Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Union's offense sputters against Fire

Union coach Peter Nowak cited the Chicago Fire's packed-in defense as a big reason why his team lost, 2-1, at Toyota Park. But the Union didn't help their own cause, as they seemed to lack an offensive spark for much of the game.

Union's offense sputters against Fire

Union coach Peter Nowak was not pleased with the Chicago Fire´s defensive tactics. (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)
Union coach Peter Nowak was not pleased with the Chicago Fire's defensive tactics. (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)

Fire defender C.J. Brown salutes Section 8 after Chicago's 2-1 win over the Union at Toyota Park. (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Union coach Peter Nowak cited the Chicago Fire's packed-in defense as the main reason why it took his team 91 minutes and 43 seconds to score last night.

I can't help thinking, though, that the Union were complicit in their own demise. Despite playing the second half in a 3-4-3 formation, there was very little offensive spark from Danny Mwanga, Shea Salinas, or Roger Torres. The only person who really forced the ball towards the Fire's net was Sebastien Le Toux, with a rocket over the bar in the 44th minute and a long-distance free kick in the 69th.

Mwanga finally broke through in the 92d minute, his third stoppage-time goal in as many games. But the kind of thrust the Union showed on that play wasn't there earlier in the half.

Somehow, the Union had a decent chance to tie the game on a cross into the box in the 93rd minute, but it went begging. And I really thought Alejandro got pushed over in the box as the ball was cleared from that play, but referee Abbey Okulaja blew his whistle right after the clearance.

I'm not sure Okulaja saw the push and I couldn't tell if the linesman did either. Moreno also has a reputation for going down easily, but I thought this one was legitimate.

It's certainly true that Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos did not go out there to entertain the fans.

The Fire played in a 4-5-1 formation at home, with Patrick Nyarko wide left and Marco Pappa wide right. Brian McBride was the lone striker. Nyarko was by far the best player in the match, racing down the flank time and again to set up chances. Pappa got one of the goals, but he's much more effective centrally and I thought he was stranded out wide at times in this game.

Whenever the Union had the ball, though, they found midfield totally jammed. Nowak was not pleased at all about this, and he took a shot at the team he used to play for in his postgame remarks.

"The team that is supposed to play attractive soccer, attacking soccer at home played with 10 guys in the back, behind the ball," Nowak said. "This team I watched, I played here, and I believe it's the passion - the way the Fire play, it was not even close to what we've witnessed tonight."

The Union don't have much time to dwell on last night, though - it's a pretty quick turnaround to Thursday's game at Kansas City. I haven't got all that much time left tonight myself, as I have to go to sleep so I can catch a flight back to Philadelphia.

Below here, you'll find postgame audio from the locker room and video highlights from the match. There's also a video in the player at right with highlights of Nowak's press conference and an interview I did with Danny Mwanga afterwards.

What did you think of the match? Post your reactions in the comments.

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Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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