Preview: Union, Fire struggle for points to fill playoff slots
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs CHICAGO FIRE
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
August 12, 2012 (WEEK 23, MLS Game #221)
7 p.m. ET (Galavisión; CSN-Phi)
Philadelphia Union play host to the Chicago Fire on Sunday evening at PPL Park in a massive game for the playoff hopes of both clubs. The Fire come into the contest holding a five-point margin for fifth place in the Eastern Conference and the final playoff position. Union come into the week 12 points out of the last postseason spot – but have at least two games in hand on most of the rest of the division.
REFEREE: Fotis Bazakos. AR1 (bench): Adam Garner; AR2 (opposite): Scott Kachmarik; 4th: Mark Kadlecik
MLS Career: 7 games; FC/gm: 23.7; Y/gm: 1.9; R: 0; pens: 2
PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms); QUESTIONABLE: FW Antoine Hoppenot (nasal bone fracture); PROBABLE: MF Michael Farfan (L foot contusion); DF Bakary Soumare (R knee menisectomy recovery)
CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); QUESTIONABLE: DF Steven Kinney (R adductor strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: PHI: Jack McInerney (through Aug. 12)
- SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI: Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan … CHI: Dan Gargan, Gonzalo Segares
- SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: PHI: Brian Carroll, Carlos Valdes, Lionard Pajoy, Gabriel Farfan … CHI: Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro
ALL-TIME (5 meetings): Fire 2 wins, 5 goals … Union 2 wins, 5 goals … Ties 1
AT PHILADELPHIA (2 meetings): Union 2 wins, 3 goals … Fire 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 0
FUTURE MATCH: 10/3: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. CT
- The clubs are meeting for the second time this season. Dominic Oduro’s 28th-minute goal was all the Fire needed for a 1-0 victory, March 24 at Toyota Park.
- The Fire win in the first meeting snapped a three-game winless streak vs. Union, since a 2-1 win in the first meeting ever between the clubs.
- Coaches record: John Hackworth vs. CHI: first game … Frank Klopas vs. PHI: P2 W1 L0 T1
LAST MEETING (MLS)
3/24: CHI 1, PHI 0 (Oduro 28)
- The Fire took the lead in the 28th minute. Marco Pappa took the ball on the right flank and danced out of a couple of tackles before putting in a cross that Dominic Oduro headed home inside the near post.
- CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Paolo Tornaghi - Dan Gargan, Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo (Daniel Paladini 70), Marco Pappa (Federico Puppo 90)- Sebastian Grazzini (Rafael Robayo 85) - Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (3-1-4-2): Zac MacMath - Chris Albright (Jack McInerney 80), Carlos Valdes, Porfirio Lopez - Gabriel Gomez – Keon Daniel, Roger Torres (Gabriel Farfan 46), Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan - Danny Mwanga (Josue Martinez 65), Lionard Pajoy.
Philadelphia Union lost a second consecutive game away from home, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Montréal Impact on Saturday evening at Stade Saputo. Union are in a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points from 20 games.
HIGHLIGHTS: MTL 2, PHI 0
- The Impact opened the scoring a minute before halftime. Justin Mapp played a short corner kick to Patrice Bernier outside the box, and Bernier lofted a cross into the mixer where Andrew Wenger beat Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath with a low header to his right.
- The game took a violent turn in the 68th minute when Montreal's Nelson Rivas head-butted Antoine Hoppenot to the ground after the forward went in hard on him. Union striker Jack McInerney came in to defend his teammate, and both Rivas and McInerney were shown straight red cards by referee Ismail Elfath.
- Montreal sealed the victory in the 78th minute. Hassoun Camara picked off a pass and hared forward before sending in a cross from the right that found Felipe, whose scissor-kick volley beat a helpless MacMath.
- Union interim manager John Hackworth made two changes to the team that got a late game-winner for a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution at PPL Park. Michael Lahoud and Freddy Adu came into the team in place of Gabriel Gomez and Antoine Hoppenot.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan - Michael Lahoud (Antoine Hoppenot 56), Brian Carroll - Freddy Adu (Gabriel Gomez 80), Michael Farfan, Lionard Pajoy (Josue Martinez 73) - Jack McInerney (sent off 69).
- Union were shut out for a second consecutive road match, after a 2-0 defeat in New York on July 21.
- “We created a couple of really good chances, but we didn’t get it. There are a lot of things we can take from this game,” said Union interim team manager John Hackworth. “ … As a team, we did a lot of things well tonight. We didn’t execute in front of the goal. And when you don’t do that, when you don’t finish your chances... That’s the most important part of the game.”
- Union have scored just six goals on their travels, second-fewest in Major League Soccer, behind only the Portland Timbers, who have scored just two road goals in 10 games.
- “Our gameplan was to come out and drop the line a little bit and make sure we conserve a little bit of energy,” said Hackworth. “We thought it was going to be a 90-plus minute game. And it was in a lot of ways. ... I think tonight we saw two teams trying to play. In the second half, we were down a goal. We came out and tried to force it.”
- Since Hackworth took over, Union still have not lost back-to-back games. They’ve won their last four games at PPL Park, since opening the Hackworth era with a 1-0 home loss to D.C. United.
- “We did create a couple chances to score some goals. But, unfortunately, they didn’t end in the back of the net,” said Freddy Adu. “We know that we have to finish our chances when we are on the road. At the end of the day, at least we created those chances, coming in to an environment like this.”
- Jack McInerney will be out for the Chicago game for certain, after he was sent off in the 69th minute in Montréal.
- “Rivas made a foul and that was obvious that he was getting a red card. We made a mistake, when we came to him and tried to create a big problem. I think we’ll have to learn all these things,” said defender Carlos Valdés.
- After making his first career MLS start, rookie Antoine Hoppenot returned to the substitutes’ bench, coming on for the final 34 minutes for his 10th consecutive league appearance.
- The return of Bakary Soumare to MLS league action could be closer, after he went 90 minutes in a 5-1 loss in a reserve match vs. Montréal last weekend.
The Chicago Fire won for the first time in four matches, coming back for a 2-1 win against Toronto FC on Saturday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 35 points from 21 games.
- Toronto FC struck first, as Ryan Johnson pounced on a bad back pass from midfielder Marco Pappa in the 16th minute and coolly converted past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the heart of the box.
- But the Fire took advantage in the 64th minute, when Pappa latched onto an errant touch by Toronto defender Logan Emory, getting past an oncoming Milos Kocic and slotting a shot past defender Richard Eckersley and into the open net.
- TFC played the last 11 minutes a man down after Emory received a second yellow card from referee Michael Kennedy.
- Then in the 84th, rookie defender Austin Berry completed the Fire's comeback, nodding home the winner from the penalty spot off a Pável Pardo free kick from the left.
- Fire head coach Frank Klopas made three changes to the team that reached a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Gonzalo Segares came in at left back for Dan Gargan, and Alvaro Fernandez and Marco Pappa came into the midfield for Patrick Nyarko and Alex.
- CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause (Alex 74), Pavel Pardo - Alvaro Fernandez (Patrick Nyarko 50), Chris Rolfe, Marco Pappa - Dominic Oduro (Sherjill MacDonald 46).
HIGHLIGHTS: CHI 2, TOR 1
- The Fire won for the fourth time after conceding the opening goal, tied for most in MLS, along with the San Jose Earthquakes. The Fire have allowed the opening goal in 13 of 22 matches.
- “I think this is our fifth game we’ve come from behind to win (at home),” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “We have a lot of leadership on the field to motivate and push the guys, but everyone is committed. We put ourselves in a good spot and these are must-win games for us at home and it would have been very difficult for us to drop points at home against a much improved team.”
- Said center back Arne Friedrich: “The problem was, we had ball possession, but in the final third we had to push more. We didn’t score, and this is bad, especially when you are down one goal.”
- Both Fire goalscorers were involved with the TFC opening goal, as Marco Pappa’s underhit back pass was intended for Austin Berry.
- “It’s always nice to atone for my mistakes or someone else’s mistake,” Berry said. “I thought we stayed tight as a team, and we got the win.” Said Pappa: “I think I made a good assist tonight. We’re professionals. We see our mistakes and we don’t make them again. It was a good feeling to score after that.”
- Berry came through with his third goal in his rookie campaign, his first since May 26. “I pride myself on being good in the air and I want to be dangerous on every attacking set piece, and I have to take care of all of my opportunities. There are so few chances for me to score and I was able to do that,” Berry said.
- Newly signed Designated Player Sherrill MacDonald made his second consecutive appearance, coming off the substitute’s bench at halftime.
- “The weeks of training have been very hard for me because for eight weeks, I didn’t train and I didn’t play,” said MacDonald. “For me, 45 minutes was perfect today. Hopefully, after another week of training, I can play 60-65.”
- Alvaro Fernandez made his Fire debut, starting wide on the right of midfield and playing 50 minutes before being taken off in favor of Patrick Nyarko after suffering a minor ankle knock.
“For us, we have some good depth out wide,” Klopas said. “He’s very composed on a ball. Now, he’s coming inside a lot more and freeing up the width of the field for [right backs] Jalil [Anibaba] or [Dan] Gargan. He’s another guy who’s very good in tight spaces who wants the ball.” Said Fernández: “I feel more freedom on the field. Because when you have two holding midfielders, when you’re going offensive, you can take more chances and you can play more freely.”