Building blocks

Wins like Wednesday's over the Fire fuel progress for 2013

Lahoud battles vs. Chicago

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In terms of satisfying victories, this had to be near the top for the Philadelphia Union this season.

OK, so the Union had officially been eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday following a 3-2 loss at Columbus. But the Union didn’t display any lingering effects and came back with a solid all-around effort in a 3-1 victory Wednesday night over the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.

It was just the third road win for the Union this season.

Watch: Full highlights

It was also Chicago’s first home loss to an Eastern Conference opponent since October of 2010.

More importantly, it's possibly the start of a building block for the Union heading into 2013.

“For us, it wasn’t as much about knocking off Chicago as it was more about reinforcing the performances that we’ve had in the recent weeks,” Union manager John Hackworth said.  “We feel like we’ve played some really good soccer.  We’ve just been on the short end of the stick a lot.  So it was good to come out here – obviously the Chicago Fire are an excellent team – I think they are going to do an excellent job in the playoffs and going forward.

But we had a little something to prove tonight.  It was satisfying we put in a good performance and we got the goals we needed.  Good enough defending despite them being really dangerous in the attack.  Great result for us.”

The Union received goals from Jack McInerney, Gabriel Gomez and Antoine Hoppenot en route to spoiling the Fire’s 15th anniversary celebration.

Chicago, which sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, played without suspended coach Frank Klopas.

But the Union played with the fire – pardon the pun – that had been lacking for 90 minutes on the road in recent matches. Passes were crisp. Players took good shots and created chances. More importantly, those chances were finished.

“I thought we played like we’ve played all season,” said McInerney, who scored his sixth goal of the season in the seventh minute.  “We’ve dominated teams for the most part.  Today we didn’t end up with more possession than the other team but we came away with a win, whereas it’s been opposite for us the whole season.  I thought we played well and we deserved to win.”

No question.

“It feels good,” McInerney added. “For the rest of the season, our goal is to get better.  We’ve gone to Los Angeles and beat them, we’ve gone to Kansas City and smashed them at home. We know we can play with the best teams, it’s just that we need a consistent performance every week.”

Midfielder Danny Cruz left the match late in the second half with an apparent ankle injury later revealed as a right toe injury. Following the victory, Hackworth said the injury appeared serious, but the severity is not fully known until further x-rays and an MRI are conducted Thursday afternoon.

“It looks like he might have a fracture there,” Hackworth said. “We have to evaluate it.  Our medical crew is already on it, but he’ll be evaluated with x-rays and MRIs when he gets back to Philadelphia.”

Watch: Cruz injury nets Austin Berry yellow card

Despite the injury, it was most definitely a happy Philadelphia side heading back to PPL Park.

The Union executed the gameplan and didn’t let up at the end of either half, a problem which had been evident all season.

“When we came into the locker room at halftime, Coach said we had the lead and not to let it go,” said Hoppenot, whose goal in the 87th minute up a man helped to seal the victory.  “He told us to go out there and instead of backing off, he said go for the second.  If you’re able to get the second goal that’ll really take the wind out of their sails and they won’t want to play with us.  So we went out there and played for the second one.”

Contact writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com