I left PPL Park tonight having scored just as many goals as the Philadelphia Union had scored against the visiting Chicago Fire (and even against Montreal last week), none. Don't get me wrong the Union did get a goal in the 34th-minute off a nice, arcing cross from Freddy Adu to Chandler Hoffman, but it deflected off Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba, past keeper Sean Johnson and into the back of the net for an own goal.
This "goal" just wouldn't be enough, as the Union fell to the Fire 3-1 and slipped back down under New England into the ninth spot with a 7-12-2 record in the Eastern Conference. With the loss, (probably the worst loss under interim coach John Hackworth so far) the Union's playoff hopes seem pretty dire.
With an interesting starting eleven hoping to shake-up past lackluster performances, the Union came out looking a little spry. Bakary Soumare finally made his debut, filling in for Carlos Valdes, who is away on international duty with Colombia. Keon Daniel was upfront with Chandler Hoffman, who was making his second career start. Gabe Farfan, Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll and Freddy Adu started in the middle, while Williams, Gaddis and Okugo were on the back line with Soumare. The Union even had the first real chance of the game when in the first minute Keon Daniels got a head on the end of a great Sheanon Williams' cross, but put it wide of the goal.
Things were looking good and the Union held the lead until the 43rd-minute when Chicago DP forward Sherjill McDonald beat Bakary Soumare to the baseline and centered a nice ball to Chris Rolfe who would beat MacMath to equalize. MacMath would then be beaten again in first-half stoppage time when Marco Pappa sent a corner in towards the net and Zac came out looking to get to it first. Unfortunately, Zac didn't get to it first, Arne Friedrich did. Friedrich headed the ball past MacMath to put the Fire up 2-1 at the halftime break.
Down by two goals, generating offense would become the priority for the Union in the second half and Antoine Hoppenot would come on for Adu. Now I know I used the words "nice arcing cross" when referring to a play that Freddy Adu had made that led to the goal (own goal), but don't be confused. Aside from having two or three feeds, including that cross, he was really nowhere to be found throughout the first half. Adu spent most of his time jogging around, shaking his head, getting up from the ground, or doing those neat little step-overs he does that usually lead to a turnover. They needed a spark in Hoppenot, not a fizzle like Adu.
Philadelphia had most of the offensive opportunities in the second half. Opportunities are great if you can do something with them, but the Union just couldn't capitalize. Headers off corners went wide. Balls were swept away. Terrible first touches. The inability to string multiple passes together. Too many unselfish passes were being made. Not enough shot taking. While it's great to be a nice guy and want to make that extra pass to a teammate; goals happen when you take shots, not from making those extra passes. It's time these guys start getting selfish and take those shots. I know I hear the "Shoot the ball" cries that echo around PPL Park. I just can't believe that isn't instinctual to the guys in blue getting paid to play this game
It sure seemed instinctual for the Fire's Chris Rolfe. In the 56th-minute he rocketed a shot from the top of the box that MacMath should have read better. MacMath got a hand on it before it ended up in the back of the net to give the Fire the two-goal advantage – and Rolfe's second of the game.
With thirty-minutes to play the Union mustered up their typical late game push. With Hoppenot already up top, Pajoy came in for Gaddis and Martinez came in for Hoffman to add some much needed offense. The Union would make their way into the final third creating a few scoring opportunities. Two Keon Daniel's blasts were saved by Johnson, a low shot by Michael Farfan thumped off the near post and a header from Pajoy would go wide. The Union just could't find those heroics, or tactics that had saved them time and time again.
The Union are on the road next Sunday against D.C. United.