Monday, August 13, 2012

Union fall to Chicago

CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union’s run of four consecutive home victories was brought to an end on Sunday evening as Chicago Fire fought back from a goal down to secure three valuable points at PPL Park.

It also ended the Union’s 100 percent home record over the visitors, who were defeated on both previous MLS visits in 2010 and 2011.

A devastating spell of four minutes at the end of the first half was to prove pivotal as goals from Chris Rolfe and Arne Friedrich edged the Fire clear before Rolfe added another to seal the win 11 minutes after the break.

The Union had started brightly and were almost in front after just 38 seconds. Freddy Adu picked out the overlapping Sheanon Williams on the right and the defender hit a fine cross into the path of Keon Daniel, who headed marginally wide of goal under firm defensive pressure.

The Fire were quick to respond, however. Sherjill MacDonald’s clean first touch in only the second minute yielded a yard of space inside the Union box but the Dutch striker could only drag his shot comfortably wide of goal as the River End held its collective breath.

The home side went closer still 11 minutes in as Gabriel Farfan’s header from a free kick wide on the left clipped Sean Johnson’s crossbar after the goalkeeper had failed to intercept the cross.

And the deadlock was almost broken again midway through the opening period as the Fire sprung a swift counter attack. Alvaro Fernandez timed his run to perfection between debutant Bakary Soumare and left back Raymon Gaddis but saw his finish sail over the onrushing Zac MacMath and the bar.

With both goals seemingly living a charmed existence, the deadlock was finally broken by the Union – with help from the visitors – in the 34th minute. Freddy Adu sent a long angled ball towards the attacking run of Chandler Hoffman and the young striker’s attempt to connect with a header was enough to cause confusion in the visitors’ ranks, allowing the ball past goalkeeper Johnson and in off the shins of defender Jalil Anibaba.

But the Fire would hit back in dramatic fashion as the half entered its final stages. Three minutes before the break, Rolfe was in the right place at the right time to clinically dispatch past MacMath from 12 yards following MacDonald’s tidy pull-back from the by-line.

And Friedrich would send the visitors in front with a goal in the first of two minutes of added time. Marco Pappa sent in a corner from the right flank and the towering German launched his header crashing into the back of the net.

As they did in Montreal, the Union returned with vigor in the second half. Antoine Hoppenot replaced Freddy Adu as the Union came out fighting and they were unlucky not to level on a number of occasions as the ball flashed across goal.

But with Sean Johnson’s palms still warm from two Keon Daniel strikes from distance, Philadelphia’s good work was to be undone by the counter attacking Fire in the 56th minute.

Rolfe advanced through the inside right channel under pressure from Brian Carroll before executing a crisp drive from the corner of the 18 yard box. It was to prove too hot for MacMath who got a touch as the ball fizzed into the net to give Frank Klopas' side a two-goal advantage.

The game would stretch noticeably as both sides searched for the next crucial goal; the Union attempting to force their way back as Chicago resisted and countered in an end-to-end passage of play.

MacMath first produced a fine saved at the feet of MacDonald on the hour mark before Michael Farfan showed excellent footwork to twist and turn beyond Pappa and Pavel Pardo and curl his shot off the base of the post.

Fernandez and MacDonald were again denied by a mixture of committed Union goalkeeping and defending as the game edged to a conclusion but their efforts were to be in vain as Chicago held out to take the spoils.

No comments: