The Philadelphia Union went into their match with the Chicago Fire with a head of steam. Winners of two straight against two very good teams in the Columbus Crew SC and New England Revolution, they looked to continue their winning ways against the Chicago Fire, who were winless in three going in to the match. The Union were expected to steamroll the lowly Fire - so what happened?
1.) Warren Creavalle's first card. Let's get these out of the way first - as high as I was on Creavalle in the first three weeks, the two cards he picked up were absolutely inexcusable. On the first card, he clumsily tackles Matt Polster from behind and is carded in just the 12th minute.
Watch the play and you'll notice that there were only three Fire attackers (two upfield and one out on his right) ahead of Polster and they were met with three Union defenders that were playing the three perfectly - Ken Tribbett and Richie Marquez were in position to deal with Kennedy Igboananike on their right, while Marquez and Fabinho were in position to deal with either Gilberto in the center or Arturo Alvarez out wide on the Union's left. You may also notice that Brian Carroll was breaking in on the ball and had a good angle to intercept Polster. Creavalle should have kept pace with him and tried steering him either toward the sideline or toward the in-rushing Carroll. Instead he left his feet and hauled him down, earning a yellow.
2.) Warren Creavalle's second card. After picking up the first card early, Creavalle was actually having a decent game until this tackle on Razvan Cocis.
There's no excuse to go in on Cocis at that angle - the best thing to do in that situation is to try and break upfield to help contain him or at least steer him toward Brian Carroll, who was back far enough (and on the right side of the ball) to make a play. Instead he slid in striking Cocis flush in the side of the knee. It was a straight red, but even if it was a second yellow Creavalle put the Union a man down with almost an entire half to play. He will also be unavailable for Friday night's match against Orlando City, and hopefully that isn't something I have to mention in the next edition of Game Changers.
3.) With Creavalle out, the defense was left exposed. On the Igboananike goal, Brian Carroll was forced to remain closer to the center of the pitch than he had been, allowing Michael Harrington to work one-on-one against Ilsinho, who had dropped back into defense to help the shorthanded Union. Ilsinho did well to contain Harrington, but as soon as Carroll broke out wide to challenge, Harrington got it off to Igboananike. Harrington's pass couldn't have been executed any better - he hit Igboananike right on his right foot as he was shielding Ken Tribbett from the ball. Igboananike then turned and fired a shot with his left foot that banked off of the far post and in for the game's only goal.
I feel it's a bit harsh to criticize Tribbett for the goal - there really wasn't anything he could have done to prevent it. All credit to Chicago for just executing that play.
4.) Shooting blanks. 17 to three - that's the ratio of shots to shots on goal for the Union against the Fire. It's good to shoot often - especially when you're down a goal - however you have to put something on frame.
Not literally on the frame though. Poor CJ Sapong hit the post twice yesterday, which is much better than some of the other shots the Union attempted. And sure the weather played havoc with some of these shots, but not every poor shot can be attributed to that. Speaking of...
5.) The weather was awful and kept changing. The only thing constant about the game was the wind and cold. Those two things are bad enough, however when it goes from snow to sun back to snow to sun, it's not the best environment to play soccer in. To be fair, these fluctuations had an effect on both teams, but it certainly changed the game and is worth a mention in this column.
Was there something I missed? Disagree or agree with me? Let me know in the comments section below!