The questions surrounding Saturday’s match against Chicago was how a new look Union defense was going to perform with the loss of two key cogs.
But on this day, the story became the play of goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who had his finest performance of the season, enforcing himself as the true last line of defense.
As a result, the Union would award MacMath’s performance with a goal in the 75th minute as the club traveled to the Windy City and snatched a 1-0 win over the listless Fire, improving to 4-3-3 (15 points) on the season. Even better is that the Union have captured 10 of their 15 total points this season in matches away from PPL Park.
Off a restart, second half substitute Sebastien Le Toux floated a ball to the feet of McInerney who took a smart touch and hit a shot on goal in which a deflection from the Fire ensured the ball would find the back of the net – making McInerney the hero yet again.
However postgame, McInerney didn’t open with the comments of him scoring his team high seventh goal of the season, instead the praise went to the play of his goalkeeper.
“It was an unbelievable game, in fact I think that it was [MacMath’s] best game of the season by far,” McInerney began. “He definitely kept us in the game in the first half and that was the goal, to get through [the first half] 0-0…it was just an unbelievable game and I doubt we even come away with a tie if it wasn’t for him.”
Statistically, the numbers will show that Chicago (2-6-1, seven points) generated more chances, held edge in possession and tried to dictate the pace for much of the match. The problem is that by not finishing those chances it left a pesky Philadelphia side to gain more confidence that earning three points away was truly possible.
VIEW: FULL MATCH STATISTICS
“It was a tough game in a lot of ways and the wind is always something that affects a soccer game more than anything,” said Union manager John Hackworth, who noted that the blustery conditions at Toyota Park – specifically for the Union in the first half – didn’t make for the easiest time. “It was hard to play, especially in that first half, we just felt like we were pinned in…second half we didn’t play our best soccer but we found a way to win – and that’s huge.”
What’s huge is that the Union kick off a three-game in eight day stand with three points, devoid of a set back line given the loss of center back Jeff Parke due to injury (hamstring strain) and right back Sheanon Williams who served a suspension after receiving an ejection against Seattle the previous week. Raymon Gaddis, a right footed back who has found playing time this season on the left, shifted back over to the right. His comfort level was evident as the second year pro put forth a tremendous effort.
It’s short rest for the Union who welcome the defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy to PPL Park on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets), then it’s a rubber match with the Fire on Saturday, May 18 (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets) where Hackworth noted some reshuffling could certainly occur.
“We’ll have to mix it up because we have LA on Wednesday night,” Hackworth told reporters. “We have a lot of depth on our roster, so I am sure we are going to have to go into it deep.”
But the man of the match in this installment with Chicago was truly Zac MacMath.
“Every game you know you are going to have to make saves to keep your team in it especially on the road when you are trying to get the shutout,” said MacMath postgame. “We have to do the same things going forward that we did today which was fighting, having heart even when things aren’t pretty. The guys stayed together we didn’t quit and as a result we got the three points.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org