Monday, July 21, 2014

Le Toux, Union salvage draw against Chicago

Bridgeview, Ill. –  Sebastien Le Toux converted a penalty kick in the 90th minute as the Union salvaged a much-needed point by securing a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.

Le Toux's marker was his eighth of the season in MLS play and the veteran striker is now a perfect 12-for-12 for Philadelphia on PKs.

It was also Le Toux who earned the penalty for the Union, as his shot inside the box was broken up by the hand of Fire defender Gonzalo Segares.

“To be able to score for the team [in a situation like that] it feels good,” Le Toux told reporters postgame. “In this case I was just trying to hit a ball on target and it ended up hitting [Segares’] elbow. First instinct is to raise your hand to alert the referee; fortunately he saw it and I got my chance.”

This was a game that became a war of attrition after end-to-end play saw point teams head into the locker room at the half scoreless. Statistically, the needle pointed to Chicago who held edge in possession and chances created in the first half. Thankfully, two halves are played in soccer and in the second, despite the Fire getting on the scoreboard first following a set piece goal from captain Jeff Larentowicz in the 60th minute, the Union continued to show fight using the width of Toyota Park to get balls in the box.

That resilience paid off with Le Toux goal as the Union improve to (5-8-8, 23 points) in MLS play and now sit in a three way tie on points for the fifth and final playoff spot in MLS’ Eastern Conference.

“I was happy with the team defensively, but I thought us too, created enough chances to get a result out of this one,” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin.

This match marked a return to Chicago for the first time as manager for Curtin, who played seven seasons for the Fire and was an MLS All-Star in that time. In a return to the field that defined his career as a player, Curtin was also able to secure a positive night as a coach.

“Anytime you get a goal in the 89th minute you are happy with that,” Curtin continued. “You take the point and you move on. Again, I will say that I am disappointed that we gave up a goal, because in the run of play I didn’t think we gave up a whole lot of chances. So that’s something we’ll need to correct.”

Another first was the debut of Union forward Brian Brown, who entered the match in the 69th minute for midfielder Amobi Okugo. Brown’s speed did create chances in the box, and the Jamaican forward nearly found fellow forward Conor Casey on a pass across Chicago’s 18-yard-box, but it was broken up by the stingy defense of the Fire.

The Union now get a weeklong break from MLS action before a trip to take on defending MLS champions in Sporting Kansas City (8 p.m., NBC Sports) in a nationally televised match on Aug. 1. In the meantime, the Union will test its mettle this upcoming week against English Premier League side Crystal Palace FC on Friday, July 25 (7 p.m., purchase tickets) at PPL Park.

“I am proud of our guys,” Curtin said. “It was the third game in a week and it’s a good result on the road…we are on a good run, it’s been very positive and the guys in the locker room are happy. We’re excited to keep this going and hoping it takes us to where we want to be at the end of the season.”

 BOX SCORE

Philadelphia Union 1, Chicago Fire 1

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

SCORING SUMMARY

CHI: Larentowicz (Shipp) 60’
PHI: Le Toux (penalty kick) 90’

DISCIPLINARY SUMMARY

PHL: Okugo (foul) 22’
CHI: Alex (foul) 26’

PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI

MacMath, Gaddis (Brown 81’), White, Edu, Williams, Cruz (Wenger 61’), Okugo (Fred 69’), Lahoud, Nogueira, Le Toux, Casey

Unused Subs: Blake, Fabinho, Carroll, Wheeler

CHICAGO FIRE STARTING XI

Johnson, Palmer, Segares, Soumare, Kennedy Hurtado, Alex, Watson, Larentowicz, Shipp (Ward 75’), Magee, Amarikwa (Fondy 78’)

Unused Subs: Reynish, Cochrane, Franco, Ianni, Ritter
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