Union match reports

Match report: Chicago Fire 3-2 Philadelphia Union

The Union’s penultimate match of 2017 saw them step up their road form Sunday against the playoff-bound Chicago Fire only to fall short late through some heady Route 1 soccer and a Nemanja Nikolic hat trick that cemented the 3-2 scoreline.

The game got off to a raucous start with the Union and the home side immediately trading blows. Philadelphia came out pushing high before Chicago left back Brandon Vincent triggered a brilliant counterattack to put MLS leading scorer Nemanja Nikolic in on goal and give the Fire the lead just three minutes into the clash.

Philadelphia responded emphatically. Minutes later, Alejandro Bedoya, showing no signs of a World Cup qualifying hangover, played a clever through ball to C.J. Sapong, who stuck out a leg and got enough of the ball to put it across the face of goal, where it was promptly buried by Chicago defender Johan Kappelhoff into his own net.

With the scoreline even, Philly continued to dictate the game by owning the midfield. Bedoya — pushing unusually high up the pitch — and Haris Medunjanin caused more chaos for the Chicago backline when Medunjanin hit a picture-perfect chip as his midfield partner charged into the box. Bedoya slyly flicked the ball past onrushing Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson and into the far netting to put the Union ahead.

The match settled down for the remainder of the first half with a compressed Union cutting off any opportunity for Chicago’s characteristic transitions.

The second half began much more tepidly, with Chicago trying to catch out Fabinho on the Union’s left flank and the Union struggling to break down an increasingly organized Fire defense. As the Union again dictated the center of the pitch, Chicago went back to the long ball to find Nikolic and the speedy David Accam behind Philadelphia’s flat-footed defenders.

It paid off in the 64th minute when a long ball found Accam deep in the box. Jack Elliott did well to turn the winger back from goal but made a play for the ball just inside the box with Accam facing away from goal. He caught the Ghanaian’s heel for a clear penalty. Nikolic added to his Golden Boot lead and tied up the game with a rocket from the spot past Andre Blake.

As the Union pushed for a winner late in the game, the Fire’s long ball strategy struck gold again with Accam playing provider and picking out a streaking Brandon Vincent as he rushed past Ray Gaddis. Vincent pulled the ball back to the top of the box to find Nikolic, and he slotted a classy finish past Blake to complete his hat trick in the 78th minute.

The Union had just one last chance to equalize when a layoff set up a perfect opportunity for Jay Simpson just outside the box, but the much-maligned Englishman skied it all the way into Lake Michigan.


Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott (Jay Simpson 90′), Richie Marquez, Fabinho, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault (Roland Alberg 83′), Chris Pontius (Marcus Epps 75′),  C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Oguchi Onyewu, Keegan Rosenberry, Derrick Jones

Chicago Fire

Matt Lampson; Matt Polster, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent; Dax McCarty, Djordji Mihailovic, Arturo Alvarez, Drew Conner (David Accam 46′); Luis Solignac, Nemanja Nikolic (David Arshakyan (90+1)
Unused subs: Richard Sanchez, Brandt Bronico, Michael Harrington, Jonathan Campbell

Scoring summary

CHI: Nikolic — 3′ (Vincent)
PHI: Johan Kappelhof — 6′ (OG)
PHI: Bedoya — 13′ (Medunjanin)
CHI: Nikolic — 64′ (penalty)
CHI: Nikolic — 78′ (Vincent, Accam)

Disciplinary summary

CHI: Polster — 45+1′ (unsporting behavior)

Chicago Fire Philadelphia Union
 10 Shots 8
 4 Shots on Target 2
 3 Shots off Target 4
 3 Blocked Shots 2
 5 Corner Kicks 3
 16 Crosses 9
 10 Offsides 12
 10 Fouls 12
 1 Yellow Cards 0
 0 Red Cards 0
 523 Total Passes 463
 84% Passing Accuracy 78%
 53.3% Possession 46.7%
 37 Duels Won 53
 41.1% Duels Won % 58.9%
 11 Tackles Won 19
 1 Saves 1
 13 Clearances 14


  1. I am Citizen Insane says:

    Well congrats, with one game left to this miserable season, you did it…teased me to give a shit about this hapless team for a final time…. READ CAREFULY because this is truth. It is seering. It is true.
    I watched some 8 year olds at YSC, with the Union Juniors today, totally committed to playing out of the back… watched a LB on multiple occasions shield from pressure, play negative to the keeper, who as a striker was bearing down, received with proper body mechanics to his far foot and cycled the ball in one touch out to his RB to offset the pressure and BUILD. LOVELY….
    then hop in the car and drive home just in time to tune in at the 37th minute to watch Haris drop a deep negative ball to Andre Blake with ZERO pressure on the keeper who receives the ball with the outside of his right foot across his body and IMMEDIATLEY launches a ball over Haris, Ale, CJ’s head to the defenders of Chicago… again for the 500th time—— giving possession RIGHT BACK TO THE OTHER TEAM.
    I watched 8 year olds at YSC play out of significant pressure today with a commitment to keep the ball on the ground and retain possession but the adults can’t do it?–…..you mean to tell me the coach is not the problem? SOMEONE. ANYONE. SOMEBODY. PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME.
    Dear Sporting Director there is NOTHING you can say to defend this. Nor is there anything to engender hope when THE RB sends tweets out 90 minutes before kick off about sitting the bench asking ME for thoughts for his caption. Yes you read this correctly Your RB tweeting 90 minutes before kickoff about sitting the bench today. Is it ay wonder fans, I’ve argued again and again he doesn’t have what it takes mentally and this is prima facia evidence.
    I am so disappointed in him. I am truly disappointed in this team. I begged and pleaded and argued and argued and argued for a Vision Philosophy and Plan commensurate with MY ideals of aesthetic and proper football. NEVER ONCE DID HEART AND EFFORT come as an addendum to the argument. These ARE EXPECTED QUALITIES….
    8 YEAR OLDS FROM AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. My attention my sensibility to what is right and how this game should be played is at stake here. truly I feel like a jilted high school lover trying to figure out if its me or you and I know in my heart it isn’t me. I quit you.
    This is my last post ever in this place until the manager is relieved of his duties and the Sporting Director displays to me a reason to comment further.
    the elephant in the room.

    • Ha! This is great!

      The Union have really helped me enjoy college sports, and now this gem.

    • See you next spring, el pach

    • Nailed it, Pachy. It’s the coach. As Ive said here before, there’s no way a better coach couldn’t have squeezed another 10-12 points out of this team. They simply don’t have the game plan or the ability to make fundamental football decisions from one week to the next.

      Really time to move on from Curtin.

  2. John Harris says:

    Lost the second half, as is typical. What does that mean? Curtin outcoached. #curtinout.
    Meanwhile it’s good that that wily $1.7M Nikolic didn’t have any impact on the game. #sugarmanout.

  3. How about them Eagles?!

  4. This was the first game in the Union’s history that I didn’t watch. I didn’t renew my season tickets for next year. I’m out.

  5. Bored watching the condensed replay on MLS live.

    So bored

    That nikolic isn’t bad. What would you call that? A difference-maker? Must be nice having one or three of them.

    We are so irrelevant. We are so outcoached. We are so out-spent.

  6. As we near the end of season 2, I am having a very hard time seeing the vision of Earnie Stewart. He can fire his coach to buy himself one more year, but in terms of what he has brought to this club in these two seasons, I can not say the organization is any better off than it was before he came in. And that is saying a lot.

    • John Harris says:

      Eh. The bigger problems are the inept coaching and parsimonious ownership. I think that is indisputable. ES could easily do better / more if he had money to spend. This team could be in or nearer to the playoffs with more knowledgeable coaching.

      • The whole point of ES was “moneyball” though and honestly other than the draft his selections have been bad.

  7. I guess I’m insane for watching the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That being said, two of Chicago’s goals were squarely on the feet of Elliott and to a certain extent that has to be expected from a rookie defender this many games into the season. While he hasn’t made many mistakes, the ones he does make tend to end up in the back of the net.
    And Tommy Smyth is reminding me more and more of Bob Rigby as an announcer. To suggest after watching the replay that it wasn’t a penalty is just ridiculous homerism.

  8. Had a great time at Zorba’s and Terror Behind the Walls with friends and family. Great weather, great food, great times. Oh, the Union? Checked Twitter once, saw Elliot gave away a penalty, and didn’t look again. It appears they lost. Shocking.

  9. the union is both awful and boring and the us isn’t going to the world cup. welp

  10. Road record past three seasons. 7-29-15. Even in the mid-week press conferences before road games, excuses are already spilling out of Curtain’s mouth. “Winning on the road in this league is tough. Gonna try our best for a result. That team is real tough at home.” How bout you show some guts and actually play to win a few road games next season. Stop with the excuses.

  11. I didn’t watch, so can someone answer something for me?

    Did they try to sub Simpson on earlier, but there were no stoppages for like 10 minutes to actually get him on the field?

    Making a sub in the 90th minute is something you do when you’re leading and want to waste time, not something you do when you’re presumably attempting to win or at least tie a game and need a lineup change to push for a goal.

    • I don’t think there was an inordinate amount of time between stoppages. Curtin did pull Elliott for Simpson so may not have wanted to do that much earlier…lest Chicago score and put the game away…or score after the Union tied it up.

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