Union match reports

Match report: Chicago Fire 2-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo Credit: Paul Rudderow

In a rollercoaster of a match, the Union fell to the Fire, 2-0 thanks to a brace from the very hot (pun intended) Nemanja Nikolic. With a man advantage for the entire second half, Philadelphia maintained the majority of possession, but only generated a few chances and couldn’t capitalize.

The match started with a lot of pace that seemed like it could be a problem for Philadelphia’s back line. Former Union goal scorer, C.J. Sapong almost gave Chicago an early lead in the eighth minute of the match, diving to tip in a cross after Jack Elliott was outrun by his mark. A few poor passes from the defense gave the Fire some additional ease in creating some attacks.

Philadelphia looked a bit frustrated by Chicago’s speed and flat back line as the Union looked to hit long balls their attackers could run onto, and were unsuccessful. Things grew worrisome when Andre Blake looked questionable in the 25th minute. Blake was complaining of a possible left thigh injury after colliding with Nikolic earlier in the match, and was checked out while Joe Bendik began warming up.

However, the Union’s persistence almost paid off in the 30th minute with Kai Wagner’s cross to Kacper Przybylko. Przybylko was able to get behind Chicago’s back line and lunged for the ball, which bounced just over his outstretched foot. It was the only real chance for the Union in the first half. But the Fire struck first in the 38th minute.  Przemyslaw Frankowski was able to pull Aurelien Collin out wide to get his cross right to Nikolic. After sneaking past Elliott, Nikolic was able to tap a cross from Frankowski just between Blake and the near post.

It got worse for the Union when Collin gave Chicago a penalty kick after jostling Sapong right in front of the ref during a corner kick. Nikolic stepped up to take the penalty and buried it easily in the lower left corner, putting Chicago up 2-0 right before halftime. But there was a spark of hope for Philadelphia in stoppage time. Chicago went down to 10 men with a straight red card on Nico Gaitán, who took down Jamiro Monteiro from behind. Initially a yellow card was being brought out by the ref, but after a lot of arguing and some pushing from both teams, a red card was shown and then reviewed on VAR. A crazy end to the first half ending with the Fire up 2-0 and now playing with only 10 men.

The second half started quickly as well. Hoping to capitalize on their man advantage, Ilsinho came on at halftime for Warren Crevalle. But once again, Sapong nearly had a goal to start off the half. Receiving a pass from Nikolic, Sapong’s shot hit the crossbar and then the goal line to keep the Union in the match. Even with the man advantage, the Union still struggled to generate any chances on goal. Andrew Wooten came on for Ray Gaddis in a formation change-up, switching to a 3-5-2 with Wooten and Przybylko up top and Marco Fabian in his No. 10 spot.

Philadelphia began to dominate possession and had better quality passes, but still couldn’t capitalize. Alejandro Bedoya hit a shot just wide of the net in the 60th minute after a series of passes between Elliott, Fabian and Ilsinho on the right side. Collin hit one over the crossbar after a Union corner kick, and Monteiro had a long shot that Kenneth Kronholm scooped up. It was obvious that Chicago had condensed their 10 men, bunkering down and letting the Union attack.

But they still couldn’t score and grew more frustrated as the second half ticked on. Brenden Aaronson came on for Collin in another formation change that allowed the Union to put more men up. Philadelphia seemed to shift to a possible 2-6-3, with just Elliott and Wagner as defenders and Haris Medunjanin dropping back a bit for support, and everyone else up attacking. But the Union couldn’t penetrate Chicago’s defense, and lost 2-0 despite the man advantage.

Three Points

Couldn’t finish. Even up a man, it took the Union about twenty minutes to even really generate a goal scoring opportunity in the second half. While they easily maintained the majority of possession and had the man advantage, Philadelphia could not penetrate Chicago’s back line. Bastian Schweinsteiger caused problems all night, while Jonathan Bornstein made Ilsinho ineffective. There wasn’t that much creativity in generating attacks and it was obvious that the Union were stumped on how to beat the Fire’s flat defense. Maybe it was because Marco Fabian started as left striker in a new 4-4-2 variant.

The need for speed. Speed isn’t usually something that the Union have to worry about, but it was definitely needed tonight. The Fire were able to outpace Philadelphia’s back line with ease to score the frist goal and create some very good chances. Elliott was beaten too often in footraces and Chicago knew just how to spread the Union’s defense to sneak in runners.

Nemanja Nikolic. One of the Fire’s hottest players right now, Nikolic earned himself a brace tonight and has now scored at least one goal a game for the last four games. The Union’s back line had trouble shutting him down all night.


Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Aurelien Collin (Brenden Aaronson 80′), Jack Elliott, Raymon Gaddis (Andrew Wooten 57′); Haris Medunjanin, Warren Creavalle (Ilsinho 46′), Alejandro Bedoya (c), Jamiro Monteiro; Marco Fabian, Kacper Przybylko
Unused Substitutes: Joe Bendik, Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, Fafa Picault

Chicago Fire

Kenneth Kronholm; Johan Kappelhof, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Francisco Calvo, Jonathan Bornstein (Grant Lillard 90’+4′); Brandt Bronico, Dax McCarty (c), Nicolás Gaitán; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Nemanja Nikolic (Michael Azira 77′), C.J. Sapong
Unused Substitutes: Richard Sanchez, Marcelo, Amando Moreno, Djordje Mihailovic, Diego Campos

Scoring Summary

CHI: Nemanja Nikolic (Przemyslaw Frankowski) – 38′

CHI: Nemanja Nikolic (penalty kick) – 45′

Disciplinary Summary

PHL: Aurelien Collin – yellow – 44′

CHI: Nico Gaitán – red – 45’+2′

PHL: Jamiro Monteiro – yellow – 66′


  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    That game was a mess. Lineup was wrong. Played poorly. An embarrassing night against an extremely beatable team. Why is Creavalle starting? Fabian has been good at the 10 the last few games and you’ve a healthy Monteiro – but Fabian starts up top?!? Jim botched this one.
    That said they were beyond inept going forward. Clueless. Lost. 10,000 passes and no threats. And they were up a man for full 45+ minutes!!
    You’re gonna play stinkers from time to time but come on fellas. This was a joke. DC is a must win next week. We got lucky with a few results tonight, but Atlanta is at Portland tomorrow night. A win there for them, and we fall to second. If that happens, I feel we don’t ever get back to first. In the last few games – DC not included because we did play well but DC was also comically bad (kind of like our guys tonight) – the Union have not played well at all: two 4-0 losses, a very average 2-0 win vs. Chicago at home, and a lucky 2-1 win vs. Houston at home. Not the way you want to be playing when you’re in first place in mid to late August. Now three straight MASSIVE and TOUGH home games.
    I’m officially concerned.

  2. Free Trusty. Don’t let Curtin kill another young career.

    Colin is brutal.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Can’t wait to see the player ratings for Collin. A 3 would be generous. I think Curtin knows he needs to start Trusty now.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        A 1 would be generous for Collin.
        Trusty might be down to 4th on the depth chart given that McKenzie was on the bench last night.

    • Hmm…seem to have predicted this about Collin last week.wtf

  3. el Pachyderm says:


  4. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I’ll try my best to leave emotion out of this, because I’m very angry for many reasons.
    Ok, 1) Monteiro is too good for this team. I made a comment to a friend about putting him on a team that deserves his abilities instead of a team that wastes them, then 5 minutes later we see a replay where Monteiro released justified frustration on a missed opportunity.
    2) The lineup was bad. Creavalle shouldn’t start if everyone is healthy. Ilsinho shouldn’t come in that early unless there’s an injury. Fabian is a more effective 10 than Monteiro, and he doesn’t accomplish much in a striker role, especially in a bunkered defense.
    3) Sort of in line with point #2, Trusty needs to start next game. I didn’t really pick a side in the debate, but I think it’s time we let the kid grow. He’s well rested now, so give him the chance to win his job back.
    4) Bunkered defenses and set pieces continue to be impossible to crack, which has been the case even at the best of times this year. Also, penalties… our guys can’t score em; Blake can’t save em.
    5) Let’s try to end on a positive: if we beat DC and Atlanta, this game gets forgotten.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Bringing in Ilsinho was one move I agreed with (even if it didn’t help all that much). He came in at halftime when they were down 2-0 against NYRB and that worked out pretty well.
      Blake wasn’t at fault on the PK. Even if he guessed right, no keeper was saving that shot.
      Do you really think they can beat Atlanta if they don’t step up their game a LOT? Chicago could have easily been up 3 or 4-0 at halftime with decent finishing.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        A few things to keep in mind: Ilsinho came in at the 52′ mark and NYRB had a backup left back enter the game just minutes before. That move was brilliant and sure enough, Ilsinho torched Lade. I agree about the PK, not Blake’s fault. But it’s becoming a building issue, with Kacper’s miss and everything. Lastly, Atlanta is prone to a stinker just like us. Chicago scored 5 first half goals against them. They’ve choked leads and missed last minute PKs. We certainly have a chance.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        I forgot to mention Atlanta will be exhausted when we face them. Open Cup Final is just days before. Let’s hope it goes to PKs.

      • So true, if Sapong wasn’t Sapong this would have been a blowout

      • The Union have a chance against Atlanta, but only if the play a LOT better than last night.
        I believe open cup final is Tuesday before a Saturday game so a longer rest than Chicago had before last night and a shorter trip than Chicago had (although half the Chicago team didn’t make the trip).

  5. I feel like this is a personal punishment to me and everyone else who said that Colin deserved to start over Trusty. WOW was Colin awful in this match. He was half at fault for goal #1, entirely at fault (and stupidly) for goal #2, he made a couple more terrible passes, he took a shot off of Kacper’s foot…

    Our inability to break down Chicago’s defense, even down to 10 men, was appalling. I grant that a little of it was bad luck, and I am quite sure that our xG for this match will be 1.0 or greater. Kacper almost had one, Ale almost had one, Wooten almost had one, Elliott nearly had one in stoppage time. But FTLOG, to not even get ONE in…

    Warren Creavalle really looks like he’s doing a good job on the pitch. And yet, having him in is unbalancing things somehow. Wooten is largely a non-factor. Jim needs to get us back to a lineup that makes sense, with Haris/Bedoya/Fabián/Monteiro in the midfield and Kacper/Fafa up top.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      +1, especially last paragraph

    • Right on! You could see signs of this in the Houston match. Curtin fell in love with the lineup after the 5-1 romp over DC. You and I can see Collin’s weakness, so why can’t he? So frustrating.

      • I can see Trusty’s weaknesses too, which is the problem.

        Maybe this is why Mackenzie was on the bench for the last match…

  6. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Old. Tired. Slow.
    Going down a man with a two goal lead dictates a deep bunker. The man advantage was no advantage whatsoever
    Chicago controlled the midfield until they bunkered. Their defensive pressure was effective. The Union do not high pressure well against fast teams.
    Other coaches expect Ilsinho and prepare for him effectively.
    It has been a good run, but it seems likely to be over.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      …we’ll know in 3 weeks.
      Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

    • It’s over if Fabián and Wooten can’t be more effective, that’s for sure.

      I would not be certain about that yet.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        The thing about Wooten is he’s missing opportunities in front of goal. That’s not a chemistry issue. #9s around the world know how to finish no matter what team they play for. Maybe chalk it up to rust still?

  7. So as expectations go, just hoping we can get a home playoff game and/or win our first playoff match.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      This is MLS. This is what the people want. ‘Parody.’
      Union’ll be fine. Juggernaught, no. Top 3 team in conference, yes.

  8. Oh Union
    My Union.
    That faded rather quickly.

  9. Andy Muenz says:

    Not feeling very confident at this point given that the Union have played poorly in 3 of their last 4 games, even if they were able to get the win in Houston. They pretty much need 3 points against DC since there is a decent chance that’s their last win of the season given the schedule after that.

  10. Joe Hosack says:

    When the team does not believe in the line-up you get a game like last night. Funny, one of the MOST athletic, quick and talented players was left on the bench all night while one player on the field has been involved with the last three goals against was ON the field all night. PLEASE don’t do a Rosenbery to Trusty. NOT ENOUGH MOVEMENT when Ilsenio is double teamed, oh and you are up a man. It’s pretty basic people! Way to mess with the line up right before the playoff’s………

  11. Lineup and play suggested caution, which doesn’t make sense against a tired team that had to play on Wednesday. Why is Creavalle in that starting line up? The team as a whole was too cautious going forward, and again, exposed on the counter. The poor finishing while a man up was frustrating. I don’t get what their have plan was. I didn’t see anything. It’s worrying.

  12. It’s time to give Ray a night off.
    From Tannenwald on Twitter:
    “Ray Gaddis in his 56 minutes of action:

    2 tackles
    0 interceptions
    0 clearances
    0 blocks
    17/22 passes completed

    His 77.3% completion percentage was second-lowest of any Union outfield player. Kacper Przybylko was last.”

    • Good Lord. I could tell he was killing the offense on that side. I didn’t realize his overall stats were THAT bad.

      I don’t know that we can risk sitting him. We have no idea what Allen can do. And playing around with more than one defensive slot is risky — and clearly we have to do something at the LCB position…

      • Maybe try putting Ale at right back. That will allow you to play all of your midfields and also get a second forward on.

  13. Ugh these comments drive me nuts!! Yes, this wasn’t Collins best match i agree. He still had his defensive prowess and disrupted play. You all think Trusty will do better ?? He’s had two years being a starter on this team to grow and show what he can do ! He’s not good enough! It would have been the same shit with Trusty if he played, weak with one on ones , out of position, weak in the air, etc etc. I forgot though, a lot of ppl think that Trusty can make a ton of mistakes and should still see the field day in day out. With other defenders, it’s one or two bad games then you’re out of the line up for good. The fact is, Trusty has done more harm to this team then Collin. Keep Collin on. He’s the best you have right now.

    The Fabian experience is over for me. He is one of the worst #10 ever to play for this team. He has no strive and skill to go at defenders and to create an offensive attack. His decision making has been off this whole year. Give me Aarondson. Everyone talks about letting the kids grow and shit. Well, he’s the one you need to let grow. Fabian needs to go. His time is up.

    Medujanin also had a horrible game. (Hey Harris! Try blindingly lofting in 10 more balls into the box instead of playing to feet). He looked like the old Harris.

    The Union looked like the old Union. It was sluggish and no desperation to move off the ball and press forward holding possession. I’ll say it again, they need to learn how to become a “mature possession” team. And they need to learn this quick or else there’s no hope in the playoffs and no hope contending with LAFC or NYFC for that matter.

    • Trusty doesn’t pull people down in the box on corners and expect to get away with it like Collin did.
      Maybe the solution isn’t Trusty or Collin but to give McKenzie a shot.
      Fabian wasn’t playing in the #10 role for most of the game. He was supposed to be a forward with Monteiro as the 10.

      • Trusty has made fouls like that in the box before too. He’s done worse with his whole defensive play. That’s all I’m saying. And Elliot lost his mark on the first goal too soo. Yes , Fabian did play up top this game fair enough. His #10 play has been just as bad. If he’s so damn good he should be able to play the 10 well and forward well, he’s done neither so far in my opinion.

    • Collin dealt with CJ better than anyone we have, honestly. Dudes, CJ is one of the few target strikers around in the MLS that week in and week out….beats the crap out of opposing CB’s. Collin let that frustration out with a stupid foul. I said before, I would pair Collin with Trusty simply for recovery pace, he has that where Collin and Elliott do not. Collin will at least position himself better than Elliott to get caught less.

