Philadelphia Union ended the month of May on a high note, defeating Chicago Fire 3-1 at Talen Energy Stadium Wednesday evening. Borek Dockal was the star of the show, collecting a goal and two assists to lead Philadelphia over a depleted and oddly set up Chicago side.
In the early exchanges of the match, the Fire sat deep and as the Union sought to break through an intriguing 5-4-1 that included Bastian Schweinsteiger playing as a sweeper and Aleksander Katai dropping into midfield.
The Union’s first chance came in the eighth minute when Fire goalkeeper Patrick McLain’s poor clearance fell to Ilsinho. The Brazilian played in Cory Burke up the right but the big striker lifted his shot over the bar.
The Fire nearly responded through Jorge Corrales as the wingback flew through the center to get on the end of Schweinsteiger’s long pass, but the Union put bodies around Corrales to snuff out the chance.
Ray Gaddis retrieved Tony Tchani’s loose pass in the 15th minute and, lacking options around him, drove hard at the Fire goal, powering a left-footed shot that was deflected out for a corner kick.
Four minutes later, Alejandro Bedoya flicked a Haris Medunjanin free kick off the far post. After Ilsinho was taken down 28 yards from goal on the right, Medunjanin found Bedoya alone in the center of the box, and his header rebounded off the post to Auston Trusty, and his left-footed volley slammed into Brandon Vincent and away from goal.
Mark McKenzie was the next Union player with a big chance to put his team ahead. In the 29th minute, Borek Dockal’s free kick found McKenzie at the far side of the six yard box, and the defender nodded a header perfectly into the lower corner of the goal. However, McLain flew across to palm the ball away as McKenzie held his head in stunned surprise.
Chicago finally pushed forward in the 35th minute. Katai cut in off the right and lasered a shot at Andre Blake’s near post, but the Union goalie pushed it away easily.
The first half ended with fireworks courtesy of Ilsinho, making his fourth start of the season. The Brazilian collected a long pass from Dockal and turned to face Schweinsteiger and Vincent at the top right corner of the box. A swift double cut left both defenders staring in disbelief, but Ilsinho was only just starting. Finding himself in space, he glanced at goal and unleashed an unstoppable rocket into McLain’s far corner, giving the Union an important lead heading into halftime.
Schweinsteiger started the match at sweeper, but after the Fire went behind he moved into a sitting striker role and pushed Katai out to the left wing. The change did little to affect the momentum of the match, and in the 51st minute Dockal collected his second assist of the night. Chicago cleared a corner to Gaddis, and after a quick combination on the right flank, Dockal pushed the ball in front of him and curled a vicious cross that inched over Bedoya and met Burke’s charging form at the far post. It was the Jamaican’s second goal in two starts this season and Dockal’s second assist of the night.
The Fire were knocked back but far from done. Two minutes after the Union doubled their lead, Katai’s cross confounded Blake and Kevin Ellis had a free header at the back post that he looped over the bar.
Alan Gordon had no such issues in the 56th minute. Fresh on the heels of his matchwinning golazo against Orlando City, Gordon finished off a nifty exchange between Katai and first time starter Brandt Bronico by tucking in a low cross at the far post.
Another dark moment followed for the Union when Mark McKenzie was bumped chasing a ball in the corner and went down holding his right leg. Jack Elliott replaced the rookie center back, who will be evaluated further on Thursday.
David Accam, a late addition to the first eleven with Fafa Picault out sick, nearly found his first goal of the season in the 69th minute. Marcus Epps entered the match for Ilsinho and immediately applied high pressure that knocked the ball loose to Dockal. The Czech playmaker dinked a pass through to Accam who streaked through the box and lifted the ball over McLain, only to see it cleared off the line.
Gordon was active again in the 71st, fighting off Trusty to nod a header directly into Blake’s hands as Chicago refused to go quietly. Eight minutes later, the Union lost Gordon at the back post, but Blake was once again up to the task, sliding across his box to make the save.
Burke was determined to get another, and in the 82nd minute he put a toe to Medunjanin’s gorgeous cross toward the left side of the box but pushed it just wide of the post.
It was Burke once more driving into the Fire box in the 86th minute to earn the Union the penalty kick that wrapped up the match. Rosenberry drove a ball deep down the right wing, and when Vincent headed it down, Epps reacted quickly to head the bouncing ball into Burke’s path. The striker protected the ball as defenders converged from behind, and when he went down Fotis Bazakos wasted no time pointing to the spot. Dockal stepped up and drilled the ball into McLain’s lower left corner, sealing the points for the home side.
The Union are in action again on Saturday when they travel to take on Atlanta FC at 7:30pm ET on PHL17.