BY DAVID GUBALA
BRIDGEVIEW, Il — The plan for the Chicago Fire this season was to kick off right where they left off in 2011 and it seems that they're doing just that.
A piece of brilliance from Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro was all it took as the Chicago Fire handled a struggling Philadelphia Union side with a 1-0 victory Saturday night at Toyota Park.
The Union opted for a three-man backline in this one and it didn't take long for the Fire to take advantage of it. In the 28th minute, Marco Pappa sprinted past one Union defender, megged another and crossed his ball in the box where Dominic Oduro would bury it to notch his first header goal in a Fire-red shirt.
"I was looking at the defender's feet and made the right moves to get past everyone by me. I was happy to see Oduro score," Pappa said. "The important thing is that everyone was focused for the entire game and we earned three points."
Frank Klopas stressed how critical it was that the team quickly adjusted to Philadelphia's 3-5-2 formation. The Union had congested the middle of the field and forced the Fire to seek their limitless options on the flanks.
"We were sharp from the beginning, our ball movement was very good along with our rotation in the middle," said Klopas. "They [Union] were playing with five in the middle and we especially had to work very hard on our rotation and our discipline had to be spot on."
Adjusting to Philadelphia's formation wasn't too difficult as the Fire made sure they were well prepared against the Union's versatility.
"We talked about all scenarios when we prepared against the Union," said Patrick Nyarko. "They played back four in the first game and back three in the second game so we expected anything they would throw on us. They gave us a bit more space on the wings and Dominic [Oduro] and I were able to take advantage of it at times."
The last ten minutes were more than hectic with nail-biting, box-to-box action that were sure to determinate the fate of this game. The Fire had two huge opportunities to capitalize on their lead in the end when Nyarko was found in no-man's land, played to Oduro, however the Ghanaian’s one v. one effort was pushed away by Zac MacMatch. Oduro broke free of the Union defense minutes later once again, but his square pass to Federico Puppo was played too far for him to reach and knock it in an empty net.
Paolo Tornaghi earned Man of the Match honors after pulling off a couple of impressive saves to give the Fire their first clean sheet of the season. Tornaghi most notably came up big on two occasions in the second half, stopping Gabriel Gomez's free kicks in the 82nd and 84th minutes respectively.
"Paolo did very well today," said Danny Mwanga of the Union. "He came out big for the Fire many times and it looks like he has great talent. He made it very difficult for us."
Mwanga and the Union picked up zero points in their first three league matches and midfielder Brian Carroll believes it is key for the team not to break down mentally. The Union also seem that they are yet to find consistent rhythm in their defensive part of the game after switching off between four and three men in their back line.
"I think we've grown each and every game and we're sticking together and fighting for one another through this period and that's going to be invaluable going forward now," said Carroll. "We have to continue to work hard and hopefully we'll have results going in our favor soon."
Here are the Match Highlights: