipsters. Because I’m pretty sure they are playing the game ironically. They play soccer like they hate the sport. They make fun of it. Look at how Williams scored. Enough with buchering the game already!
    I did not think that Hackworth should be made manager. But knew they were going to. So, I gave him a chance. At this point I think he should be fired at the end of the season. But know that next year he will still be in charge. The fanchise is rotten from the foundation up. From the ownership group up to the team’s management. I’m not hopeful for any change any time soon.
    When Hackworth put Fernandez in I said, out loud, that’s not a good idea. Don’t know what Hack was thinking. Fernandez was a none entity (aside for arguably costing them the game). Is Kleberson that bad in training? Doubfull. It seems Fabinho is an upgrade to Gaddis. He should be starting. But won’t if Gaddis is fit. Makes no sense. Hack needs to be sacked.
    Finally, whenever I watch this team I have an earge to gouge my own eyes out. The Union lacks any quality or skill. I’m not spending a dime or my time on it until the Union starts to spend money, and playing respectable soccer. I’m not really interested in watching them anymore. Terrible. They give MLS a bad name.

    • I’m not even sure why Farfan is coming out at that time, unless there was an injury or fitness issue. I thought he was playing decent, and was getting better as the game went along. He was checking back regularly, finding Le Toux and Cruz out wide, and attacking the box behind the strikers.
      Fernandes has a lot to learn, and a 1-1 match against a dangerous team isn’t the place to learn it.

    • Sounds pretty butt hurt to me.

  8. If Cruz is starting, it’s not their strongest starting XI.

    The first half was ugly to watch. I’ll give credit to Coach for making some tactical halftime changes, beyond the obvious Fabinho sub. They played much better football in the second half. They moved the ball better, they just couldn’t finish their chances. Chicago absolutely dominated in the air.

  9. The Black Hand says:

    Same weaknesses. Poor coach, inept midfield and ineffective ball movement. The only difference is that the visiting side was allowed their full XI for the entire 90′. Chicago is a much improved club. We are the SAME.

  10. To start: If you’ve seen my posts before, you know I view Hack as the worst coach in MLS.
    But, Fernandes was not nearly as bad as some people try to point out. The kid played very well and gave us something we were missing. Would I have made that sub? No. Was he to blame on the goal? Yes. And he should be ripped for that, But he played well. And if you can’t see that quality, then you don’t know soccer.
    Farfan played mediocre. Which is what he is. He wants to play like there is no opponent on the team. He should be on the bench and he needed to come off.
    However, my main point:
    We will not be successful as long as Carroll and Parke are key cogs on the field. Carroll cannot cut it anymore (I never really rated him, but he could at least cover ground). He and Williams turned the ball over almost every time they touched it.
    Parke is terrible in the back. Okugo and Gaddis are forced to try to cover for him way too much and it opens other gaps. He’s slow and his positioning is terrible (which is a sign of laziness to me). On the 2nd goal, Leo gets stripped and he wonders back. It’s 3v3, with Fabinho to the left. If Parke pressures, he slows the attack immediately. If he picks up Lindperes run inside, Okugo can slide tighter on Magee and Fabinho pressures the ball. Similar on the first goal, except Carroll (guess who?) doesn’t cover his runner.
    I have problems with Williams and Farfan being terribly undisciplined, and Cruz is crap. But Parke and Carroll are straight liabilities. Our best midfielder is playing CB right now. And our best CB locked down Conor Casey all night for the Fire.

    • Okugo, blah blah blah, out of position, whatevs. You are 100% right about Soumare. He was approximately one billion times better than Parke was last night.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Parke and Soumare with Okugo in front of them would be an absolutely amazing defense. Ridiculous

    • Honestly, I thought Cruz should have been tracking further back on that first goal. For all of his “hustle”, he looked like he ran himself out of that play. Naturally, that’s not an excuse for someone else failing to pick up Nyarko.

      Soumare dominated the air. Why or how this team couldn’t figure out how to use him is beyond me. Many fans wanted Okugo moved up the pitch and Soumare and Parke as the core of the backline. Now I’m wondering if that pairing would have been too slow, and it might have been Parke who would have to give way. In any event, you always want to be able to rotate your center backs. We insist on being one deep at every position.

      As always, however, most disheartening was the complete lack of movement off the ball and quick decisionmaking on it in the first half. The team needs to realize that it’s possible to score with your feet — not just your head. They’re completely reactive offensively, and it’s not remotely enjoyable to watch. Hack seems like a tactical brontosaur.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      I have been away and off the grid for two amazing weeks in Africa prior to which I watched most of the gold cup matches. Still a little jet lagged and on an adrenaline crash, but last night’s match was the harshest reality I have faced since the TSA ordeal at JFK. Thank you D, for eloquently stating what felt after that crap last night. I would only add that I feel JackMac’s pain in his return, but wish he would stop enabling the useless midfield by dropping deep. He can’t help enough to offset the detriment to his own game.

      • The Black Hand says:

        The club played a poor match. Jack Mac was no exception. His form is nowhere near what it was.

      • Jack Mac is having a bad run. At the beginning of the season everything was going his way, and now that it hasn’t he is pushing a bit too hard. He’ll work through it.

  11. Jaaaaaap Stam says:

    I try to have faith in Hack (and Sack’s) moves but Soumare is so much better than any of our CB’s it’s silly. It’s no wonder he was freaking out about sitting on our bench. How can Hack and Sack not see this? It’s so obvious to the rest of the world!?! Boobs?

    • They did realize it that’s why this shady organization is run by crooked accountants and management, a lousy ownership, a run of the mill bread company an a pathetic excuse for a coach.

    • The Chicago Fire are a completely different team with Soumare and Magee. Magee seems to have found the mojo that Jack Mack has lost. The whole Soumare situation shows the ineptness of the coach.

      The main problem with the Union is that we seem to live and die by long balls and set pieces. Rarely do we see a series of quality passes in and around the box leading goals. The occasional tricky back heal doesn’t count.

      I liked what I saw in Fabhino and would love to see him get a start over Gaddis just to see how it goes. Also, Fernandez over Kleberson has me scratching my head as well?

      • The Black Hand says:

        Fabinho will fair the same, as long as Cruz is upfield…way upfield.

      • Jaaaaap Stam says:

        Conspiracy Theory:

        Is it possible that Coach Hack has kept Okugo at CB in hopes that he continues to improve to the point that he is called up for USMNT duty? Coach Hack will always be part of Team USA and by shoehorning Okugo in at CB despite better( Soumare) options for the sake of Stars &Stripes. Hack’s stock would rise with respect to the National team. Future considerations? Why else would Okugo be selected over Soumare? Soumare is a dominant force on the back line who ‘handeled’ a well rested Connor Casey for 90 minutes. Um…wtf?

      • I have often been amazed by the institutional arrogance of the Union organization. It wouldn’t surprise me that Hackworth wanted to make his mark on the team. But I think a simpler answer is they slotted Okugo into that position and he did it well enough, and as we all know well enough is good enough for the Union and so he stayed.
        What bothers me is that Okugo doesn’t think of himself as a defender and doesn’t want to be a defender and sooner or later some team is gonna say, “Hey come over here and you can be a midfielder.”
        …. and there he will go.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I, personally, don’t think that Okugo could cut it as a CB, at the national level. Now CDM…we will probably never know.

  12. Can’t blame him much because he’s not a natural CB, but Okugo could be blamed for being out of position on both goals (got pulled towards the ball in no-man’s land leaving a man and numbers advantage behind him). Nearly gave up a third goal if not for Zac’s 1-hand save and missed an absolute gift from Sean Johnson. I really like him, but he had a tough night.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    When you watch a game and say “Danny Cruz wasn’t that bad”… you know you have a MAJOR problem

    • I thought the same thing during the game. I was asking my brother if he could remember any major instances of Cruz screwing up, and we couldn’t really point one out aside from a shot he air-mailed that he never really had a chance of making under pressure anyway.

      Then I got home and thought “Wait, who should have had the open man on the first goal?” Went back and watched the video, and he’s walking back from midfield while the defense is under siege. Gaddis was forced to slide in and cover the middle when both Okugo and Parke were drawn out by the central attackers. Cruz half-assed it on that play. He’s in there because of the speed and energy he displays, and he certainly didn’t display it there.

  14. I don’t think I have seen us look more disorganized than we were this game particularly in the first half. Farfan spent 20 minutes of the first half behind BC between okugo and parke. no one was following nyarko. Look the guys fast and if you let him run around with 15 yards of space he will eventually hurt you.
    Also I am not a soccer expert but why can we not switch the field with 1 pass but chicago did it repeatedly. Short of a megaphone and a blinking track suit sheanon could not have called any harder for the ball with the acres of space around him. failure to do this allowed chicago to repeatedly stuff the midfield and create turnovers.
    also I feeel like the most blame in this game falls to hack. leo fernandez was a bad choice. casey was gassed 65 minutes in, hop should have come in earlier ie right after chicagos goal, and lastly he seemed to do nothing to remedy the failure of most players to be in position causing mass chaos and failure of anyone to know what runs they should be making.
    losing happens but go down fighting with a sound gameplan. thats all i ask.
    BTW how much would people pay as a premium to have had dempsey join us.

  15. murphthesurf says:

    How about taking Carrol out, and playing Kleberson ?
    And , for that matter, giving the new goalie Nikolov a chance?

    The first goal looked like Carrol’s fault on TV,
    but the second one was definitely Mac Math’s, falling down too early…

    Coach, you are starting to appear an awful lot like Piotr Nowak !

  16. murphthesurf says:

    Jack Mac-

    Go back to being a poacher, it is what you are good at.
    Let Le Toux and Kleberson and Casey set you up, Thanks.

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