  14. Lets get serious here, the lineup was the same as last week, a very poor choice considering how lucky to win…..Collin is a weak link, the coach needs to fix it B4 its 2 late. Fabian is not valuable enough i agree with brenden over fabian…….the team won more when trusty and brenden were playing. so coach sideline fabian and collin and lets go.

    • Trusty is more of a liability. Seriously we’re saying maybe two games with mistakes by Collin trumps Trusty’s mistakes every game !!!!! If anyone truly understands the game they’ll understand why Trusty need to be a sub. Again , he doesn’t control the back line ever, horrid in the air and he’s 6’0 or something close to it? Loses his mark in a lot of games, always out of position. In past games, Collin has done very well with holding down the back line. Now, if Collin keeps making mistakes over and over then there’s definitely a point in taking him out of the starting line up.

  15. Marco Fabian is a more expensive Roland Alberg. Scores goals when it’s easy and the situation suits him.

    Seems like the typical Union season wrapping up. Limp into the playoffs after a mid season run and depart after (maybe) a playoff win.

  16. Timothy Herring says:

    And now the annual slide into infuriating medocrity begins. The Union for weeks now has touted itself in “being #1” — but a real table, i.e. one that combines the East and West into an overall league standings, and adjustment for multiple games in hand some of the good teams have, has rather shown the Union in the range of 3rd to 6th place.

    Now again we will see, as the Union have a string of matches upcoming agains truly quality teams, what happens every year: i.e. the Union fail to quality for the playoffs or they qualify and lose in the first round.

    Too bad the U renewed Curtin’s contract — they rather should have canned him last year when the chance was in hand.

    “OneManWolfPack” is only now officially concerned? You Sir should wake up, as you should have been so concerned 2 to 3 years ago when the writing on wall was there for this Team, its Management, and Owners.

    Again, I aske the question as I did last fall: Why is Atlanta doing so well in only its 2nd (now 3rd) season, and the Union is always mediocre and now into their 10th year? The answer is incompetence from the Principal owner on down.

    • Well said Tim. There was an article a few weeks back touting the points per $ spent ratio and the Union, to their credit, were #1. Problem is wtf does that stat get you in late July/August? Let the season play out then put out those numbers. Unfortunately, my ticket rep called me on Friday asking about renewing my tix for next year. Same bs I get every year at this time…. I told him I want to see how this season ends. I love being a full season ticket member (9yrs) but Christ, I need a little more return on my money. I think Atlanta and NYfc are gonna battle for the top spot. Question is where does that leave the U? Maybe another national crisis will motivate the team to finish 3 or 4. Who knows….?

      • Timothy Herring says:


        Yes in the Fall 2018 my ticket rep called me to renew and I gave them the big NO — had enough of this after 9 years and decided I was done.

        Good on you for being even more patient than me!


    • OneManWolfpack says:

      My line about being concerned was specifically related to this season. The team has not played well in its last 4-5 games, but has gotten some points, and has established itself as a team that should not only make the playoffs, but should host a game. With the impending games, it’s become concerning that they could fall out of one of those spots. For this team to host a playoff game after TOO MANY years of garbage, would be nice for fans – especially ones like me who have been STH’s since day one.
      In regards to ownership, money spent, etc…. that is totally separate conversation. Railing away on Sugarman right now won’t get us anywhere. Yes, he’s a problem. Yes, they don’t spend enough. But what good is it to bring it up right now?! He’s not selling anytime soon. Probably until expansion is complete and he can recoup like 10x what he paid to buy/start the team.
      I am well aware of the issues with this team overall. And I agree with what you said. I’m all for being critical and have railed on Curtin, Sugarman, etc – and will continue to. But for now, just enjoy the season, and let’s see if our boys can step up over the next 3 games… which will define this season.

