Despite a furious second 45 minutes of soccer Saturday night, Philadelphia Union found itself on the latter end of a 2-1 final against Eastern Conference foe Chicago at PPL Park.
The loss snapped a six match unbeaten streak at home and the Union’s first loss in league play in nearly a month (2-1 loss to Houston on July 6).
It was the Fire (8-9-4, 28 points) that got on the board first courtesy of a Patrick Nyarko goal in the ninth minute, but an equalizer at the hour mark from defender Sheanon Williams found the Union draw level. Williams scored his first goal of the season with what appeared to be a head/heel combo inside the six-yard-box, finishing off a ball in from Sebastien Le Toux. Le Toux’ helper marked his 10th of the season, extending his already league high in assists.
But Chicago forward Mike Magee padded his chance to win MLS’ Golden Boot, scoring the game winner in the 75th minute after the Fire pounced on a Union turnover in midfield. Nyarko slotted a through ball to Magee who pounded his shot past MacMath for his 14th goal of the season – a league high.
“It's a tough one. I don't think the team came out the way we should have in the first half,” said MacMath who finished with three saves. “In the first 30 minutes, we struggled, and they put a lot of pressure on us. A lot of credit goes to them, but I still think that in the last 15 [minutes] of the first half, and in most of the second half, we had the good part of the match, and we were unfortunate to give up two easy goals like that."
Following the Williams goal however, the Union (9-7-7, 34 points) brought wave after wave of chances at the Chicago defense, specifically at Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. According to the final stat sheet the Union held edge in attempts on goal (19-12), corner kicks (9-6) and overall possession (57.2-42.8).
Oh, and a Union first – four consecutive corner kicks all taken by Le Toux and all but the last attempt found a 90 second span to be a stressful time for Chicago.
Also of note is the status of defender Raymon Gaddis who picked up an injury in the 44th minute that Union manager John Hackworth later revealed was a “heavily rolled ankle.” The full severity is unknown, but Gaddis was seen walking on his own accord postgame – a good sign for a player that has been a key piece of the Union’s defensive corps.
VIEW: FULL MATCH STATISTICS
Jack McInerney nearly earned his 11th goal of the season after a clear look on goal hit the outside of Chicago’s net. In stoppage, the Union had another good chance in which a weak clearance attempt from Johnson found the feet of Amobi Okugo. Okugo’s shot steered clear of Johnson’s glove but also narrowly missed the far post net. With the loss, the Union remains in fourth place, nestled ahead of Houston (33 points) and just behind Montreal (35 points).
“They had a little bit more heart, said defender Sheanon Williams of Chicago. “The last few times we played them, they settled for losing. Definitely with the new people that they brought in, they're a different team. They're not the same team that we beat twice."
The Union will look for another potential six point swing when D.C. United visits the Chester waterfront next Saturday (8 p.m., purchase tickets) for a match at PPL Park. United gave the Union some help defeating Montreal, 3-1 at RFK Stadium in a match prior to the Union’s kickoff with Chicago. It’s a game in which three points could find the Union literally back in the swing of what is a tight race to the finish in the Eastern Conference."Yeah, we were hoping to go on a little three-game win streak, said McInerney. “It was a good opportunity, but we have to put this game behind us. We have been pretty inconsistent this year with winning. No one expected us to win in Vancouver, and we would have expected to win today. I think we just have to put it behind us and come out hard against D.C. [United]."
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Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org