Union / Union match reports

Match report: Chicago Fire 3-0 Philadelphia Union

Missing a number of key contributors, the Philadelphia Union delivered one of their worst performances of the season on Saturday night, falling 3-o to Chicago Fire — the worst team in MLS coming into the night.

A sloppy first half for both sides saw the deadlock broken only by an unfortunate own goal by Roland Alberg. In the second half, the Union were unable to create much offense, while Chicago snatched goals on the counter-attack through Michael de Leeuw and Arturo Alvarez.

This was a match Philadelphia will want to forget.

First Half

International absences and personal tragedy forced three changes to Jim Curtin’s lineup. With Alejandro Bedoya with the United States, Roland Alberg started at the 10 with Tranquillo Barnetta sliding back to the no. 8 role. John McCarthy made his first start of the year between the pipes with Andre Blake on Jamaican national team duty. Josh Yaro did not travel with the team following the passing of his mother, and Ken Tribbett returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the Toronto match in his place. Auston Trusty made his first appearance on the bench for Philadelphia, while Brian Carroll and Ilsinho returned from injury to make the 18.

After a slow start, the Union began to create pressure in the Chicago end of the field. The first good chance came in the sixth minute when CJ Sapong won a 50-50 ball and played it to Chris Pontius, who returned it to the striker. But Sapong’s one time shot from the edge of the 18 flashed wide of goal.

Against the run of play, the Chicago Fire became the first team on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute when Roland Alberg scored an own goal. Chicago slipped Michael de Leeuw into the box, and Alberg ran through to tackle the ball away. But his attempt misfired and slipped past a baffled John McCarthy. It was a tough break for Alberg, but the defense as a whole looked wanting on the play.

The Union pushed for an equalizer, and nearly found it through Pontius in the 31st minute. Left all alone at the edge of the 18, Pontius unleashed a curling strike that seemed destined for the top corner. Sean Johnson had other ideas, going full stretch to tip the ball over the bar.

The next great chance came from a Union player, but it was almost a second own goal. Off a corner, Keegan Rosenberry sliced a clearance towards McCarthy that forced an acrobatic save from the second-year keeper.

After an ugly half for the Union, Jim Curtin’s men were certainly happy about the opportunity to regroup at halftime, down 1-0 at Toyota Park.

Second Half

Neither side made changes to start the second half.

The first real chance from either side came courtesy of a Tranquillo Barnetta attack in the 54th minute. Using his ball control, strength, and speed, Barnetta drove into the box and hit a shot low toward the far post. Only a classy reaction save from Johnson prevented the Union from their first goal. At the other end, Ken Tribbett stoned a dangerous Brandon Vincent run into the box with a perfectly timed sliding block.

Over the subsequent ten minutes, it looked like Philadelphia might find an equalizer. Chris Pontius offered the danger, earning a dangerous free kick and firing a shot on goal that didn’t trouble Johnson.

Shortly after the Union subbed on Ilsinho for Fabian Herbers, Chicago doubled their advantage on the counterattack. Cocis played a ball right through the centerbacks, leaving Luis Solignac in alone on McCarthy. The keeper made a great one-on-one save, but the rebound fell to de Leeuw for a tap in. It was poor defending from Philadelphia and more or less sealed the final result.

Throwing everything forward, the Union were unable to generate much offense. Substituting Leo Fernandes and Charlie Davies on for Sapong and Creavalle made little difference, with the stubbornly bunkered Chicago side denying the Union any room to operate. Meanwhile, Chicago somehow missed their third goal when Alvarez found de Leeuw charging at goal, but the shot was fired wildly over the bar from about two yards out.

Alvarez, though, would score the dagger in stoppage time. Given acres of space on the counterattack, Alvarez calmly dribbled into the box and hit a perfect strike into the far corner. John McCarthy could only watch as the Fire celebrated that rarest of jewels — a win.

Philadelphia will be embarrassed by their performance, their second loss to Chicago this season. The Union will return to Talen Energy Stadium next Saturday for a matchup with Montreal Impact, where they should welcome back Bedoya, Blake, and Yaro. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Tomorrow, captain Maurice Edu will play his first minutes of 2016 with Bethlehem Steel FC. Kickoff is at 3:00 Eastern at Goodman Stadium.

Philadelphia Union
John McCarthy, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett, Keegan Rosenberry, Warren Creavalle (Leo Fernandes 81′), Tranquillo Barnetta, Roland Alberg, Fabian Herbers (Ilsinho 69′), Chris Pontius, C.J. Sapong (Charlie Davies 81′)
Unused Subs: Matt Jones, Ray Gaddis, Leo Fernandes, Brian Carroll, Ilsinho, Auston Trusty, Charlie Davies.

Chicago Fire
Sean Johnson, Johan Kappelhof (Michael Harrington 66′), Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent, Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster, Arturo Alvarez (Joey Calistri 90+2′), John Goossens (Michael Stephens 73′), Luis Solignac, Michael de Leeuw
Unused subs: Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Rodrigo Ramos, Nick LaBrocca

Scoring Summary
CHI: Roland Alberg (OG) — 22′
CHI: Michael de Leeuw — 71′
CHI: Arturo Alvarez (Michael de Leeuw) — 90′

Disciplinary Summary
CHI: Joao Meira (unsporting behavior) — 58′
CHI: Razvan Cocis (unsporting behavior) — 61′
CHI: Johan Kappelhof (unsporting behavior) — 64′

Philadelphia Union Chicago Fire
 12 Shots  16
4 Shots on Target 5
4 Shots off Target 7
4 Blocked Shots 4
5 Corner Kicks 3
 27 Crosses 11
 2 Offsides 3
 8 Fouls 16
 0 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
435 Total Passes 322
 77% Passing Accuracy 72%
58.1% Possession 41.9%
 69 Duels Won 43
61.6% Duels Won % 38.4%
 15 Tackles Won 14
 4 Saves 5
 9 Clearances 24


  1. I should really stop watching Union games.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    de~ba~cle: a sudden and ignominious failure. a fiasco. slang: a shit show.
    Truly amazing to me sometimes this is first tier quality… if only Tranquillo Barnetta could pass to himself. I followed along tonight with Twitter and friends phenomenological experience of watching… these thoughts are not my own… only they are.
    First tier American soccer right there for you. Words like disjointed. Ugly. Poor. Euthanize.
    Twitter rumor has it some MLS owners want the “league to dissolve”… I’m all in. I’m curious the how when and why of this story and eagerly await for it to flesh out over time.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      A playoff push here and where the leagues in the rest of the world break … after just starting ~meanwhile a playoff push~ said again for measure- where certain MLS teams’ best players are abroad and the league continues on for the playoff push but without its sacred best players playing in the playoff push games.
      If it could be any more ridiculous I’d love to see some genius try. In the words of Thom Yorke’s, Black Swan… “’cause this is fucked up. Fucked up. Cause this is fucked up. Fucked up”

  3. Lucky Striker says:

    If playing Philly at home, Chicago could park 11 traffic cones on the field and get a result.

    They’re in the Union’s head. They know they are going to win before the ball is kicked. There is nothing PU can do.

    Next year, they only have to lose there once.
    Consider forfeiting, it’d be less embarrassing………..

    Oh, and give Curtin a raise. The guy’s genius is beyond comprehension. Or save money and let the players pick the lineup. They’d do as good a job………

    • Same Lucky, I hardly watched because I knew the likelihood of getting a result there………I can’t remember the last time they won in Chicago.

  4. poor substitutions. Alberg walking the last 10 minutes should have been off. Rosenberry looked suspect on defensive responsibilities, making Tribbett look bad, which he doesn’t need help.
    What is the “Philly” style in terms of offense? Bunker deep with two defensive midfielder and hope talented personnel can score. I do not see a cohesive thought in terms of offense. dump it up to Sapong who has no support or high level of skill to take a defense on by himself. When other players catch up, there is no rhythm to this team, they run into each other’s path. Curtain needs to take responsibility for poorly defined offense.

  5. Lucky Striker says:

    McCarthy and Tribbett are getting worked tonight. They were your 2 best players…… neither had a choice in terms of starting, they were all you had. Bush-league to pick on the low-hanging fruit when there were so many juicier targets.

    I can’t see beyond the coach. My disdain for him knows no bounds. He manages to make just about everything else irrelevant for me…….and that’s hard to do folks.

    I just want a real team so bad-not this shinola………

  6. 3 points in 3 games against Chicago just doesn’t cut it. Meanwhile NYRB gets a win on the road. The Union have played 5 previous games against the remaining teams on their schedule and have a total of 6 points. They need to step up or that playoff dream will remain a dream.

  7. Lucky Striker says:

    I don’t see another win. Draws? yeah…….I don’t know if that gets it done-but sadly that might be what I need to get the change I desire.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Given how thoroughly Jim Curtin’s ideas are embedded throughout the organization, I doubt you will get what you want.
      Very unlikely they tear it all down and start over after only one year of the project.
      Remember, we have begun to learn the nature of the project by observing it, and the observations have come after Earnie Stewart arrived.

      But the basic plans for the player development project were put in place before the Dutchman’s arrival.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      I see two wins, Orlando City and NYRB at home at the very end.
      The rest are probable losses.

  8. This team has to have Barnetta in the 10 slot. Period.
    And it has to have Bedoya and a better d mid behind him. Sapong does nothing but draw fouls.
    But, this is a rebuilding year. … I’m not quitting on this team.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Not quitting and averting your eyes… are they the same thing?
      Fine line….

