Union match reports

Match recap: Chicago Fire 1–1 Philadelphia Union

In their third game in eight days, and missing their brightest offensive presence, the Union did to the Chicago Fire what has been done to them multiple times this season—they stole a point when the Fire looked to have all three wrapped up.

In a game short on good chances, Jeff Larentowicz’s second half header from a Chicago corner looked to have sealed the game, but a Fire handball in the box in the 89th minute gave the Union a lifeline, and with Sebastien Le Toux there to take the kick—he is now 12-for-12 on penalty kicks in his Union career—the Union were only too glad to take advantage and leave Chicago with the draw.

“Anytime you get a goal in the 89th minute you are happy with that, you take the point and you move on,” interim head coach Jim Curtin said after the game. “I will say that I am disappointed that we gave up a goal, because in the run of play I didn’t think we gave up a whole lot of chances. So that’s something we’ll need to correct.”

First half

In an uneventful first half, the Union were the better side, but neither team created many opportunities. For the Union, Mike Lahoud came in for the injured Cristian Maidana, while Danny Cruz returned to the starting lineup in place of Andrew Wenger. Vincent Nogueira moved into the attacking midfield role, while the rest of the team remained the same as against New York.

Chicago started confidently, and had the first shot inside of 45 seconds, but the attempt was from distance and Zac MacMath caught it easily. Chicago did well in the early going to maintain possession, but the Union were untroubled, staying compact and keeping Chicago at bay.

Lahoud did well to break play up consistently, but his passing was astray. Despite that, the Union grew into the game, but created little outside of corners, where they were predictably dangerous, Conor Casey doing well to throw his body around in the box.

The best chance from open play came in the 24th minute, for the Union. A long clearance from MacMath found Casey, who did well to flick the ball on to a streaking Le Toux. He seemed to have brought the ball too wide, but made good contact with his shot, pushing it wide of Sean Johnson’s back post.

Chicago would threaten with a corner of their own in the 37th minute, with Harry Shipp’s ball just clearing Casey and finding Larentowicz, but his powerful header flew just high, and the teams went into the locker room at double-zero.

Second half

The second half saw more action, with Chicago the driving force. Quincy Amarikwa was the danger man early on, first forcing an excellent one-on-one tackle from Ethan White, who looked very good again, and then bulling his way past Maurice Edu into the Union box. MacMath did well to come out and cover, slowing Amarikwa enough for help to arrive.

The game settled somewhat, with the rhythm of the first half reappearing, and set pieces being the only real danger for either team. For the Union, Sheanon Williams’s long throws qualify as set pieces, and in the 53rd minute, one of his tosses hit the Fire’s goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, in the hands. He fumbled the catch, however, and Le Toux nearly poked home before Johnson recovered.

But the Fire would up their pressure, and a series of Chicago forays forward would generate several chances around the hour mark. Amarikwa again had a crossing opportunity inside the Union box, which was only partially cleared. Matt Watson was there to fire in a shot, but a sliding clearance from Okugo snuffed the danger. The reprieve was only momentary, however, as continued Chicago pressure led to another corner kick. This time, Maurice Edu lost Larentowicz after a pick, and the Chicago captain made no mistake, burying his free header in the upper 90.

The Union made immediate changes, bringing Andrew Wenger on for Cruz in the 61st minute, then Fred replaced Okugo in the 69th minute (Okugo was on a yellow card). The Fire seemed content to hold their one-goal lead, and the Union had more of the ball, but still failed to create good chances. The ball was getting wide to Williams, but his crosses weren’t finding teammates.

In the 81st minute, Union coach Jim Curtin gave Brian Brown his first appearance, removing Gaddis and moving to three at the back in the search for the equalizer. The Union began throwing every ball forward, and while their possession was slowly inching toward the Chicago goal, turnovers nearly let the Fire in behind on multiple occasions.

