The Union finally found a way to score more than one goal in a match! I chose this aspect to focus on as a positive instead of the fact that one goal was a rebound off of a deflection and the other was a complete fluke. The point is, the ball bounced the Union way this week and they finally made it beyond binary soccer (scores involving 0's and 1's, for those who don't know). Stripping away sarcasm, the other positive is that the genesis of both goals were distance strikes. Vincent Nogueira struck a 25-yard shot which hit a Chicago body in the 18-yard box and fell to the foot of Maurice Edu. Leo Fernandes continued his excellent start to this season by putting a great free-kick cross serve in front of Fire goalie Sean Johnson. Little did he know that it would end up in the net.
The "good" part about the first goal, more so than the overall flow of the attack, was the finish. Maurice Edu improvised and took a deflected shot and struck it with his lesser foot, hitting it cleanly across the face of goal towards the far post. For their second, the goal was created by someone who didn't actually touch the ball. Leo Fernandes played a significant role, certainly, by getting the free kick into the goal area with pace and accuracy. It was Amobi Okugo, however, who is most responsible for young Leo getting his name on his second goal sheet of the season. It was Okugo who attempted a diving header to put the ball on goal. However, he missed, and his potential intervention was what froze Sean Johnson, allowing the free kick's original path to end in a 2-1 Union lead.
Of course this segment would be lacking without a mention of Zac MacMath's last minute heroics. His save of Mike Magee's penalty and subsequent follow-up shot will be etched forever in the memories of Union faithful. Should Philadelphia qualify for the playoffs by a small margin, that moment will be even more savored. Personally, the moment was so unexpected that I didn't even celebrate it, due to having a difficult time believing it had happened at all.
This campaign has already had a full season's share of late goals conceded to lose points. The main culprit so far has been set piece defense. This may be a broken record from this segment, but be it laziness (Portland) or ineptitude (Columbus or Chicago), Union yet again gave up a simple goal off of a restart. The replay showed that Conor Casey was helping Sheanon Williams mark former Union man Bakary Soumare until the six-yard box. At that point, Casey pealed off, and left Williams one-on-one with a much taller man, in addition to being on the wrong side of him. Soumare easily headed the ball into the net, stealing two points from his former side, while Williams was helpless to do more than sprint into the goal net (which actually kinda looks like fun).
There are very few times when a front kick to the jaw is acceptable conduct. A center back delivering said strike to an opposition forward inside of said defender's own 18-yard box is never one of them.Aaron Wheeler's unnecessarily desperate clearance attempt in second-half stoppage time nearly gifted Chicago all three match points. The fact that the Union keeper kept the ball out of the net is irrelevant to the point that Wheeler finally provided irrefutable proof that he does not belong as a starting option in central defense.
In breaking down the play in question, the pass was going directly towards the end line, wide of goal. In that instance, allowing the ball to land is to proper play. I'd have taken my chances that the attacker could control such a pass on his first touch. Secondly, Wheeler has long legs. These would have served him well in such an instance as his mark controlling that pass. Wheeler has been good at both on-ball defending, as well as desperation defending, due to having a longer leg reach with which to dispossess opponents of the ball. I've lauded Aaron so far this season for his ability to play out of position and help his team deal with injuries. That being said, YOU CAN'T KICK PEOPLE IN THE FACE! The epitome of "The Ugly." And, it doesn't promise to be much prettier against this week's opponent, Real Salt Lake.