Philadelphia Union midfielder Joaquin Torres’ first goal as a member of the club was a memorable one with a 90th-minute game-winning goal to lift the Union past the Chicago Fire, 1-0. Torres’ goal was the difference as the Boys in Blue picked up its 12th straight win at Subaru Park, the second best streak in league history.
It was a tight and physical affair in the opening 45 minutes of play in Subaru Park with the first foul awarded only 16 seconds after the whistle. That set the table with five yellow cards dished out in first half with the visiting Fire picking up four. Chicago sought to turn the early foul into a goal with Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri teeing up a ball into the box that was blocked by MLS Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes but the rebound fell to Rafael Czichos who missed wide.
The Union battled back with the next attack, as right back Olivier Mbaizo jumped a Chicago pass in the defensive third and immediately turned defense into offense. The Cameroonian dribbled forward before sending a pass out wide to Alejandro Bedoya for a scoring chance. The captain saw the run from Mikael Uhre and fired a hard, low cross but ended with a shot wide.
In the eighth minute the Union employed the same idea with Glesnes jumping another pass that hitting a perfect pass on the ground to Mbaizo out on the right wing. Approaching the corner flag, the defender cut in field and picked out Julian Carranza who attempted a curler but got just under it.
When the lineup sheets were turned in one hour prior to kick, many wondered just how the visiting Fire would play with five defenders and a pair of starting between Kai Kamara and former Union striker Kacper Przybylko. The duo were the focal point of many of the chances created Shaqiri in the opening 45 that only chemistry could handle. In the 16th minute the Kamara leaked out to the right side and looked open only to be blocked by a recovery run by Kai Wagner. A second ball saw the MLS goalscoring legend rose up hard and collide with Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. Kamara thought he got the right side of things less than a minute later as bagged a goal only to see the offside flag raised and confirmed with a second look from the Video Assistant Referee.
The Union got their best scoring look of the half just before the 20th minute of play off a set piece from the foot of Wagner. The German left back floated a left-footed outswinging ball into the six where Carranza rose up with a left-footed shot that looked destined for goal only to be saved at the goal line by Czichos.
Chance | Carranza saved by goal line clearance
As the half-hour mark passed, Philly lost 2022 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and perennial MVP candidate Andre Blake to injury. Blake shook off an earlier knock after taking a body from Kamara, but this time he was clearly in pain after taking a free kick deep in the Union’s half. Holding his upper leg, Blake somehow worked his way back into his box from the left side of the pitch and continued barking orders as play continued in Chicago’s half. Suddenly, the Fire broke in transition.
Blake shuffled into position, clearly hobbled and pushing his limit as the ball came down the Union right and was played into the box. Przybylko found space and a dispiriting goal seemed certain but when the striker placed his header low to Blake’s left, the goalkeeper stunned everyone by springing to life and pawing it away before popping back up and continuing to protect the net. Play continued for a few more seconds before the ball left play and Philly was forced to replace Blake with veteran Joe Bendik.
Save | Blake makes diving save to keep it scoreless
With a new goalkeeper in net, the Union sought to re-invigorate the crowd at Subaru Park with Mbaizo again leading the attack on the right side. Seeing space to thread a pass, Mbaizo sent it into the box but saw his pass just miss an outstretched cleat of Uhre.
The yellow cards in the opening half came home to roost just five minutes into the final half as former Union midfielder Fabian Herbers was shown a second yellow and sent off for a hard foul on Wagner.
With a man advantage the Union sought to turn up the tempo of the match with quick attacks with the extra space. The visitors opted to counter to clog the middle of the pitch in a defensive block and force a cross to beat them.
Head Coach Jim Curtin injected midfield maestros Jack McGlynn and Joaquin Torres into the contest just past the hour mark to take advantage. Three minutes after taking to the field, McGlynn floated a pass over the Fire defense for Bedoya to collect just before the end line. With little time to think, the midfielder flicked a cross for Carranza but saw the rushed header over the cross bar.
With a quarter hour to play, the Union were again denied at the door step with another reaction play by a Chicago defender. Wagner this time led the attack on the left flank where he picked out Gazdag at the edge of the six-yard box. With a defense closing in and locked on the Union’s 2022 leading scorer, he played the selfless pass to Bedoya at the doorstep but was blocked by Chicago’s Carlos Terán.
Chance | Union nearly break it open
In the 90th minute, Joaquin Torres set off a Philly party that could be heard in the Windy City.
Moments earlier, the attacker had cut onto his left and skied a shot over the frame, but this time he juked toward the center and shimmied until he found a sliver of space. Torres uncorked a low knuckling drive through traffic that Chris Brady fumbled into his own net.
Subaru Park shook as the The River End went wild.
After Torres’ celebrations ended, Chicago engaged in some heavy-handed pushing that got Kei Kamara ejected, leaving the Fire to finish the match down two men.
Goal | Joaquin Torres wins it in the 90th!
Philadelphia Union continues its chaotic March slate on Tuesday night at Subaru Park as they face off against Alianza F.C. in the second leg of its Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 matchup. After a scoreless draw in El Salvador, Philadelphia Union need a win on Tuesday night to advance to the Quarterfinals of the SCCL. The defending Eastern Conference Champions are hungry for more silverware this season and they feed off your support so don't miss out on this piece of Union history. Kick off is set for 8PM on March 14th and tickets are going fast so get yours now and add your voice to the DOOP chorus for this big showdown! Fans unable to attend can watch the match on FOX Soccer Plus and FoxSports.com.