Philadelphia Union 1, Chicago Fire 1 | MLS Match Recap
CHESTER, Pa. – Yet another draw for the Chicago Fire came at the worst possible time for the Philadelphia Union.
In a wild conclusion to a mostly drab game, Robert Earnshaw’s stoppage-time equalizer negated a dramatic go-ahead goal in the 88th minute from Amobi Okugo as Philly and Chicago battled to a 1-1 tie at PPL Park on Thursday night.
Needing a victory to stay afloat in the playoff race, the Union (9-10-12) are now winless in their last four and remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference beneath the “red line.”
The tie was the 17th of the season for the Fire (5-8-17), setting the single-season MLS record.
Earnshaw’s goal came after an ugly turnover from Union goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, who shanked a clearance directly to the Fire sub, who dribbled alone on net and chipped one over Mbolhi.
Mbolhi, signed by the Union in the summer transfer window as the team’s long-term goalkeeper, walked immediately off the field when the final whistle blew, right beneath the disgruntled Sons of Ben.
Just minutes earlier, the Union looked like they had the game won when Okugo collected a loose ball in the box that second-half sub Brian Brown couldn’t control and drilled one into the back of the net.
The goal was the first from the run of play for the Union in seven halves.
After a scoreless first half, the Union had a prime chance to break the deadlock in the 56th minute when Andrew Wenger made a great run and cross to set Cristian Maidana up on a platter. But Maidana pushed a close-range shot wide.
In the 72nd minute, Brown also couldn’t put an open shot from inside the box on target, leading to heavy groans from the crowd.
The Fire almost stole a goal in the 63rd minute but Okugo made a potentially game-saving sliding tackle on Chicago sub Florent Sinama-Pongolle in the box.
Neither team had much to hang their hat on after what was a particularly dull first half.
The Union had the majority of dangerous attacks before the break but only mustered one short on target. Rookie Pedro Ribeiro, starting at center forward in place of Conor Casey, had a header go high in the sixth minute and made a nice cutback in the box in the 43rd minute, which led to Vincent Nogueira ripping one just high.
Nogueira also had a close-range free kick sail just high in the 28th minute, and Maidana broke free down the wing 10 minutes later but couldn’t find anyone in the box.
The Fire’s first shot on net didn’t come until the 44th minute, when Mbolhi gobbled up a tame Sanna Nyassi header.
The Union and Fire also tied in their previous two meetings this season.
Philadelphia play their second of three straight home games next Saturday vs. Columbus. Chicago have a quicker turnaround, hosting Montreal this Sunday.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Maurice Edu||If not for Mbolhi's gaffe at the end, Edu would have ushered the Union to a vital shutout. Partnered well with Valdes again|
|2||Robert Earnshaw||Helps make history for the Fire after being gifted the turnover late in stoppage time, and the substitute's finish was pretty good, too|
|3||Amobi Okugo||Reignited Philly's playoff hopes with his late strike on a smart run, but his work was undone with the unfortunate equalizer just minutes later|