But as the clock ticked down to the end of regulation, the Union finally popped the escape hatch. Good hold up play from Brown couldn’t find his strike partner, Casey, but the ball rebounded out to Lahoud, who fed Nogueira. Nogueira sent the ball back into the area, and it eventually found Le Toux at the top of the box. His first-time effort was blocked by the turned back and arm of Gonzalo Segares, and the ref blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.

The call on replay was very generous. While the ball struck Segares’s arm, it was against him body, and he did not move his arm to the ball. But beggars can’t be choosers, and Le Toux stepped up to take the gift that was given. While Johnson guessed correctly and got a hand to the ball, Le Toux’s strike was low and powerful and to the corner, and made its way in.

While Chicago would attempt some long balls to find the win they had thought was theirs, the Union corralled their efforts and staggered out of Chicago with a hard-fought point.

While, on the balance of play, the Union may have been a good value for the point, they should feel lucky—and Chicago will be cursing their own bad luck—at the way they earned it. Tired legs and a distinct lack of Maidana-led offensive creativity made this draw a smash-and-grab.

“I am proud of our guys, it was the third game in a week and it’s a good result on the road,” Curtin said. “We are on a good run, it’s been very positive and the guys in the locker room are happy. We’re excited to keep this going and hoping it takes us to where we want to be at the end of the season.”

The Union are off from league play until Aug. 1, when they are again on the road in Kansas City. On Friday, July 25, they host Premier League side Crystal Palace in a friendly.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath, Ray Gaddis (Brian Brown, 81′), Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo (Fred, 69′), Michael Lahoud, Vincent Nogueira, Danny Cruz (Andrew Wenger 61′), Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey
Unused Subs: Andre Blake, Fabinho, Brian Carroll, Aaron Wheeler

Chicago Fire
Sean Johnson, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer, ALex, Harrison Shipp (Grant Ward, 75), Jeff Larentowicz, Matt Watson, Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa (Matthew Fondy, 79′)
Unused Subs: Kyle Reynish, Greg Cochrane, Patrick Ianni, Chris Ritter, Marco Franco

Scoring Summary
60 – CHI: Larentowicz (Shipp)
90 + 1 – PHI: Le Toux (PK)

Disciplinary Summary
22 – PHI: Okugo (foul)
26 – CHI: Alex (foul)

Philadelphia Union Chicago Fire
9 Attempts on Goal 10
2 Shots on Target 4
5 Shots off Target 4
2 Blocked Shots 2
4 Corner Kicks 6
17 Crosses 23
1 Offsides 2
12 Fouls 14
1 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
414 Total Passes 363
72% Passing Accuracy 78%
52.9 Possession 47.1
56 Duels Won 51
52.3% Duels Won % 47.7%
21 Tackles Won 15
3 Saves 0
17 Clearances 31

45 Comments

  1. Boy, that was ugly. I’m going to chalk it up to 3 games in 8 days and some very tired legs. I wish they would stop trying to play Noguiera as an attacking midfielder. Hasn’t worked when they’ve tried it all year.

    • Nobody else able to play the game in the future…that is why he keeps finding himself burdened with it whether by plan or not…particularly in Chaco’s absence.

    • Torvald Coolguy says:

      This. Nogiuera as CAM means lots of posession but few chances. Would rather see Fred, or even a move to a 4-4-2 with Le Toux coming up top and Wenger starting on the wing.

      • Agree that Noguiera does not work at CAM. Thought Fred would start, Nog/Okugo as the DM. Lahoud or Carroll would come on at 60 min & then move Noguiera forward if necessary.

  2. Is Maurice Edu joking? I mean when he puts on his Union kit is he just doing it for sh*ts and giggles? He was supposed to be straight up man marking Larentowicz on corner kicks and didn’t bother even trying at all. Larentowicz should have had 2 easy goals if his first header is just a little lower.
    Then Edu has a wide open shot from about 10 yards from net and he kicks the ball no where near the net like some kid who has never touched a soccer ball in his life.
    How in the hell did this slug ever make a WC team?? When is his freaking loan up, I’d rather play the young kids then someone who doesn’t give a crap.

    • The other way of looking at it is that he doesn’t give a crap because the end of his loan is coming up. Semantics aside, I agree that Edu definitely isn’t providing enough to justify what we’re paying him. We should be dropping him, unless we can negotiate him down to a non-DP deal after his loan expires. I’ve commented many times before on this site: we could afford two or three players of his same quality for what we’re paying him.

      • Jean D Jeannot says:

        I like Edu because he brings toughness and no nonsense defending since he was inserted into that cb role. I like the attitude that he brings to that backline. I am not completely defending him since he has left me wondering why are we paying him so much $ when he takes games off (see missed sho on net vs Chicago, defending positioning vs Jeff Larenz goal). Edu is far from perfect but he might be playing out of position in this system. I personally believe he is ideal for the position (speed, toughness, confident, skilled, calmness) and if I were him I would use the cb role to get a call up to the next USA call up since the US could use solid cb play.

      • Heartburn says:

        I agree Edu’s best (only?) shot back to MNT is as a CB. If he can solidify our back line with Carlos Valdes maybe Klinsey takes notice?!?

    • let him go back when the loan ends. bring in valdes. use edu money elsewhere.

  3. The Black Hand says:

    Since when did they start playing Rugby with a round ball?

  4. The Union were completely lucky tonight to escape with a point. But as Tiger Woods once said, ‘the better you are the luckier you become,’ and this is the truth particularly as it relates to the run this team has been building. They have been playing better and with that comes good things- like good fortune.
    .
    I have roundly criticized The Union this season and for good reason but like the last two games, I offer no seditious commentary this evening.
    .
    Well done boys. Keep it rolling. Bring on The Palace.

  5. I know that the hype this season is Okugo at midfield, but I just don’t see it. He’s been better than Carroll—no doubt. But I haven’t gotten the impression so far that Okugo can be anything better than average at midfield. Sure, he’ll improve, just as the league improves, but I don’t see him ever being able to improve faster than the rate of the league on a whole. His ball skills are average for a midfielder, and he gets caught out of position way too often. At center back, however, he has potential to improve at a much faster rate. His time in midfield has given him the most difficult-to-acquire attribute of a center back: composure. The fact that he’s already grasped one of the most important aspects of the center back position, but not some of the simple aspects of midfield, indicates to me that his potential at center back is greater.
    .
    I’m hoping that when Valdes comes back Curtin will pair the two of them for the long haul. They could be one of the best center back pairings in MLS given enough time together.

  6. It was a bad call. Karma?

    MLSSOCCER.COM reports Carlos Valdes may join this week. Union wouldn’t comment.

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    Like so many others have said, it was clear the Union missed Maidana. They got a point thanks to a poor decision by the ref (although I think he missed a hand ball in the box on a Union corner kick in the first half), but were outplayed for long stretches of the game.
    .
    But as I’ve said many times before, the real culprit was having a league with an odd number of teams. As long as this continues, we’ll continually see one team with more rest than the other because you can’t have everyone play in the same weekend like they do in other leagues. To the best of my knowledge there is no other level 1 league in the world where this is the case. It’s been this way for 3 years and instead of adding one team next year, the league is insisting on adding two teams and not solving the problem.

    • Heartburn says:

      Assuming that’s why we’ve played 3 more games than Chicago? Three? WTF?

      • Union will control their own destiny for the playoffs, only one match left against a Western Conference opponent (San Jose). Six pointers if you can take advantage of them.

        Agree on the silly schedule – can someone, anyone, explain why Union play TFC back to back 4 days apart the first week of September?

    • agree re missed handball in 1st half. late penalty may have been first opportunity for makeup call.

    • Shipp’s hand ball of a Casey header kept the ball out of the net and should have been a red card/PK, which would have completely changed the game.

