MATCH RECAP: Burke's big night, Accam a difference maker

Philadelphia Union scored four goals — including David Accam’s first this season in MLS play — to earn a huge road win over Chicago Fire Wednesday night. After Bastian Schweinsteiger tied the match in the 95th minute, Accam drove through the home defense and lashed in the winner to lift the Union over the club that traded him away last offseason. With the 4-3 win, Philly moves even with sixth place Montreal on points in the Eastern Conference.

Jim Curtin only changed one name on his team sheet following a strong performance in a home loss to Atlanta last weekend, giving Cory Burke the start up front in place of CJ Sapong. The Jamaican responded with a brace, and looked to have put Philly ahead for good late before Schweinsteiger struck.

First half

But the match began with a record-breaking save from Andre Blake. When 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic got free up the left and tried an audacious chip, Blake easily snagged the ball out of the air for his 288th MLS save, passing Zac MacMath and setting the Union all-time record.

With Chicago opting for an extremely slow buildup and the Union struggling to get playmaker Borek Dockal on the ball, the biggest events of the opening 20 minutes were a pair of injury-forced substitutions. First, Kevin Ellis left for the Fire after Cory Burke caught his leg from behind. Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic threw on Elliot Collier and dropped winger Diego Campos into the back line. In the 17th minute, the Union lost Ilsinho to injury and David Accam got an early run out against his former club, taking up a position on the right wing.

By the 31st minute, Nikolic’s dink remained the only shot on frame for either side, but then Haris Medunjanin struck. The Fire lost the ball during a sloppy buildup at the top of their own box, and the Bosnian swooped in to nick it away from Campos. There was still work to do, so the Bosnian executed a deft flick to lift the ball over Johan Kappelhof’s leg, then sizzled a shot with the outside of his left foot into the far corner of Richard Sanchez’s net.

Two minutes later, Alex Katai, fresh off the announcement that he was extending his stay with the Fire, isolated on Keegan Rosenberry and drove to the left. The Serbian can shoot with both feet, and his left loaded up for a blazing strike that Blake had to beat away.

The Fire finally pulled even in the 39th minute when Nikolic converted a penalty. It was Katai again as the aggressor, slipping behind Rosenberry and nudging the ball beyond Mark McKenzie as the young defender closed on him and falling under the clear contact.

But deep into first half stoppage time, Fafa Picault went on a mazy run from left to right 25 yards from goal. He danced away from Dax McCarty and pushed the ball ahead of Katai before snapping off a high cross to the back post. In goal, Sanchez was at sea, and Burke attacked the ball, drilling it into the net through a mess of flailing bodies.  

Second half

The Union kept a tighter shape at the start of the second half after Chicago used a methodical buildup to stretch them vertically early on. The adjustments worked, and the Fire did not take a shot until the 69th minute when Katai trotted out a laser beam of a drive from 20 yards that skimmed over the turf and found its way into the far corner of Blake’s goal. Warren Creavalle had just come on for Dockal, and even though he stayed in front of Katai, the venom of the shot carried it past the stranded Blake.

But Burke and Accam, who had been combining throughout the second half, got together with Chicago goalie Richard Sanchez to engineer a third for the visitors. Accam found himself in space deep in the right channel, and his low, hard cross ate up Sanchez as he dropped to smother it. The ball popped up and Burke was on hand to knee it into the gaping goalmouth for his second of the night, giving Philly a 3-2 advantage.

Two minutes later, Ale Bedoya exchanged passes with Accam and nearly got himself on the scoresheet. Playing in an advanced role after Dockal left the match, Bedoya drove through the middle, played the ball wide right to Accam, and snuck through the lines until he was free just below the penalty spot. Accam’s cross was hard and accurate, but Bedoya couldn’t quite direct it into the net.

In the final minute of extra time, Chicago won a corner kick and German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger loped unmarked to the front post to nod home the tying goal. The teams looked set to split the points, but David Accam was not having it. Sanchez’s mishit clearance fell to Medunjanin just inside Chicago’s half, and the midfielder headed the ball to Accam’s feet. The winger was without a MLS goal all season and his determination to get on the score sheet was finally rewarded. Picking up the ball 30 yards from goal, he ran directly at a backpedaling Jorge Corrales and a timid Tony Tchani. Bullying through the defense, Accam ripped his foot through the back of the ball with such intensity that when it finally nestled inside the far post, it continued to spin wildly in place, as if joining Accam in a dizzying dance of joy. Accam immediately pulled off his shirt and wheeled away in deserved celebration, his team up 4-3.

The Union are in action again this Saturday when they face Eintracht Frankfurt in a friendly match at Talen Energy Stadium, then they welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on June 21st.

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