      • Have to admit, I turned the tv off after Chicagos 2nd goal. Garbage game. This team outside of Barnetta was difficult to watch.

      • I should’ve done the same. No inspiration, susceptible to the counter way before they stretched at panic time. Even without Blake, taking two pieces out and everything falls apart? This house of cards we call a team…

        Edu did not look good with Bethlehem in 34 mins.

  9. Old Soccer Coach says:

    We now know, again, why they are paying Bedoya what they are paying him, and why the paid Nantes what they paid Nantes to get him.
    We should know those numbers by the middle of the month when the Players association publishes those salaries.

  10. CJ can’t miss that sitter at the start. Changes the match completely. I know he isn’t 90 minutes’ fit, but I voted for Davies to start.
    McCarthy can’t charge the ball unless he knows he can clear it on the second goal. He had help.
    Bad scouting or a KT brain freezw on Alvarez feint to his right on 3rd – he’s a lefty.
    I’d’ve taken out Pontius or Alberg, not Herbers.
    Curtin remains poor at in match adjustments.
    Why Barnetta passes on free kick with only 1 shot on goal to that point? Not smart.

    • I don’t think there are any adjustments. This team has some interchangeable attacking pieces, but has only one genuine 10 (Barnetta) one 8 (Bedoya) and one 6 (Carroll). Any other player in the midfield is a bandaid at best. Right now, that’s your engine until Edu is healthy. There is no depth behind those guys.
      The one adjustment I think needs to be made is Sapong. Ha not doing anything but drawing fouls. When he does put a shot on frame it’s always directly to the keeper. He’s just not a finisher at all.

      • TN was often double-teamed as soon as the ball arrived. Someone is open. A quick one-two?
        JMcC sent 2 clearances into the seats and his long goal kicks were always tossups.

  11. Lucky Striker says:

    After the way his last year ended, I was pretty OK with Sapong and the good things he does.

    After tonight, I’m about ready to recommend he be left unprotected in the expansion draft.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I want speed and finishing… If your building through the lines, and not 50/50 EVERY goal kick- I can sacrifice his hold up play… and good old fashioned work rate. I want my striker sitting on 16 gols through 28 games.
      Late game sub. Simple. Not good enough to start.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I bet many of the same people who argued Amobi wasn’t good enough love CJs game….

      • Huh? What’s the connection? Besides your obsession with Amobi and distain for CJ? I too liked Amobi and his game. But has nothing to do with CJ, who’s done admirable work this year without any significant second striker to work off him. Because he has a stupid and novice coach. Curtin should be fired on plane back home. A ridiculous loss. And the captain of the ship should take the blame.

      • Ben, It’s the classic USA soccer debate; skill (Amobi) VS physical (Sapong).

        I agree with El P. There is nothing more frustrating than watching someone looking as athletic as Sapong flounder around with the ball at his feet with his head down while defenders pounce by the multiples knowing he is in panic-mode unable to do anything with the ball other than shield to draw fouls. A skills player makes opponents pay for getting too close.

  12. Gotta love some of the “fans” on here. One saying that Curtin “needs to take responsibility for a poorly defined offense”…yeah, the highest scoring offense in the league headed into tonight’s game. I’m sure Jim will gladly take responsibility for the offense.
    A bad loss for sure, but they were missing Bedoya and Blake and had to revert back to Tribbett in the middle instead of Yaro. My guess is that they pick up 7-8 points the remainder of the season, which puts them at 47-48, plenty to qualify for the playoffs. Last year, we finished with 37 points. This is a major improvement.
    If Mo is healthy for the last 5 games (really hoping to see a good 45-60 minutes tomorrow), that’s a big upgrade at the 6 and will be a valuable improvement come playoff time.
    And I agree with OSC…the turn-around was already well under way before Earnie got here. How soon we all forget who acquired Barnetta, Pontius and who ran the draft…it certainly wasn’t Earnie.

    • +1

      Thank you. Tonight was slop,but the season and the overall project show progress.

    • Good stat. Are you happy about their offensive scheme?

      I like Mr Curtain. I see his fingerprint on the 7-man defense. I credit him for making Chester a home field advantage.

      I’m struggling with identifying our offense. Some individual talent that shines, but I do not see a team effort.

      Increase in talent and playoffs are this year’s benchmarks. Looks like they’ll meet them. Offense identity is what I’m looking to next.

      • Rome wasn’t built in a day or a year. My guess is that upgrading the F position will be a primary emphasis in the offseason. CJ works hard and has good fitness, but he’s just not the quality finisher that the Union need to keep progressing. That said, set pieces need to be fairly attributed to the offensive scheme and having those opportunities arise. And at the end of the day, the team (even after last night) is still tied for 2nd in the league in overall goals and goal per game. I’m more than fine with that.

      • Leading the league in goals is not just a “good stat.”
        Leave it to Philly fans to dismiss the great accomplishment and value of leading the league in goals.

    • +1

      Tough loss, but it was always a trap game for us and the Fire were motivated after that 6-2 result in DC. It’s easy to let the latest result cloud our thinking of where the team is at. When we lose, people tend to see the sky falling and all of the usual blame targets ease into people’s narratives (Tribbett shouldn’t be playing, Curtin is in over his head, Sapong isn’t a consistent enough finisher…wait, that last one is probably true). When we win, there is talk about getting a first round bye.

      The MLS season is a marathon, not a sprint. Results like these happen during the season and you learn a lot about your team in how they react to them. This has been a resilent bunch this season and I don’t see that suddenly changing.

      Bottom line, the team is in a great spot to make the playoffs and after an embarrassing result like this, I expect us to come out strong on Sat vs MTL.

      • Agree with all that was said above in this thread – rebuilding year, good pieces added, et cetera.
        One fundamental question about this particular game though – if Carroll was healthy enough to be in the 18, why didn’t he come on in the second half before Chicago scored their second goal, and push Barnetta up to the #10? It was clear there was no offense being generated and the C&C pivot, while not stellar should have sufficed against last place Chicago.
        If Carroll wasn’t healthy enough to play, why was he on the bench?

  13. Ernie didn’t run the draft? That’s news to me. And probably to everyone else. Here’s no way in hell he did t sign off on Pontius, too.

    • You really think Earnie had enough knowledge after being on the job for 5 weeks to select Keegan over Brandon Vincent? That was 100% the Union coaching staff based on their familiarity with Rosenberry from his time in the Academy. Yaro was a no-brainer, everyone had the Union taking him. And Pontius was traded for on December 7th, Earnie hadn’t even started yet. Maybe he signed off on it, but he clearly wasn’t the driving force behind the move.
      Look I think Earnie has done a fantastic job, but those who sh*t on Curtin are just uninformed. Jim has done a fantastic job this year turning the ship around and has clearly been heavily involved in player acquisition. And don’t forget the moves that were made purging the roster prior to the rebuild…the trading of Chaco and Wenger to Houston in exchange for the #6 pick that turned into Herbers.

      • I d think Ernie knew enough to want Rosenberry in the draft. And I agree on Curtin. I’m a fan. I think he’s a solid coach and underrated. And I also agree that he’s very much involved in shaping the team.

    • He clearly relied heavily on Albright and Curtin in making those personnel decisions and rightfully so. Both have been associated with the league for many years and have great contacts throughout the league as well as country. Stewart is a very thoughtful executive and I’m sure realizes the value that both of them bring to the table in thinking through these moves. The soccer world is an unbelievably large market and no one can have intimate knowledge of all aspects of it so sporting directors need to rely upon others to help them do so.

  14. How many of those goals came off set pieces? Run of play scoring suffers from lack of good finishing. Sapong especially. And lack of build up – wasted goal kicks, too many blind crosses. This is the style of offense that offends. And, yes; it’s the coaching staff that directs it.
    No question the organization is much improved and the season more rewarding than I expected. Kudos for that.
    Mo needs to make a big difference in this last push.

  15. OneManWolfpack says:

    Last night was bad. And maybe I’m being to rosey-eyed, but I didn’t think they played an absolutely awful game, but you MUST FINISH. I’m looking at you CJ. I don’t blame him only, but Chicago had no desire to play last night. They lucked into their 1st goal, and basically parked 10 guys and then routinely fouled the closest Union player.
    Look, if we are gonna be a contending team, and I am not saying we are right now – but we are on a good path – we have to learn how to beat these garbage teams. We failed last night – miserably.
    We have made progress, and this year is just gravy. That said, games like last night, cannot happen again. They need 8-10 points in these last 6-7 games and they’ll host a game in the playoffs. If you had told me that in March, I never would’ve believed it.
    One thing that sticks in my craw though, is that just because Bedoya is out, we have no idea how to keep the ball on the ground and connect passes? I can’t believe one guy not being in, ruined everything?! That’s awful.
    I don’t care who’s on the field… Show me something. Beat Montreal this Saturday.

  16. The Little Fish says:

    Road game minus our two best players (3 starters) equals an ugly loss. Not a huge surprise. Alberg is a freaking great sub. Let’s stop there. Herbie looked like a rook last night. CJ played really hard but is ineffective up top alone- It’s more obvious every week. Not having Bedoya and Blake exacerbated our weaknesses. All will be well next week with Blake back between the pipes, Bedoya pulling the strings, and BC shielding our back four. Fear not Union brethren…!!!

  17. Peace to Josh Yaro and his family as they mourn his mom’s death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *