Union / Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Chicago Fire

photo: Howie Pollard

Joaquin Torres scored the only goal of the game in the 90th minute as the Philadelphia Union downed the Chicago Fire 1-0 on a chilly evening at Subaru Park. Fabian Herbers was shown a second yellow and red card in the 50th minute but the Union failed to make the most of their man advantage until Torres finally found the breakthrough.

While the lack of end product will be a concern for Philadelphia, the health of goalkeeper Andre Blake will be a bigger one, as the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year limped off in the first half with an apparent groin injury.

After naming a changed team for the midweek Concacaf Champions League match against Alianza, Jim Curtin reverted to his preferred starting XI for the visit of Chicago. The visiting Fire started two former Union players in Kacper Przybylko and Fabian Herbers.

The Union would create the first chance of the game in 13th minute. Julian Carranza met Kai Wagner’s corner with a strong right foot, but his volley from close range was saved off the line by Gaston Gimenez.

Kei Kamara would have the ball in the back of the Union goal in the 16th minute, but the Chicago striker was correctly deemed offside as the ball was played into him.

The Union would be forced into a first half substitution in the 33rd minute after Andre Blake was forced off with what looked like a groin injury, with Joe Bendik replacing Blake.

The Union started the second half on the front foot and would see the visitors reduced to 10 men when Fabian Herbers was shown a second yellow card for a late tackle on Kai Wagner in the 50th minute.

Philadelphia would have a great chance to open the scoring in the 76th minute. Wagner’s back post cross was headed back across goal by Daniel Gazdag, but Alejandra Bedoya couldn’t find the touch to finish the move as Chicago cleared.

The Union would finally find a goal in the 90th minute through Torres. The Argentinian cut inside from the right touch line onto his preferred left foot and fired a shot from 20 yards that skipped through the hands of goalkeeper Chris Brady on the bounce to give Philly the three points.

Kei Kamara would receive his second yellow card in second half stoppage time and the Fire finished the match down to 9 men.

Philadelphia is next in action when they host Alianza in the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League tie on Tuesday (8 p.m.). They return to MLS action when they travel to Montreal next Saturday (7:30 p.m.)

Three Points

  • An ugly win is still a win. So, not great. A match that was a terrible advertisement for soccer and one that Philly was impotent in the attack for the most part still ended in three points. In a season where the club is managing multiple competitions and high expectations, wins and points are the keys to success.
  • Still, that was ugly. Three matches into the MLS season, the Union look…off. Even up a man against a poor Chicago team, Philly failed to create many clear cut chances and the patterns of play look no where near as crisp as they did a season ago.
  • Torres. Joaquin Torres came off the bench and changed the game. While he did sail a shot into the drum line of the SoBs and misplay a few passes, he did find the game winner and got the Union on the front foot.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake (Joe Bendik 33′), Olivier Mbaizo (Quinn Sullivan 83′), Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya, Leon Flach (Jack McGlynn 61′), Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre (Joaquin Torres 61′), Julian Carranza
Subs: Joe Bendik, Damion Lowe, Andrés Perea, Matthew Real, Nathan Harriel, Jesús Bueno

Chicago Fire

Chris Brady, Rafael Czichos, Carlos Terán, Miguel Navarro, Arnaud Souquet (Jonathan Dean 55′), Xherdan Shaqiri (Javier Casas 76′), Kendall Burks, Gastón Giménez (Mauricio Pineda 65′), Kacper Przybylko (Chris Mueller 55′), Kei Kamara, Fabian Herbers
Subs: Wyatt Omsberg Javier Casas, Brian Gutierrez, Missael Rodriguez, Maren Haile-Selassie, Spencer Richey

Scoring Summary

PHI: Joaquin Torres – 90′ (Martinez)

Disciplinary Summary

CHI: Carlos Teran – 12′ (foul)
CHI: Kei Kamara – 38′ (dissent)
CHI: Miguel Navarro – 42′ (foul)
CHI: Fabian Herbers – 45+2 (other)
PHI: Jose Martinez – 45+2 (other)
CHI: Fabian Hebers – 50′ (foul – second yellow/red card)
PHI: Jack Elliott – 64′ (foul)
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya – 73′ (foul)
PHI: Joaquin Torres – 90+3 (foul)
CHI: Kei Kamara – 90+3 (foul – second yellow/red card)
PHI: Quinn Sullivan – 90+5′ (time wasting)


  1. Deez Nuggs says:

    Not to belabor the point, but the Union always look off to start the season. So that’s not surprising to me. In the three games so far, they look a step slow… slow to roll their defensive shapes, slow to play the through ball before the run is offside, slow to decide to shoot or carry. That’s mental fitness that will improve as the season progresses, provided Curtin doesn’t run his preferred players into the ground. One wonders if playing Blake in the CCL has already led to an injury (hopefully just a muscle tightness easily overcome). I was encouraged by how much rotation we saw in the Alianza game. But he simply cannot play Wagner and Eliot on Tuesday, right? Right?
    Overall, a gritty win. Not watchable, but good points.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I don’t think Blake’s injury had anything to do with last Tuesday. I think he hurt it via a collision followed by a tough save a few minutes later.
      I’m also thinking it will be Glesnes turn to play on Tuesday.

      • I had thought Curtin was going to roll out a starting 11 for the Alianza game but he used them for the Chicago game so I assume we’ll see some rotation now. With Blake out for an indeterminate time now, would it be better for the Union to reduce their competition load so they can concentrate on the MLS?

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Ugly is an apt word to describe it. The Union do not look like the same team they did last year. I’m definitely worried this will be the end of the home winning and/or unbeaten streak in MLS as they will likely be shorthanded when they return to Subaru Park thanks to MLS thinking it makes sense to play through the international break.

    • All streaks come to an end. I don’t think that will happen in their next home game against Orlando but I could see the Union’s streak ending against a better team this season. Some times teams need that punch in the mouth to start firing on all cylinders. Hopefully the Union won’t need that or at least won’t get that loss in an elimination game.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I disagree. I see the ideas in motion but the execution is off. Early season mental slowness. I think it will come. If you didn’t see Uhre making the runs, or the attempted through passes, or the over the top drop balls, or the front line interchange… then I’d agree there is more to worry about.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I’m specifically worried about the Orlando game given that Blake (even if healthy), Mbaizo, Martinez, and Gazdag (and Lowe off the bench) will likely be missing.

      • No need to worry about the Orlando game, they’ll be without players too. Union’s bench is strong.

    • Also the passing has been terrible. Hope this also will improve with time as last year. Just incredible how different they look compared to the end of last year.

  3. Who needs a canine pitch invasion for full CONCACAF? Not the Union. That was a pretty entertaining for all the wrong reasons match of CONCACAF ball. Our front three were nearly invisible. That we were better than Chicago is not much of an accomplishment.
    I’ll take the three points cut wow. That was not a good performance. It needs to get a lot better.

  4. Absolutely the WORST game I’ve witnessed in, what, 4 or 5 seasons?

    Totally disconnected… 11 individuals, complete lack of any cohesiveness… or aggressive positive energy.

    What the hell was that, freezing my *ss off… witnessing that?

    Uhre, Gazdag, Flach invisible… Martinez, again, passing more to opposition than his own team.

    Chicago is a terrible team… 10 MEN… and we were worse… except for Torres, again.

    Did anyone offensively show up to play tonight?

    Show of hands?

    Torres, ONLY… again.

    Time to bench Urhe… he’s been ineffective all season. Waste of money.

    And now Blake injured…

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I can’t figure Uhre. Thought for sure that guy was going to pop off this season but man is it a slog for him right now. Brutal.
      Course if he’s sitting on 17 goals by season’s end.

      • No’gonna happen.

        He looked lost again…. time to reboot, start Torres, see if he and Carranza can create SOMETHING.

      • I’m still hoping they remember how fast Uhre is. I’m not a fan of dump and chase ball but there were a few over the top balls in the Crew game that were tailor-made for Uhre. In this game, M’baizo’s leading pass in the first half was just a few yards from perfection.
        Let’s see if Curtin can get them working on patterns that use Uhre’s strengths as a one touch finisher. Torres’ pass to Carranza in the Crew game would have been a perfect setup for Uhre, imo.

      • Completely agree, Pachy. I thought Uhre was gonna compete for the Golden Boot this season. Last year he was an assassin. This year he’s been consistently uninvolved. I hope it’s just a slump. At the moment both Torres and Sullivan look better than he does.

  5. el Pachyderm says:

    Glad they got the three points as time winded down. Still so disorganized and out of rhythm… so many players in each others’ space in the attacking end. Its quite strange. I hope they get the likemindedness down soon. Otherwise– all that matters at this point is the All World goalkeeper. Fingers crossed.
    Just Play Well. one good game in four thus far… needs to be better. That is the expectation now.

  6. The goaltending situation is untenable.

    No disrespect to Joe…..

    But why didn’t Ernst sign another MLS experienced goalie?

    Serious question.

    We entered this season… potentially 60 games with Blake, Bendic and a kid from college… trading Matt Freese (who was ready)…..

    Who is out there to sign… in case, Ernst?

  7. Micah Bertin says:

    OG season ticket holder from day one, section 108. Been to,easily, over 90% of all-time Union home games.
    Seasons past: early season, cold af, meh opponent, there would have been half the crowd, maybe even 1/3. Something has shifted. This crowd was bundled up and fired up- pun intended- and the boys felt it and they wanted it as much as we did and they delivered.

    Life is complicated,full of nuance, but sometimes it just feels good to win. Mic drop…

    • Delco Roots says:

      I agree, Micah. Thanks for the positive comments. That certainly was not the “beautiful game,” but for a team that typically starts slowly, that is a useful three points.

    • WTF…

      They played TERRIBLE TONIGHT…. from someone whose attend 100% of home games since 2010.

      Disjointed and ineffective, against a horrible team, with 10 men, 1/3 of the game.

      Piss poor performance, in the freezing cold.

      • Darth Harvey says:

        Since you are someone who has been to 100% of the games you know that the Union of old don’t find a way to score… in fact they could’ve found a way to lose… good teams find ways to win even when they are playing poorly. Last season we lamented not winning early in the season because the team was still coming together and we said “that’ll come back to bite us in supporters shield” … and it did. Take the three points and chill… there is no reason to panic … this is March Union soccer and they got a result.

      • Trying to sell your timeshare on the Cliffs of Union Despair?

    • Exactly! Been a season ticket holder since day one and at 90% of games since 2010. No way they would sell out in the past for a game like this.

      Disjointed performance to say the least, but I think a lot of people forget we had an abundance of hugely disappointing ties last season before getting it together.

      Having said that, the keeper situation is most concerning now depending on time frame of Blake’s injury.

  8. So frustrated, again….

    I thought Miami would be the extent.

    3 points is one thing…. against a 10 man, disastrously, selfishly, talented group of individuals like Chicago?

    Kamara fits perfect there!

    Should have been 6-0…
    We played terrible.

  9. And my local bar, who showed every Union game since 2010….. they can’t show any game now.

    Great local marketing.

    • Does that mean a bar can’t show it even if they pay for the season pass (or is it extra expensive for a “public” license)? That would be messed up.

      • DirecTV handles it now, distributing to bars who subscribe.

        But the key issue is, either they subscribe to Comcast or DirecTV… and the bar refuses to pay for both… might even be restricted from, doing so.

        Now if you owned that bar, who cares about MLS and Don “Grabmoremoney” scam on every local fan. Comcast has the 6ers, Flyers and Phillies.

        The Union are an afterthought in PHL.

      • Darth Harvey says:

        If they have directv.. I’ve heard they can get it that way…

  10. So agreed it should have been 6-0, but 1-0 is still a win. Thought O generated more chances than stated above.
    On a night March felt like feb, take the win and move on.
    More importantly, prime 11 are spent w 3 days to ccl.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I’d go with a lineup similar to last week. If you win, fine, you move on. If not, you chop 6 games of the potential total for the season.

      • Yes Andy, agreed.
        At home a similar lineup should win.
        Not ready to blow it off though. Tie game at 60, A team comes on.
        Think serious effort should made for all hardware. Team is young enough and deep enough.

  11. Andy Muenz says:

    Kudos to Shaqiri. During the stoppage when Navarro got a yellow, someone a row or two behind me yelled something along the lines of “Shaqiri, you suck” to which Shaqiri gave an obvious wink.

  12. santo bevacqua says:

    Everyone makes sense here, i want to give the fire some credit here for their game plan, they frustrated the U with their physicality. It was evident that was their plan witness the yellow and red cards. The U is on track to success.

  13. I feel the frustration like everyone else here. Up a man for most of a half and only one late goal should be frustrating. Curtin talked about it in his post game press conference.
    Players aren’t connecting. They’re dribbling when they should be passing. They’re passing when they should be dribbling. They seem to be looking for the perfect play instead of the team play. Not being selfish but rather trying to score in one pass and making too many low percentage plays and getting frustrated because of it.
    Let’s see if the coach can address that in his training over the next few weeks. Can he get the boys back to playing as a unit? Can he get them to understand how to move to support each other on defense and offense? He has before, so I am hopeful. I want this frustration to end and want the joy of a well-played game.

  14. I hate the sentiment… “well it’s 3 points.”

    We said the same things about the 10 ties last year… still a tie…. over and over, and we lost the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup host by 2 points.

    Blake is problematic. We have NO BACK UPS. An old retread in Bendik (no disrespect Joe) and a college senior who still hasn’t graduated, drafted a few weeks ago. That’s it.

    About 2 months ago when Herr Tanner signed Bendick to a contract…. I blogged about getting competent back up for Blake with 60 potential games.

    Kinda hope we lose Tuesday night. Who cares about CCL. We looked so bad last night, worse than even Xhicagi

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Buddy. The points is all that matters. Especially this early on. We always start slow. The season is not lost.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Take the win over the tie any day no matter how.
      Last season, LAFC lost 4 more games than we did, but they won 2 more. That’s what the Shield came down to.
      So I would take the extra loss here and there if it means we get more wins and less ties.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      There’s a big difference between getting a draw and saying at least it’s not a lost and getting an ugly win and saying “well it’s 3 points”. The former is what cost the Union at least one if not two trophies last season. As to the latter, they don’t pay any more points for winning pretty than for winning ugly (except in the rest of the world where goal differential matters).

      • +1 It was ugly but a better start to the season than last year.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Actually, a worse start than last season. Last year they had 16 points in 6 games before losing in Toronto. This year it will be no more than 15 points after 6 games given the loss in Miami.

      • My mistake. I was thinking the tie streak had started at the start of the season but it didn’t start until game 8.

    • Pepito, The Biggest Cat in the Whole World says:

      Step back from the brink, please. This was game three of the season and you’ve now made like 10 posts about how the sky is falling.

      The Union haven’t played particularly well so far and are still 2-1. Worse things have happened

  15. Deez Nuggs says:

    Thought more about things last night.
    The Union won because we won the most important part of the game… the ref. We figured it out and Chicago didn’t. Even Jose stayed the right side. In fact, if you wanted, you could imagine he was playing chess with Chicago, baiting them into the fatal mistakes. 😉
    It’s not wrong to point out Chicago’s plan was to foul us out of rhythm. It almost worked. We still managed to create some good chances. Once they went down a man, they reverted to a low block to try and take the point. That’s the toughest formation to break down in soccer. You need intricate passing in tight corridors to succeed. And that is precisely why Jim brought on our new dribbly boi and our best passer. And it ultimately worked.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Hard to say anyone figured out the ref considering the Union had almost twice as many fouls called against them. (19-10) He was extremely inconsistent as to what was a foul. The Union were just smart enough not to have the same guy commit multiple cardable fouls.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Exactly my point. We figured out where the line was. And stayed just this side. We “got away with” more precisely because we had.

  16. Chris Gibbons says:

    The hybrid formation the Fire used (3 in the back and sometimes 4 but with 5 in the midfield playing super wide) did the thing it usually does to the Union: neutralize their fullbacks. Wagner all but cancelled his forward runs, cutting inside about a million times and passing away, so he wouldn’t get caught high. Mbaizo went forward a ton but more often than not (especially after Sullivan came on) had Bedoya rotating behind him for cover too. If the U can’t get wide and high, their offense struggles – a truth for anyone using their diamond formation.

    That kind of odd numbered maneuver is something the Fire have used against the U a lot before and with a decent amount of success. Nashville did it too, same thing. Add a second half when the visitors almost comically packed it in (often times with 10 defenders with 10 yards of the penalty spot) and you get the kind of match we saw – plus the Fire’s choice to stay chippy.

  17. I was at that match live — I go to maybe 5-6 matches/year and have done so since 2010 — and that was one of the worst. Ugly and bitter, in multiple sense of the term. It was like being pelted with frozen dog turds. My notes:

    -The team really just looks off, on offense all the time, on defense early in games. Passes just off, guys not on the same page, again and again.

    -The Union usually start slow, so I agree with Deez Nuggs & others that there’s no reason to get upset yet. Especially since…

    -We got the 3 points. Yeah, on a keeper screw-up, but still. The Union of 2010-2017 get 1 point from that match.

    -Uhre especially looks surprisingly off. Hope it’s just a slump, because the guy was an assassin last season.

    -Gazdag also looked unaccountably terrible in this game. Glesnes, OTOH, was MOTM.

    -Jose Martinez effectively won us this game by baiting Herbers enough to get that first yellow. (And then not doing anything stupid for the rest of the match.) His passing was way off all match, but his psychological warfare abilities should be reflected in his game rating.

    -The way Blake looked… he’s gonna be out for a whole buncha weeks. Don’t hope for better.

  18. Kip Leitner says:

    Wow. Paid $70 and froze my butt off to watch the Union play like 6 guys who couldn’t make their NCAA team because of poor ball skills and decided to play cross-field 6v6 intramural soccer.

    Passes to nowhere. Kick and run offense. Long ball city. Score on goalkeeper error. Curtin’s tough guy “play while hurt” ethic kills Andre Blake who plays hurt to please coach after groin strain and then fully rips it on a goal kick. Blake pounds the ground in his own stupidity in not taking himself out. But this is Curtin’s fault for not telling players “don’t make a minor injury worse — it’s better to sub and be out for a gew games then do major damage.” Jim Curtin is known for forcing players to play when exhausted and out of gas and with injuries. Watch how far the Union gets now with Blake. I predict he will be out at least 8 weeks. He walked of the field with the classic severe groin tear walk — can put weight on leg, but cannot move leg at hip joint. Nice work Jim.

    Union has a dark cloud around them. Decent players but poor attitude coming from coach. Watch you tube videos online with Curtin and team using lots of profanity and generally looking/talking like the Broad Street Bullies. Not a good omen here. This is supposed to be the beautiful game. I don’t like the feeling I had watching them play, and I love soccer.

  19. Too much offensive talent too worry long term. Blake’s health will make or break this seasons title aspirations. Bending is not the solution long term. Hate to say it but Union may have to sacrifice an offensive player to acquire a more talented back up. Mc Math ??? Always thought he eas under appreciated here.

    • McMath left because he didn’t wanna be stuck behind Blake. Same as John McCarthy and Matt Freese.

      The thing about backups, at any position, is that you need a guy good enough to get the job done but not good enough to start somewhere. It’s tricky to strike the balance. Union have been doing it with homegrowns who still need to develop and therefore don’t need to start. But keepers take a particularly long time to develop.

      • Chris Gibbons says:


      • Section 114 says:

        Of course when you have an injury that might lead to a dozen MLS games and a chance, it’s a good time to go find someone who is better than that. They can play now and backup down the stretch, and then go someplace for real money next year. If they play it right this could actually help fox one of the significant holes on the roster.

  20. Darth Harvey says:

    The game aside.. can I opine on on appletv coverage for just a minute… has the director watched soccer before? I’ve felt this with all of the games this season thus far…picture quality is next level when compared to PHL’s cameras from the 90s… i half expected the retro yellow font overlays to tell us the score in years past…

    But if you can’t understand what’s happening off camera then you are only watching 50% of the game… Especially in a game like this with the amount of “dark arts” at play. There is so much to be done with replays to add context to the game. Half the yellow cards that were given were like “well I think I can infer why” but no replays and instead just a tight shot of a player or coach. I feel like when I see a replay happen on appletv that I am being given a drop of water in the desert.

    I just feel left wanting by their broadcast… can I see that last play, challenge, duel? Nope? Shut up and give you money? Okay Tim Apple… here you go…because you know you have a captive audience that the numbers,nerds and algorithms say it is worth having this league in your walled garden.

    I also get it… Philly has been BLESSED and SPOILED by our commentary crew basically since the beginning… it is unsertling amd jarring to hear people that don’t know the team talk about us… you would’ve thought that Joe Bendik was a fresh faced and bushy tailed early 20 something based on yesterday’s team, not the journeyman that has been competent but also victim of some of the most iconic union goals in history… Also Andre Blake has just such a presence… a presence that will be missed due to the lack of presence his not being present on the field will present…

    The pregame is rough and they will need to cycle through a couple of crews before we get away from this awkward bunch (BWPs distaste for anyone but ref bull is palpable) but I can generally ignore that.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Plus, who was the sound tech for this game? All you could hear were the drum and SOBs. That should be easy to put in the background, yet you could barely hear the commentary. My sound bar doesn’t have a graphic equalizer, but I shouldn’t need one. Yes, we have been spoiled. Can JP be drafted to do a synchronous podcast?

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Weirdly I don’t mind BWP… he’s got some personality and talks straight. But I’m not sure Sasha has the makings of a commentator. The broadcast team was poor, nothing interesting to say and just wrong about too much.

    • Yeah, I echo that about the wasted time doing close-ups on a player retreating after a play, or on the coach or bench. Not only is the lack of replays annoying, but when they did happen they were often late, causing a chunk of missed action.
      Also bothered by the lack of actual fast forward/rewind in streaming. When DVRing live broadcasts, I could go fast or slow through various points when appropriate and see what I was doing; now you have to guess how long the trainers will work on someone before play resumes or a replay shows up.
      Yes, ol’ Tim Apple is getting more for less

    • Andy Muenz says:

      As an aside (and I agree with your main point that Apple coverage sucks), I was relieved when the Union got to halftime and Bendick could get away from the goal where he’s most famous for watching the balls go by.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Always appreciate the few times you “rant off.” Good commentary.

  21. OneManWolfpack says:

    I guess the bar has been raised so high (and I agree it has and should be), that people can’t just take the 3 points and move on. So much bitching and complaining on here. They had an off night… yes. They stole 3 points… yes. It’s March, people. Remember 2021? They started bad… couple losses, couple draws… then made the run in CCL and got screwed by Covid in the NYC East Final game.
    Like (maybe future Jets QB) Aaron Rodgers said a few years ago: R-E-L-A-X. They do need a legit 3rd striker. The Blake injury could be an issue, depending on length of time, but the defense is still good.
    Maybe I’m a blind optimist, but like may others on here, who go to every home game (and some away), and watch every game, etc., we have seen some BAD teams. This is a good team, not firing all cylinders. I am nowhere near concerned yet.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I am not concerned either. My contention is– I am not entertained …
      …and while (phew there were some bleak seasons) I have generally considered the expansion of this Vision, Philosophy and Plan by now should be bringing with it safe expectations for generally playing well.
      They are really hard to watch currently– I’m not concerned- just not impressed.
      Keeping a good measure of tone with my posts as the team has generated good will from me over the years and compared to rants past- I’m pretty tempered these days… but it is still not acceptable.
      As always- appreciate your still here– plugging along OMW. Upwards we go.

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