Philadelphia Union returned to the win column with clinical runs into the box to knock off Chicago Fire FC, 3-1, on Saturday night at Subaru Park. Leading goalscorer Daniel Gazdag made it five goals in his last six matches with the opener while Jack Elliott and Julian Carranza added to the scoresheet with hustle plays to maintain the Union's lead atop the Eastern Conference.
The Boys in Blue needed little time to show that they were eager to erase the memories of last weekend at FC Cincinnati and came out of the locker room at Subaru Park determined to put their stamp on the contest against the Fire. There was even more motivation having lost to Chicago in late June and the Union needed just two minutes to nearly open the scoring with a direct attack. MLS All-Star Jakob Glesnes intercepted a Fire pass at the midfield stripe and quickly pushed it forward to start an attack. Daniel Gazdag threaded the needle with a soft pass to send Julian Carranza into the six but saw his effort saved by Chelsea-bound goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina.
The Union kept pushing and drew a yellow card on defender Mauricio Pineda three minutes into the match after Carranza sent a quick pass to Mikael Uhre with the Dane getting fouled. A few moments later Gazdag picked out Uhre at the top of the Chicago box. Seeing room for a blast, the forward unloaded with a rocket that forced a difficult stop by the keeper. The shot was stopped but fell into the box and into the path of Carranza but he was unable to get a shot off after a last-second tackle by the defender.
With the offense knocking on the door the Union defense was tested in the 13th minute with Chris Mueller getting a pair of opportunities in the box. The Fire's winger ripped a shot after a flicked pass only to see the brick wall of Andre Blake make the diving stop. The rebound went right back to Mueller but Leon Flach tracked back and timed his tackle in the box to cut down a second-chance shot.
Philly kept knocking on the door and finally broke in the 16th minute with a perfectly played through ball to spark a counter attack. Carranza broke into the open field and drift to his left to pull the Fire defense away from the center of the box. With space and a teammate to his right, the Argentinian made the unselfish play and cut it to Gazdag in stride. The Hungarian showed composure on the ball to pull it back and send a defender flying before flicking a perfectly placed shot through the defense and Subaru Park into a frenzy.
Uhre and Carranza nearly doubled the lead a few moments later it not for another last-ditch effort in front of goal from Chicago to keep it a one-goal deficit. The game opened up and the Union defense were once again tested in the 27th but rose to the occasion with the Union's trio of MLS All-Stars all rising to the occasion. Kai Wagner denied the first chance, leaving his feet to block a shot that pinged centrally into the box. The rebound fell to former Union striker Kacper Przybylko but pressure from Glesnes saw the forward's shot go right to Blake.
Just before the halftime whistle, the Union doubled its lead with a never quit attitude. After a Union corner from Wagner was cleared out, Olivier Mbaizo recycled the play and sent in a cross in front of the jam-packed River End. The Cameroonian cross drifted near the goal line and gave the keeper trouble with the ball crossbar pushing the ball out of his hands. Center back Jack Elliott followed the cross all the way to the goal line and was there to pounce on the mistake to make it 2-0.
Chicago fired the opening blow in the second half, cutting the scoreline to 2-1 after Mueller finished off a chance set up by Xherdan Shaqiri in the 49th minute of play.
After absorbing the counter punch from the Fire, Philly fought back and nearly scored on its next possession as captain Alejandro Bedoya took a pass from Gazdag into the box. With the box filled with players, he laid it off for Mbaizo who fired a low cross to the back post that barely snuck wide.
The Union's ability to keep running paid off once more in the 53rd minute with another second effort performance turning into a DOOP. Gazdag began the play with a hard pass that crashed off a defender but perfectly made its way to Uhre for a breakaway. The forward saw his shot saved at the top of the box but Carranza was there behind his fellow forward. With the keeper racing to get on his feet from the first save, Carranza was smooth with a perfectly weighted chip to make it 3-1 on the scoreboard and nine goals in 2022.
With a two-goal lead the Union didn't sit back and continued to stretch the match with their speed and hunger. Gazdag and the rest of the midfield kept their eyes up with both Carranza and Uhre seeking to add to their season totals. Uhre had a pair of shots just before before being subbed off with both right-footed shots going just over the net. Uhre and homegrown Jack McGlynn exited with a roar of appreciation from the Union faithful as Cory Burke and Jose Martinez brought fresh legs into the match.
Burke did just that finishing off a cross from Mbaizo in the 82nd minute to make it a 4-1 lead for the Boys in Blue.
Philadelphia Union hit the road once again to begin a two-game road trip starting at FC Dallas on Wednesday, August 17th.The Boys in Blue face off against the Western Conference foe in the Lone Star State with kick off set for 9 p.m. ET with coverage NBC Sports Philadelphia as well as with the free match stream for fans within the Philadelphia DMA at PhiladelphiaUnion.com.