Philadelphia Union 1-0 Chicago Fire: The finest of margins
Photo via @ChicagoFire on Twitter

The Philadelphia Union stole three points on Saturday night as they defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 at Subaru Park.

An incredibly ugly contest, Philadelphia just weren’t able to break down a solid Chicago side for most of the night, even when the latter was reduced to 10 min. However, they ultimately made the breakthrough courtesy of Joaquín Torres, although his goal only went in because of a woeful mistake from goalkeeper Chris Brady.

That won’t matter much to the Union, who will just be happy that they got the win when all was said and done. 

Story of the match

Chicago rocked up with an interesting lineup. There were some new faces in the starting 11, and the team was set up in a 5-2-1-2. Some of the changes were forced due to injury, but others were not.

There was a foul called after just 14 seconds, and it nearly led to an incredibly quick goal for the away side. A whipped-in free-kick wasn’t cleared properly, and it fell to the feet of Rafael Czichos in front of goal. However, his somewhat clumsy strike ultimately rolled wide.

Philadelphia thought they had opened the scoring about ten minutes later. Julián Carranza got on the end of a corner, and his volley flew past the goalkeeper, but it was cleared off the line by Gastón Giménez.

The frantic pace of the contest continued as the Fire then had the ball in the back of the opposing net. Kacper Przybyłko headed a high ball into the path of Kei Kamara, and he slotted it into the bottom corner. The flag went up, though, and after a quick VAR check, the offside decision was confirmed.

The Union responded midway through the half when Alejandro Bedoya picked up a bouncing ball in the box. His curling effort looked good, but it flew a bit wide of the far post. Chris Brady was then forced into an impressive save, even if the play was ultimately called offside.

Things just kept happening, as Kacper Przybyłko then had a chance for the visitors. His header was solid, but it was too close to goalkeeper Andre Blake, who was able to make the save. However, that save reaggravated an injury Blake suffered earlier in the game, and he was forced off near the half-hour mark as a result.

It probably should have been 10v10 right at the end of the half. José Martínez and Fabian Herbers squared up to each other following a foul, and they both went for a slight headbutt. Even though players have seen red for that in the past, they each got away with only a yellow.

Giménez then hit a volley that was so high that it may have flown out of the stadium and into the Delaware River.

The break did nothing to slow the pace of the action. Chicago were reduced to 10 men minutes into the second half, as Herbers recklessly took out a player with a late challenge. It wasn’t the worst foul the world has ever seen, but it was certainly worthy of a yellow, and since it was his second of the night, he was sent off.

Philadelphia took control of the match following that moment of madness, and they had all of the ball in the opposing third. They didn’t do much with it, though, and a close-range header from Carranza was the only opportunity they could carve out early on.

The Union had their best chance of the night with 15 minutes to go. A cross towards the backpost picked out Dániel Gazdag, and he headed the ball back across goal to an unmarked Bedoya. However, Carlos Terán flew back defensively, and he was able to block the attempt from close range in a heroic piece of defending.

Just as it looked like we were set for a 0-0 draw, Philadelphia found a winner. Joaquín Torres cut in on the right wing, kept dribbling into space, and then hit an effort towards goal. It went in, but it admittedly only went in because of a woeful mistake from Chris Brady, who let the ball go through him somehow. It was a nightmarish moment for him and his team.

The Union thought they added a second on the counter right after through Quinn Sullivan, but was correctly called offside. 

Kamara was then sent off after being shown a second yellow. He lashed out at an opposing player who had been fouled, and it was ultimately the right decision.

The contest ended soon after, sealing three important points for Philadelphia.

Takeaways

It was great to see an all-female commentary team for the contest, and the pairing of Jenn Hildreth and Lori Lindsey were excellent on the night.

The referee was wearing Mizuno cleats, which is a different look. I rock with it. He did lose control of the match at one stage, though, so that was an issue.

What in the world was Fabian Herbers thinking? He was already on a yellow, and he still decided to lunge for the ball in the middle of the pitch even though there was no imminent danger. It was the epitome of a rash challenge, and he deserved to see red.

It’s a similar story for Kei Kamara. It’s understandable that he was frustrated, and his red came late enough in the contest for it to not matter this weekend, but he’s now ruled himself out of next week’s match against FC Cincinnati. The worst thing is he had a pretty impressive showing up until that point.

Ezra Hendrickson deserves a ton of credit. He made a bunch of changes to his starting lineup, in terms of the formation and the personnel, and it nearly worked out perfectly. His side was solid at the back even when they went down a man, and they would’ve snatched a point from the contest if not for a goalkeeping error. 

Chris Brady may have cost his side a point, but he’ll be absolutely fine. Young players make mistakes, and his error should not stop him from developing into a top-tier talent. Keep the faith, and trust the process.

Xherdan Shaqiri did not have a great showing. I know he didn’t have much attacking freedom, but he was careless on the ball, and he gave it away too many times, especially when his team was down a man. Things got even worse when he had to leave the game with an injury. Fans were hoping they’d see a new Shaqiri in 2023, but so far it’s been the same old stuff from last season.

Philadelphia have been quite poor going forward in their last two games, and something’s going to have to change if they want to rediscover the attacking form they had last year. What that change is remains to be seen, but head coach Jim Curtin has to spark his outfit back into life.

Man of the match - Joaquín Torres

This one feels a bit underwhelming since his goal came via a goalkeeping error, but Joaquín Torres was the matchwinner nonetheless.

Coming on as a substitute at the hour mark, the Argentine tried his best to create openings for Philadelphia. He was kept quiet for most of his cameo, but in the end he was able to make the difference on the night. He tried his luck from distance, and he hit the lottery when his effort somehow went through the keeper and into the back of the net.

It was enough for the Union, who will now have to decide whether Torres should start next time around.

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