Philadelphia Union make quick work of Chicago Fire at home

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12: Fabinho
COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12: Fabinho /

Fluid attacking and compact defense helped the Philadelphia Union take down one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer.

The 2017 season has been far from ideal for this Philadelphia Union squad. Looking from the outside of the MLS playoff picture, positive results can do a lot for an organization that has a fair amount of reassessing to do this coming offseason. With the high-octane attack of the Chicago Fire coming into town, a win would be a true test of character and pride for the boys in blue.

Chicago had their chances out of the gate but was unable to capitalize thanks to solid marking and an important last-ditch tackle made by Richie Marquez who tracked back nearly 40 yards to save the Union from going down early. Philadelphia worked the ball well and in the 10th minute, Keegan Rosenberry whipped in a curling ball from outside the box that was met by Chris Pontius’ head and driven into the back of the net. The American international’s first MLS goal of the 2017 campaign couldn’t have come soon enough as Talen Energy Stadium erupted in support of their club that has gone through so many trials and tribulations all season long.

Union kept the pressure on and did well to try and work the gaps in the Chicago midfield. Missing both Juninho and Bastian Schweinsteiger on this night, Philadelphia was able to work fluidly in the first half with Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya playing an advanced role in front of their safety net, Warren Creavalle, in the midfield. The run of play came mostly down the left side as Fafa Picault was a workhorse in the department of keeping plays alive and blazing down the line to control long passes from defenders Jack Elliott and Fabinho.

With a heightened sense of urgency setting in, Chicago pushed hard to begin the 2nd half but simply could not break through the centerbacks Marquez and Elliott. A quick counter off a failed Fire attempt saw Bedoya work down the middle, find Picault and blasted a shot onto the frame that was parried by goalkeeper Matt Lampson. But Chris Pontius, lurking on the other edge of the box, followed the deflected save and calmly put it in the net in the 55th minute for only his second multi-goal game as a Union player.

Invigorated and full of confidence, the Union stayed on the front foot and continued to pressure Chicago as more and more opportunities were squandered by the tenacious Philadelphia midfielders. Less than 10 minutes later, the Union created another breakdown through the middle that was worked to Fabinho who found C.J. Sapong in the middle and finished a tough attempt with poise and skill to make it 3-0. The catalyst of the Philly attack, Sapong finds himself tied for the club record with his 14th goal of the season.

The joyous fanfare was short-lived as Chicago was able to pull one back in the 67th minute via the foot of 2nd half substitute, Luis Solignac, who curled an effort past the outstretched hand of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. From that moment forward, the message became clear that Jim Curtin was ready to lock down the match and keep a solid amount of bodies behind the ball.

Philadelphia remained compact and was able to break quickly due to the advanced play of Bedoya in the middle. Three clear goalscoring chances came just inches away from icing the game for the Union in the 15 minutes that followed the Chicago goal. Closing out matches has long been an Achilles heel for Philadelphia, and tonight was no different in relation to getting the job done cleanly. The Fire threw all they could at the Union and nearly scored twice in the closing minutes of the match. But the heroics of Andre Blake were once again on display along with brave work from Creavalle in the holding midfield role.

Philadelphia held on long enough and was able to secure three points at home against formidable opposition; a result that should not be taken lightly by anyone in the Union fan base. Wins of this nature show just how much this team wants to succeed and that they possess the ability to do so should they find the consistency necessary from a tactical perspective. The success of the reverse midfield triangle will certainly be something Jim Curtin will look into implementing for the remaining games against opponents such as Atlanta, Seattle, and Orlando.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles: What to make of Mychal Kendricks’ hot start

Take what you will from this game. But the Philadelphia Union showed tonight that they are a tight group that, when playing a fluid game, can hang with the best of them in Major League Soccer.