Top Stories

Fire hand Union third straight loss

FireUnion (Getty)


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:


  1. Well Nyarko also missed a 1 on 1 last week and Oduro had one saved off the line by a defender this week, so this team is definitely having no problem creating quality chances.

  2. The Fire were definitely the stronger side. If Nyarko finishes his one on one in the 2nd half and if Logan Pause has his shot go in instead of hitting the post, then this game is a route. 1-0 does not reflect how much stronger Chicago was than Philly in this game.

  3. I think that rightly or wrongly, Nowak’s job is safe until the end of the season at least. The front office has bought into his “plan” and he is on a very long leash. I think it would take the Union missing out on the playoffs for his job to be in any danger.

    My take? There are 3 very winnable (on paper at least) games coming up, and if we fail to get a win during that stretch, it’ll be almost indefensible to keep him on as manager.

  4. – The Fire look like legit contenders
    – Clearly good chemistry and organization
    – A veteran MLS team
    – Well done Mr. Klopas
    – Great energy in Toyota Park

    – Philly are adrift
    – When does Nowak worry for his job?

  5. @James – very fair point, but I think the root of the defensive problem is more than just poor play (though that has a part to play, no doubt).

    Philly is playing a far less direct style of play than last year. With Le Toux, Ruiz and Mwanga last season, Philly played far more vertically than they have this season – in particular, balls over the top of opponents’ defenders onto which the forwards could run. By trying to keep the ball and play a shorter passing game that is possession-oriented, the team is far more vulnerable to turnovers and subsequent counter attacks since opponents are starting with the ball in the middle third of the field (if not higher) as opposed to their defending third. Basically, losing possession in the opponents’ half is much safer than doing so in your own.

    So while the defense and midfield do deserve plenty of blame, I don’t think it’s necessarily the formation or poor defending as much as it is a change in style. And this new style of play has yet to click. Why is hasn’t clicked is either due to player incompetence (i.e. they’re not good enough to build out of the back) or coaching incompetence (i.e. Nowak & co. haven’t properly prepared the team to play in this style). My guess is that it’s a bit of both and hopefully the players and the coaches will figure it out sooner rather than later.

  6. Philly offense was simply pitiful. Not one good chance created from open play and it just doesn’t look like they have a clue. Mwanga and Pajoy don’t work together. The midfield doesn’t link with the attack, and while it keeps the ball decently well, it does nothing productive with it. To top it all off, the defense (goalie included) makes at least one goal-gifting mistake a game.

    Not to go on a rant, but it seems like Philly is trying to play a more possession-oriented style of soccer (a la Barcelona, Swansea, etc). That is perfectly fine if the personnel can execute the plan. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case thus far. Looking at the Philly squad, methinks they may be better served with a more direct style of play a la Bilbao, Newcastle and ManU. Press defensively and play quickly, directly and skillfully when attacking.

    Thoughts, commentariat?

  7. Chicago is going to be strong when Robayo and Freidrich become starters.

    Add in a DP striker at the break and this squad could go all the way.

    This is a another team that would do well in CCL. I want to see Chicago, NY, and RSL qualify this year…if that is possible

  8. I feel bad for macmath. He must feel like he is in front of a firing squad. Its hard in a young gk when your defense is Swiss cheese.
    In another example of nowaks lack of tactical ability, why tinker with the defense that was #2 in goals against last year? First he goes 5 in the back in the playoffs and now he is experimenting with 3 in the back.


Leave a Comment