Andre Blake earns 30th career clean sheet behind Fabian’s blast and Fontana’s 2nd half goal, Union win 2-0 over Chicago

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The Philadelphia Union silenced those who were critical of their defensive efforts Saturday night thanks to a 2-0 win against Chicago Fire behind three saves from Andre Blake. Marco Fabian tallied his fourth goal of the season thanks to assists from Haris Medunjanin (his 6th) and Kai Wagner (his 5th) while Anthony Fontana netted his first goal of the year.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

1st Half

Saturday night provided Union fans with a glimpse of what Marco Fabian ultimately brings to a club: entertaining soccer and a chance to win big games. It was also a chance for the Union faithful to welcome back CJ Sapong and Fabian Herbers. While both received generous applause during lineup announcements, there was no love lost between the white lines for either once the match began.

Fabian’s blast in the 11th minute allowed an electric Talen Energy Stadium crowd to momentarily forget they were roasting in tropical humidity along the Delaware River. His right footed howler sent fans into a frenzy after a beautifully executed free kick right off the training grounds and the focus quickly shifted from a homecoming for Herbers and Sapong to Fabian darting all over the pitch with a renewed sense of urgency.

Brenden Aaronson drew a foul near the touchline which allowed Haris Medunjanin to set-up the would be goal from Fabian. Medunjanin cut a low hit pass back to Kai Wagner who calmly settled the ball before slotting a pass to his right where Fabian was waiting outside the box. Fabian took one touch and launched the ball past a diving Kenneth Kronholm and into the twine.

It seemed as if Philadelphia would find good fortune once more before half based on the opening sequences of action. But, maybe the heat and the early lead forced Union players to ease off the pedal.

The half hour following Fabian’s screamer, Chicago pressed effectively and looked threatening in the attacking half. But the Union back line was up to the task. They handled the pressure well and avoided a Chicago equalizer – a goal that most likely would’ve been back breaking for Head Coach Jim Curtin and his squad.

2nd Half

The second half was all Philadelphia though. Chicago saw hardly any possession in the final 45 minutes and because of that, Philadelphia was able to wear them down. Entering the match, Chicago played twice in four days and four times in the last two weeks. Add the heat and a lack of an actual breeze Saturday night to an already tired team, and a second goal is almost guaranteed.

The 61st minute saw Anthony Fontana first off the bench to replace Fabian. Just four minutes later Fontana but his stamp on the match with his first goal of the season. His goal was all thanks to Wagner, who displayed an impressive amount of strength and agility to stick with the ball even after slipping inside the box. Wagner fell, regained his footing, avoided a tackle, and ripped a hard hit cross toward the center of goal. His pass deflected off a Chicago defender and landed perfectly onto the feet of Fontana who was darting to the spot.

Fontana’s celebration sent fans reeling in celebration as the 19-year old Homegrown signing rubbed his stomach and grinned toward the crowd. Chicago was all but done at that point.

Following Fontana’s insurance goal, Chicago failed to claim much of the ball. The second half possession statistics above tell the story. As the match wore on, Chicago grew weaker and ultimately failed to muster any real chances.

Andre Blake recorded a modest three saves while helping the team to its sixth clean sheet of the year. Considering the four goals allowed last match against Real Salt Lake, this performance must feel awful good for not just Blake but for Auston Trusty too. Trusty received criticism this week and some even called for a possibility of having him take another rest. Tonight, however, Trusty held his own and his match-up with CJ Sapong was exciting to watch.

Blake continues to be one of Philadelphia’s most promising and recognized player. The Jamaican now has 30 clean sheets and will likely record more as the schedule marches forward.

For now, Philadelphia can take a deep breathe of sorts. They reestablished a somewhat comfortable lead atop the Eastern Conference table and can focus on the upcoming two-match road stretch with fresh eyes instead of being filled with regret wondering how much longer they can manage first place.

With Montreal Impact July 27th and DC United waiting once the calendar flips to August, Curtin and his club should begin plotting out where they need to secure points in order to secure that coveted home playoff match. One thing is certain, results are needed in the next two in order to make this home win mean something special.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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