Philadelphia Union lack cohesion again in loss to Chicago Fire

Zac MacMath gave up a low header to Dominic Oduro midway through the first half, and the Union's offense struggled all night to create chances to score in a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.

It was the Union's third straight loss to start the season, and arguably the least encouraging of the three.

Similar to the season-opening loss to Portland, the Union were beaten by a team that used speed and strength to carve holes in the Philadelphia defense.

This time, it was central midfielder Sebastian Grazzini creating opportunities for wingers Marco Pappa and Gonzalo Segares, and forwards Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko.

Pappa and Oduro connected on the winning goal. In the 28th minute, Pappa dribbled past Gabriel Gomez and Roger Torres and served a from the right wing. Oduro took a step back from Carlos Valdés, jumped and placed a header low to MacMath's left.

Early in the second half, the television cameras panned across the Union bench. Peter Nowak and all of the assistants on his bench - John Hackworth, Rob Vartughian and Alecko Eskandarian - looked either resigned or disgusted with what they were seeing.

Having said that, the Union got two great chances to tie the game off set pieces in the last 10 minutes.

First, in the 80th minute, Jack McInerney was tackled from behind on a breakaway by Cory Gibbs about 20 yards from goal in the middle of the field. Gabriel Gomez's free kick took a deflection and forced Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi to make an instinctive stop.

Three minutes later, Gomez got another close-range free kick, this time after a Fire handball on just outside the left edge of the 18-yard box. He swerved it at goal and Tornaghi made a spectacular diving save to his left.

The Union threw as many players forward as they could in the final minutes, but could not find an equalizer. Their record now stands at 0-3-0.

Next Saturday, Sébastien Le Toux will return to PPL Park with a Vancouver Whitecaps team that is capable of playing some of MLS' most stylish soccer. To say that there will be a scene at PPL Park would be an understatement, to say the least.

During Saturday night's game against Chicgao, a reader sent me the following via Twitter:

I love Danny [Califf], but never thought he was a great def to begin with. The whole Seba thing reminded me too much of an Eagles move / Think [Brian] Dawkins

I happen to think that Le Toux's absence is not the only reason for the Union's struggles, and not even the biggest reason. The lack of midfield cohesion and quality service would cause any forward to struggle, even one with Le Toux's workrate.

But the lack of output from the Union's offense has created a perception among the Union's fan base and beyond that if Le Toux was still on the team, the early-season struggles would not have happened.

Right now, the perception of a problem is as bad as the problem itself.

Starting Lineups

Chicago Fire (4-3-1-2)

Goalkeeper: Paolo Tornaghi
Defenders: Dan Gargan, Jalil Anibaba, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares
Midfielders: Logan Pause (c), Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa; Sebastian Grazzini
Forwards: Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko

Bench: GK Jay Nolly; D Austin Berry, Hunter Jumper; Ms Daniel Paladini, Rafael Robayo; Fs Federico Puppo, Orr Barouch

Philadelphia Union (3-5-2)

Goalkeeper: Zac MacMath
Defenders: Porfirio Lopez, Carlos Valdés, Chris Albright
Midfielders: Gabriel Gomez, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Roger Torres, Michael Farfan
Forwards: Danny Mwanga, Lionard Pajoy

Bench: GK Chase Harrison; Ds Gabriel Farfan, Raymon Gaddis; M Krystian Witkowski; Fs Cristhian Hernandez, Josué Martinez, Jack McInerney

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