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MacMath, McInerney lead Union past Fire

ZacMacMath (Getty)


BRIDGEVIEW, Ill.– It wasn’t pretty, but the Philadelphia Union didn’t need it to be. On a day when the Chicago Fire had the majority of goal scoring opportunities, it was the Union, led by goalkeeper Zac MacMath and an opportunistic goal by league-leader Jack McInerney, that sunk the Fire, 1-0, at Toyota Park.

“You have to give Chicago credit because they came out and really tried to push the game,” said Union head coach John Hackworth. “I wouldn’t say we played our best soccer, but we found a way to get a result here and that’s huge.”

Chicago controlled play for much of the match, including a furious start to the second half led by Patrick Nyarko. But MacMath saved six shots in the team’s second clean sheet of the year, their first in nearly two months. Coming into the game, Philadelphia was near the top of the Eastern Conference with 14 goals allowed.

“I think Zac was our man of the match for sure,” Hackworth said. “A couple huge saves to keep us in the game, otherwise we really would have been in a bad spot.”

With the match scoreless mid-way through the first half,  second-half substitute Sebastien Le Toux sent a looping ball over the defense to the oncoming McInerney. The 20-year-old, who was otherwise ineffective on Saturday, calmly settled the ball and scored past an outstretched Sean Johnson for his league-leading seventh goal of 2013.

“That’s usually how it is on the road in this league,” McInerney said after the match. “You’ve just got to battle and if you can hold a zero in the back than anything can happen. Credit Zac and our back four. They did a great job today and it just took one.”

The Fire played without Sherjill MacDonald, who was a late scratch, and head coach Frank Klopas shifted winger Patrick Nyarko to central striker. The move looked like it would pay off, as Nyarko was able to consistently beat the Union defense off the dribble. Chicago had an opportunity in the 33rd minute when Nyarko made his way into the box. He found Daniel Palidini who looked to have an open goal in front of him, but MacMath fearlessly closed to block the attempt out for a corner.

Nyarko had another chance in the 48th minute when Dilly Duka passed him the ball in the box, but the Ghanaian’s shot hit the outside of the post and scooted wide.

Again the Fire couldn’t capitalize in the 74th minute when Chris Rolfe sent a pass across to Nyarko, but his outstretched leg couldn’t get a touch on the ball.

In the end, MacMath’s heroics in net, and McInerney’s league-leading seventh goal, proved too tough to overcome.

Asked about his upstart striker after the game, Hackworth assured reporters he is not surprised at the youngster’s production. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but no I’m not. He is an excellent goal scorer and he is developing and we saw last year he was capable of this kind of season. The thing I’m most pleased with is that he continues to try to play the game the same way. He hasn’t let anything effect him and he’s had a lot of attention in the past month.”

Saturday’s game marked the first of three games in eight days for the Union, who will next host the L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday before a rematch with the Fire next Saturday.

“Things weren’t pretty [today] but the difference between last year and this year is the guys have heart and stay together and we fought for three points,” MacMath said.

The Fire drop their second game in a row and now fall further out of playoff contention in the East. It was the fifth time they have been shutout in nine games this season.

“Obviously it’s frustrating in games like that, but that’s soccer,” Klopas said after the game. “You scratch your head at times, but I felt that we played well enough for sure not to lose but to get the three points today.”

Hackworth acknowledged the Union are likely to see a very motivated Fire team next week.

“We’ll have to mix it up. It’s going to be really hard on us to get through these eight days and three matches. We know we’ll see a very competitive [team] and they’ll come to Philly and look to steal the three points there.”

Here is McInerney’s goal:


  1. McInerney doesn’t have the game to play in Europe; in fact, he’s not all that great in the MLS. He’s been finishing very well this season, but it’s not as if he’s creating chances or a consistent threat. He’s making good runs and pouncing on opponents’ mistakes and he deserves full credit for what he’s done. That said, there are some significant parts of his game that need improvement. Thankfully he’s young so he has some time to get better.

    • Well you obviously don’t watch the Union week in and week out. Jack’s game has been awesome. He makes great runs all games. He links up on the wings, in the center of the field and counter attack. He is a constant threat with his head and feet. He also has been awesome at distributing this year. If Cruz, Marfan or Hopenot could finish chances he would have 3-5 assists already. Just last week against Seattle it was his pass to Casey that set up the goal to Cruz and his shot off the post that Cruz scored on the rebound.

      I agree, if he continues to kill it in MLS then he should wait until after next year but his game just keeps evolving without any service from the midfield.

      • fwiw, I am a Union season ticket holder. McInerney certainly tries to link play between the midfield and attack, but he doesn’t do a good job of it as he doesn’t hold the ball well and like just about all the Union’s players, he doesn’t pass well either.
        He is certainly not a “constant threat with his head and feet” as he’s proven unable to shoot from outside or beat anyone off the dribble. He’s much better with his head though against Seattle, he blew a wide open chance in the first half as his header glanced off the bar and went over.
        Also, I’d hardly use his play against Seattle as a testament of his quality. Philly’s first goal came from a McInerney cross that was a bit behind Casey. He made a great adjustment and header – a good cross would’ve resulted in a simple Casey header and goal. The second goal was a result of McInerney’s shot, but it didn’t go off the post. It was a pretty poor shot directly at the goalie who made a colossal error by letting the ball go right through his hands and off the bar.
        I understand that people are getting excited, but if one were to objectively watch him play and see how he scores his goals, it’d be a bit clearer that while he’s finishing well this season, he still has gaping holes in his play.

  2. If Jmac wins the golden boot, he should go to Europe. Also cant stop thinking how much having casey is helping him. I think casey has been a great pickup by the Union.

  3. Glad ZMM had a strong game. He needed that performance. He’s still not fit to be the #1, but since we’re clearly stuck with him I’ll take all the confidence-building he can handle.

    • Exactly. He’s a good shot stopper but his distribution is terrible, he’s clueless on balls in the air and he makes one or two bad decisions per game. Nonetheless, he played well and hopefully he gets better.

  4. I think moving to a club like anderlecht or a mid European league could be good for him. He isn’t ready for the big boys yet but if he does what Najar did he could develop into a great player that could be key to our country’s national team.


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