      • Timothy Herring says:

        Dear OneManWolfPack,

        Sugarman is the #1 problem with this Team. Yes “railing away” on him won’t get us anywhere — rather, what will get us somewhere is enough fans deciding to stop giving him there money. I did that last fall by not renewing my season tix after being a founding member and 9 years of continuous season tix purchases.

        Enough is enough.


  17. That reminded me of a training session last night. We played entirely too slow when up a man…..all they had to do was sit in two banks of four and shift, shift, shift. Ironically, a target striker like CJ would have came in handy. Our CBs had a tough time with him last night. Last night just reeked to me of finding a way to keep Fabian on the pitch……almost somewhere where he can’t hurt you defensively. I said before, if Collin is out there, Trusty needs to be paired with him for recovery pace. Monty is also a better 6 than a 10. I understand that’s Harris’s spot…..so put him at the 7 or 8 in the diamond. Your not utilizing all his assets at the 10. Chicago dealt with Ilsinho well, you are going to see more clubs double down and not let him turn the corner…….

  18. The Big Woo says:

    I’m getting tired of this… There are spots of the pitch that need to be addressed. I think Ray needs to sit and so does Harris. If he moved I wouldn’t have an issue but it’s been forever since he has moved up the field to produce. And his leg has been so inaccurate lately – even passing is a chore.

    That was the silliest lineup I saw in a while. No Production… And I don’t care what anyone says – Kasper is not a mover like Burke who gets around the top and chases down the ball. Stop being Dom and move your lanky body to the play instead of waiting for something to happen.

    • Hey Kasper is the only forward putting the ball in the back of the net. He has precision when in front of the net unlike the other forwards on this team. So, maybe you should be more harsh on Wooten who has yet to make any real contribution or Fabian who was supposed to be the running off play/ going at defenders kind of forward this match.

  19. I think we all know that are team speed is not quick and the build up takes way too long. That is why teams can just sit back and bunker against us. We don’t have players making darting runs because they just aren’t fast enough. We have looked good for 2 months. The only matches we’ve won are when we are up 1 or 2 men, a Chicago team on 2 days rest and when we scored 2 fluky goals against Houston. I just keep hoping other eastern conference matches end in a draw because that might be the only way we stay in the top 4 to host a playoff match.

  20. I held back commenting after the match, mostly because I felt detached. In a way I thought this was coming. The Creavale/Colin infusion had run it’s course and needed to be switched up. Jim does as he does and stuck with the guys who had earned a spot weeks ago, in Creavalle and Colin. Their inability to break down bunkered teams showed itself again, which really shouldn’t be a surprise when the only answer the team has is Ilsinho and the league has figured out that trick. So the team got the result it pretty much deserved.
    What to do? It seems pretty obvious that Trusty and either Aaronson/Fontana need to come back in. I’d also try giving Fafa a start. Gaddis is an issue that seems will never be solved so why bother. Haris being the other untouchable, I’ll skip him too. So that leaves the team’s plan of attack, high press. It works better against teams that hold possession. When teams don’t and bunker, the Union run out of ideas. I also think it gets too clogged in there. The Union, despite Wagner’s improved play from the LB, aren’t a good team at crossing the ball. Episodes like last night where Jim threw everyone in the box, did zip for the offense. Ilsinho gets bogged down on the right cause he’s got nowhere to go with the ball with so many people in the box. The crosses that do come in either have no one running in late, or hit a defender before it hits one of the Union. So they need to widen the pitch under those situations. Take out Ray and put Bedoya back there or M’Baizo if he’s healthy. Switch to the 4-2-3-1 and flatten out wide. Do not overload the box with more Strikers. I think it’s just killing this team’s flow. I think it effects Fabian too. Fabian needs movement to be effective, both from himself and others around him. He’s not a Barnetta or Dockal with his cutting passes. So, too many players in the box, hinders that.
    Look, they played bad. They deserved to lose that match. Changes need to be made, but Curtin has options this season. It’s not over by a long shot.

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