  8. MLS a disaster. I suspect the Carlos Valdes situation largely bc MLS unwilling to let Union have him. And probably that MLS hasn’t been sending him his pay checks, since they never denied that assertion.

    As far as expansion teams, the whole NYFC thing makes it clear that it’s all about $$$. They may never have a stadium. But they have lots of $! They’ll be playing in front of 5,000 people in Yankee stadium on Mondays and Tuesdays for years to come.

    • Im all for NYCFC but the notion of playing in Yankee Stadium is a total joke. I saw how they intend on putting the field inside the stadium and of the 63,000 or so seats it looks like a 1,000 are what you would consider really good- David Villa and Xavi Hernandez? Please. Have some dignity about your career. Soccer in baseball stadiums. Bleh!

  9. Good things: fortunate (deserved in first half) call, Ethan White’s defense, Ray Gaddis, Brian Brown Cameo

    Bad things: Mo’s man marking, teams creativity going forward, Andrew Wenger’s entire game/skill set

    Meh: Amobi Okugo, the game as a whole

    • Also good: Grandpa Fred coming back twice(!)in the last 10 minutes to break up Chicago attacks

    • The Black Hand says:

      White was a turnover machine. A wall of a defender, but very poor with the ball…terrible, in fact.
      .
      I thought that Wenger looked strong. He was good on the ball and showed vision with his passing.

  10. Heartburn says:

    Love stealing a point for once. HaHaHeHeHoHo. Suckers!!!
    -/-/-
    MAIDANA!!!! Damn we looked pretty toothless without Chaco. I hope his hammy is not too serious or we’ve got offensive flow issues.
    -/-/-
    Anyone else getting the feeling Coach Curtain is not a huge Amobi Okugo fan? A seat on the bench recently and now the early hook. (Yes, I know he had a yellow but if he is one of your best most talented players he should be in there playing. Right?
    -/-/-
    I wonder how Jim Curtain will construct our ‘spine’ with Edu, Nogs, Valdes, Okugo, White, and Berry available to deploy soon?

    • Edu is very expensive ballast at this point.

    • the good news is we wont be playing a meaningful game for almost two weeks so hopefully chaco will be healthy by then. as far as curtin’s opinion of amobi, he said he believes that if okugo played consistently to his potential that he would be a best 11 player

  11. I know coaches cannot really say much else, but it would be nice if coaches didn’t say “we’ll have to correct that” in response to player errors. need to go back to the setup vs. redbulls. white a pleasant surprise. chaco is missed – fred is his alternative.

  12. For the second week in a row the Union were saved by a penalty. Last week the Red Bulls were threatening and looked likely to tie when a Red Bulls penalty put the game out of reach and took the wind out of their sails. This week the ref handed the team a more or less undeserved point.
    /
    We suck without Chaco assuming Valdes is coming back our biggest priority right now is any sort of creative presence to start or come off the bench that isn’t named Fred.
    /
    Worst pitch ever. If you did a shot every time a player tripped and/or fell over you would wake up… IN A BODY BAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
    /
    Nogiera looked miserable out there he was throwing out body language that the fanbase would have killed Jack Mac over. I don’t know if he was mad at his teammates, the Ref or cruel fate that lets us wither and die never knowing the true meaning of existence but all I know is he didn’t look happy.
    /
    Speaking of that is Zac Macmath had some of the dumb mistakes Sean Johnson had in that game they would be burning him in effigy.

    • Johnson has always had those kind of mistakes. In fact MacMath and Johnson where making them at the same time 1,2 years ago – even when Johnson was being called up.

      Which is why I really think MacMAth deserves to get call ups over those two. MacMath has grown much more than those two this past year, and he has really fixed a lot of holes in his game.

  13. I don’t know who’s more worthless, Edu or Wenger, but if they were both told to go packing tomorrow, I’d be very happy. I don’t think I can name a positive quality either has brought to the team this year. Time to give other players a shot.

    I know how tempting it is to play Nogueira higher up the pitch, but it’s time to stop doing that. He’s much better linking than he is creating. Put him in the back half of the midfield and never move him again.

    Assuming Valdes is in by August 1 and Chaco is healthy, I’m all in for MacMath/Gaddis-Valdes-White-Williams/Nogueira-Okugo/Maidana-Cruz-Le Toux/Casey. I think that would be pretty clearly our strongest lineup.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I think that’s the first time anyone on PSP has included Cruz as part of “pretty clearly our strongest lineup” 🙂
      .
      I agree with most of that but what about the possibility of using Pfeffer instead of Cruz once Zach gets back from international duty?

    • I would rather put a bag of balls out there than have Cruz start. Lahoud is The other player who should not start. Give Pfeffer a chance.

    • i would say mcglaughlin over cruz/wenger. he is lighting up usl and deserves a chance

      • I honestly don’t understand the Cruz hate. He consistently provides width, he’s not afraid to attack off the dribble, and he works to get back on D. Sure, he struggles with his decision-making, but nobody on the team has consistently provided what he does. Might Pfeffer or McLaughlin be better? Maybe. But I haven’t seen either of them play at the MLS level in a long time and I’m not going to say they’re better until they actually prove it.

      • i don’t feel like i’m hating on cruz or even wenger. i just feel like there is room for improvement in that position and i wouldn’t mind seeing mcglaughlin get a swing at it

  14. Well I can’t say we deserved the point but I’ll take it. The team looked tired and disjointed after a long week. But it’s not like Chicago was really shining out there either. A couple thoughts:
    .
    Edu doesn’t care. This is Freddy Adu all over again. Sometimes we’ll get glimpses of all this wonderful skill and then it’s quickly buried under apathy. I’d like Valdes and White in the middle going forward (assuming we actually get Valdes back).
    .
    White looked very good defensively (at least prior to the late switch to 3 backs which seemed to confuse all of the defenders). Good instincts, good positioning, strong in the air. It’s astonishing that he hasn’t played until recently. It has to be mentioned though that his vision with the ball is AWFUL. His decisions when he’s trying to play the ball in tight spaces are either too slow or just terribly wrong. Still, his defense was good enough that I’ll gladly take him as a “stay at home” defender.
    .
    Nog needs to be a CDM. I think he could be an effective CAM in a more possession-based system, but that’s not the system we play or personnel we have and it’s not working.
    .
    I don’t like Sheanon Williams. His long throw ins are a positive, certainly. But that has to be weighed against everything else. He seems to have regressed to mediocrity on defense. He frequently makes bad plays going forward, often because he overestimates his own skills. And on top of that he has that terrible attitude combination of being both chippy and a whining diver. I thought Williams was going to be an all-star when I first saw him play. He had ridiculous potential. Now I would trade him in a heartbeat if we could find a left back so that Ray could move to the right.

    • Your right on the money, with Williams! So disappointing to see his attitude this season, and his progress appears to have leveled off or maybe fallen off a bit.

      I am still beside myself with edu, the whole side of the goal was wide open the goalie was off balance and he sends it to the moon!

    • JediLos117 says:

      Williams is our Arjen Robben taboot.
      .
      Taking dives, acting hurt.
      .
      He has gotta be worried about job security.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Oh, if only he had the left foot!!!!
        .
        Agree. Williams game is more about schtick than football. Disappointing.

  15. Revealing my ignorance of his loan terms & the process generally (including allocation, etc.), I ask whether Edu can be traded? Getting the captain’s band for playing CB doesn’t seem to do it for Mo. If Valdes comes, we’d have 4. And what could we get for him?

  16. The play on the field was mediocre, but man was that trombone playing awful!

  17. hmmm… i just rewatched this game and the noncall on shipp is even more egregious than i had thought before. the referee sees it and points to the spot and then changes his mind and instead signals for a corner. coward ref

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