It was a monumental moment for Veljko Paunović Saturday, as he got his first win with the Chicago Fire against the Philadelphia Union. Chicago took advantage of a 10-man Union team in the second half to grab the game winning goal and all three points, grabbing a 1-0 victory.
Philadelphia Hits Everything In The First
The first half was thrilling, as both teams had some really good chances, especially the Union. Chicago started off the game just as they did against the Crew – dominating possession and getting some chances early on. Razvan Cocis had a chance on the break early on, but his final touch failed him in the end. Kennedy Igboananike had two chances right after down the left as he tested keeper Andre Blake, who had a nervy first half. He forced Blake to spill a low cross in front of net but the Philly keeper was bailed out by his defenders.
The Union began to generate chances, as they had multiple on goal in the final 25 minutes of the first half. The first big chance was a free kick from just outside the box blocked by the wall. Then the flurry of chances began to come upon Matt Lampson's net and Chicago was lucky to walk away without conceding a goal.
First Philly had a big chance on the counterattack, as Roland Alberg cut left inside the box but his shot went wide of the near post. Then C.J. Sapong, the danger man for Philly, found himself free on a cross and got a head on it in the 29th minute. The ball looped over a leaping Lampson and caromed off the bar.
It was a rough first half for the striker, as he later ended up hitting the post in the 41st minute. He found himself with the ball in the box and shot it past a helpless Lampson. But the shot went off the post and Chicago survived again. Sapong made it three close chances for the first 45, as he had a volley go just wide additionally.
"I thought we could have gotten a goal," said Union manager Jim Curtin, a former Chicago Fire player. "I thought a draw would have been a fair result."
Chicago had some more chances in the first half as well, as Cocis's half volley went just wide of the post coming off a spilled cross from Blake. But Blake made up for it with a huge save, stopping Gilberto from point blank range in the 28th minute.
Red Card Shifts Game Dynamic
Despite all the chances, the half ended at 0-0 in what was an interesting game to watch as the snow fell onto Toyota Park.
The second half started for the Union the same way it ended in the first half, as they hit the crossbar once more. Then things all of a sudden went south quick for Philadelphia. Cocis was caught from behind by Warren Creavalle and the referee went straight to his back pocket for a red card. In a matter of moments, Philadelphia had all the momentum and then all of a sudden, they were down a man. It turned out to be something Chicago would take advantage of, as Igboananike scored what turned out to be the match winner.
Igboananike nearly struck again when he had a free header go wide. The momentum was all on Chicago from then on. Substitute John Goossens provided a spark on the wing, as his first touch of the ball forced a good save from Blake.
Philadelphia had one last-gasp effort, but Matt Polster made a key clearance as Chicago got their first win of the 2016 season.
"Winning this game gives us more confidence now," Paunovic said after the game. "It gives us belief that we are on a good path".