Having gone winless since August 5, the Union would have taken a victory in any form at this point of the year, whether entertaining or gritty. Not only did they get one Saturday, beating the playoff-bound Chicago Fire, they got it with one of their most entertaining performances of the season.
They also got it with something they hadn’t seen all year until then: scoring from Chris Pontius. After 2,024 minutes without a goal, the veteran winger struck twice in a 3-1 win.
“About six months too late, but it feels good,” Pontius said. “I’m my harshest critic. I know I could have been playing a lot better for this team. So it’s nice to put it all together tonight.”
Pontius’ first goal came just 10 minutes after kickoff, when he headed in a pinpoint cross from Keegan Rosenberry.
The second came in the 56th. Bedoya charged forward from the center of the park, then slid an inch-perfect pass to Fafa Picault. He cut inside from the left wing and hit a low shot that Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson could only parry, and Pontius was closest to the rebound.
The Union (9-12-9, 36 points) benefited from a small tactical shift manager Jim Curtin made with his lineup. He deployed Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin higher up in midfield than usual, putting defensive midfielder Warren Creavalle behind them instead of putting an attacking playmaker in front of them.
“Warren’s individual skill set allows freedom for others,” Curtin said. “His engine is going to allow Ale to get a little more forward [and] gives Haris a little more confidence to take a little bit of risk.”
Bedoya certainly appreciated it.
“I feel like I can push up higher when I know I definitely have a No. 6 [defensive midfielder] that’s going to sit in there,” Bedoya said. “I know [Creavalle] is always there as an emergency outlet for us, [and] he can find me or Haris in between the lines higher up.”
Sapong made it 3-0 in the 64th, capping off a pretty buildup sequence that took the ball from Pontius to Bedoya to Fabinho. It was Sapong’s 14th league goal of the season — tying the Union’s single-season record set by Sébastien Le Toux in 2010 — and the 50th of his career.
“Even though the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted to to, it’s good to have individual success sprinkled in there,” Sapong said. “It’s something to build on, to try to go on a run for the remainder of the season and hopefully carry it on to next season.”
Chicago (14-10-6, 48 points) got its goal three minutes after Sapong’s, due in no small part to a defensive lapse by Rosenberry. Matt Polster swung in a cross to Nemanja Nikolic, who took the ball past Jack Elliott to scorer Luis Solignac with a superb backheel flick. For Elliott to be beaten like that was excusable, but Rosenberry let Solignac run right in front of him and finish from 10 yards.