Chicago Fire Big Play Breakdown

Cann's Corner: Accam's late goal seals a road win for Philadelphia

So here’s the rule as I understand it: In order to beat Chicago Fire, someone on the Philadelphia Union roster — it doesn’t matter who — must sensationally embarrass two defenders on the dribble then unleash, thoroughly without remorse, an atomic, foot-based torpedo beyond the goalie’s waving right arm. I don’t know why it’s the rule, but the data is clear.

Back in May, Ilsinho quadrupled the number of gray hairs on Bastian Schweinsteiger’s head with a modern interpretation of Ronaldinho’s 9th Symphony, putting Schweini on his mixtape reeling and the Union on course for an important victory at home.

Just over a month later, on Wednesday night, David Accam arrived at his old stomping grounds and, stepping in when Ilsinho pulled up lame, promptly one-upped the Brazilian magician. Jorge Corrales played the role of Schweinsteiger in the remake, and Tony Tchani took up Brandon Vincent’s mantle as the hapless defensive assistant.

Accam initially struggled with the bouncing pass off Haris Medunjanin’s head, but once he corralled it there was purpose in every movement: A cut, then a shimmy around Corrales, who seemed to be outside of his own body, watching as his balance lost itself. Then the shot — hit so hard that it’s curving arc, which took it around Johan Kappelhof then away from Richard Sanchez, seemed implausible — and: jubilation, then the abrupt end of jubilation and the recognition that one doesn’t celebrate against former employers. And, finally, teammates, bouncing and giddy.

Accam had a lot to do, but he was only in position to do it because the Union kept their engines running after giving up a deflating goal moments earlier.

So let’s rewind to find out what made the game-winner possible.

On the kickoff following Schweinsteiger’s momentum-killing header, Medunjanin smacks the ball over the far endline for a goal kick. Chicago’s goalie, Richard Sanchez could — and should — have put his foot through the ball like the cleanup hitter on his company kickball team. Instead, because he wasn’t quite having his worst night ever and wanted to know what that felt like, Sanchez played the ball short. Fafa Picault pounced, pressing first the fullback and then following through the back pass to hurry Sanchez himself. Meanwhile, CJ Sapong alertly stepped forward, cutting off any chance for a quick triangle of passes around Picault.

So Sanchez booted the ball long, but since this truly was his worst night ever, he mishit it. Medunjanin won a difficult aerial challenge over Schweinsteiger, who, truth be told, could have tried harder, or at all. The Bosnian’s header fell to Accam, and after hot potatoing his first few touches, he performed an impromptu, spot-on impression of Veljko Paunovic’s nightmares.

Accam was — understandably, given that he was laboring under the considerable weight of a goalless season — ecstatic, and was already tailing away like a landing airplane, shirt whipped off and swinging, when he remembered the unwritten rule: thou shalt pretend not to be excited about scoring against a former team (unless that team did you wrong. It’s a silly one, as unwritten rules go. Mocking can be bad manners, but one person’s joy is not necessarily the celebration of another’s misery; they may co-occur, but a post-goal activity can be about one and not the other, and that should be allowed).

As he makes a standing push-up motion with his arms in deference to the home fans, the winger is surrounded by gleeful teammates who had quite recently, as Alejandro Bedoya later admitted, nearly #dooped their pants in excitement both for the renewal of their playoff dreams and for Accam.

Ale Bedoya and Mark McKenzie flex and scream, Haris Medunjanin beams. And the goalscorer disappears entirely into a buzzing cloud of elation, teammates, and relief.

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