CHESTER, Penn. — Twenty-two games without a clean sheet. Over two-thirds of the season where the Philadelphia Union couldn’t keep the opposing team off the score board.
That all changed on Saturday night when they topped the Chicago Fire 1-0 at PPL Park.
With Brad Knighton between the sticks in place of regular Chris Seitz, the Union held their lines and did enough to stop Chicago's DP-laden attack.
“We’ve been waiting for it all year,” center back Danny Califf said. “It’s been a long road and it feels especially sweet. I wish it could have happened sooner. It’s a great opportunity for Brad as he did a fantastic job. We deserved it tonight and I’m really really happy and excited that it finally came.”
Knighton was a huge reason that the team finally got a clean sheet. His performance in net was solid, to say the least, as he made four saves on the night. The defense, however, deserves just as much credit for the performance.
“They’ve been stellar,” said Knighton. “The last two games, we really haven’t given teams a sniff at goal. I applaud the guys in front of me as we worked out tails off tonight and we were rewarded for it finally.”
It’s not as if Chicago don't have some punch going forward, either. Internationals Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo did their best to break down the Union’s rearguard, but, according to Califf, the defense was given a boost by the play of the team’s two holding midfielders.
“We fought really hard as a block of six,” Califf said. “The four of us in the back and then Andrew Jacobson and Stefani Miglioranzi in the middle. They were fantastic tonight. Clogging up plays and making it hard for [Freddie] Ljungberg and [Nery] Castillo to operate in those spaces in front of us. It makes our job a bit easier.”
Whether it was the goalkeeper, the defense or the midfield, the biggest plus for the Union in this one was that they didn’t commit the normal amount of individual mistakes that have killed them in week’s past.
“It was a very solid performance,” said Manager Peter Nowak. “We didn’t lose the focus in many occasions that in previous games we feel like we’re in control. The intensity was there for 90 minutes. I’m very happy with that.”