The Philadelphia Union were riding high after their emotional late-winning strike against bitter rivals NYCFC this past Sunday. Just three days later they suffered their second loss of the season on the road in Chicago. A second-half bit of brilliance from the Fire doomed a tired and uninspired Union side.
Union looked tired and uninspired in loss
The night was not a good one for Philly who looked tired from the start; their shorthanded team played the same starting XI as they did in Sunday night’s thriller vs NYCFC. From the opening whistle, Chicago came out looking to force their way into scoring position. The return of their star Xherdan Shaqiri helped draw attention away from wingers Chris Mueller and Fabian Herbers who were the two lynchpins for Chicago moving forward. The Union allowed Chicago the ball, which is no surprise, but what was surprising was Philly’s inability to put passes together when they turned the Fire over.
Philadelphia could barely put more than three passes together on the night. It was not a pretty game of soccer for both teams in the first half, and the second half wasn’t much better either. Both sides had expected goals under 0.75. One big chance came for each side, and both were saved, but we’ll get to that later. For now, it’s time to look at the lone goal of the match that took the Union’s night from poor to catastrophic.
The goal started from Shaqiri finding Mueller isolated against Kai Wagner on the right-wing. Usually, in 1v1 situations, Wagner holds his own, but this time around he was put in the spin cycle. Mueller cut left and then quickly back right and Wagner was fooled both times, and Mueller was in on goal. He tried to square the ball across the box, and Jose Martinez stuck a leg out to block the pass. His touch killed the momentum of the ball and it fell right to Boris Sekulic. The defender laid the ball off to Federico Navarro who hit a first-time, perfectly placed shot past Andre Blake. Chicago was up 1-0 and the Union was finished after 68 minutes.
Philly did make three subs, Mbaizo, Burke, and Donovan came on for Harriel, Carranza, and Uhre, but it was not enough to make a difference. Add to that that Jose Martinez picked up two silly yellow cards to get sent off and suspended, and this Union team accepted a 1-0 loss. The result was bad for the Union, but it should still be taken with some grains of salt.
Big saves on both sides stole the show
Ande Blake did his best to keep this team in it for the majority of the match. His heroics stopped one of, if not the best chance of the night. It was enough to get the Union to halftime 0-0, and at the start of the second half, Philly thought they got the game’s opening goal.
Cory Burke headed a perfect Kai Wagner cross past Fire phenom Gaga Slonina, but the 18-year-old keeper was able to get fingertips on the effort to push it off his post and then jump on it to stop it from crossing the line.
Both goalkeepers are top-tier in MLS and they were the reason that the best chances of the match were not goals. It is a joy to get to watch both plays at this level, and it’s why Slonina won’t be in MLS for much longer!
Union are at the midpoint of their 2022 Season
While this is likely the worst result of the Union’s 2022 season, it is only the second loss of their 2022 season! The 2022 season is exactly halfway finished for Philly. Their record of 7-2-8 is enough to have them sitting atop the east even after this loss.
The Union has lost two games this season, both on the road to low-quality eastern conference opponents. The amount of draws is concerning, especially since a bunch of them were dropped wins. This team is far from perfect, but it has been good so far.
The only thing that separates this team from being a good one and a great one is the ability to be flexible in situations that call for different looks! The players and game situations that surround the Union are calling for a change of formation or style of play to finish off games. This would help keep wins or draws instead of dropping points.
Will Curtin and his team be able to do this in the second half of the season? Once the team is back to full strength, and out of this summer onslaught of matches is over will be very telling. Until then, this team will have to regroup for another quick turnaround to play at Columbus Crew on Sunday!
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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire