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Game Changers: Almost burned

Let’s take a look back at how the Philadelphia Union were able to beat the Chicago Fire.

Trey Madara/Brotherly Game

1.) Roland Alberg on for Warren Creavalle - The double-pivot of Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle did not work out well at all against New York City FC, so Jim Curtin subbed off Creavalle for Roland Alberg. Alberg didn’t disappoint, scoring a penalty and pumping life into a moribund Philadelphia Union offense. Curtin brought Alberg back on against a Chicago Fire team that is at the bottom of the table. Nothing against Warren, but this proved to be a brilliant move by Curtin.

2.) Burned early - The Union conceded a goal before most fans had found their seats.

A bad first touch on the pass by Tranquillo Barnetta allowed Razvan Cocis to come in and force a pass to a covered Ilsinho. The ball bounced back to Chicago’s Michael Stephens, who one touched it up to David Accam. Ken Tribbett challenged Accam almost at the midfield stripe, and unfortunately for the Union Accam came away with the ball. All was not lost, as Brian Carroll and Richie Marquez were back on defense, however Accam’s speed was no match for Carroll. Marquez stayed more central with an onrushing Kennedy Igboananike, which left Accam alone on goal once he beat Carroll. Unfortunately at that point there wasn’t much Andre Blake could do, and it was 1-0 Chicago at that point.

3.) The hot take - The Union’s first goal actually started when Fabinho out-muscled Igboananike for a header and sent it upfield for Chris Pontius. Pontius drew it down the left flank, turning Eric Gehrig inside out before cutting it back inside and crossing it for Ilsinho on the right, who was inexplicably left all alone by the Chicago defense. Ilsinho waited, drew the defenders in, and passed it back to Keegan Rosenberry who crossed it into the box. Pontius unselfishly went for the dummy, leaving Roland Alberg all alone on the left.

These are the breaks the Union didn’t get last year (or any other year honestly). While Alberg’s shot rang off of the post, it hit off of defender Jonathan Campbell and in to draw the Union level. A fluky goal, but a sign of things to come.

4.) This one counts - While Alberg did the work but got no credit for the last goal, this time it counted on the scoresheet.

First, look at all of the space the Fire give the Union to set up at about 20-22 yards out. They were able to move the ball from Pontius to Fabian Herbers to Ilsinho to Tranquillo with zero pressure from Chicago. Barnetta pulled the trigger on a good shot from long range that hit off of the post. Herbers swung his foot at the ball but barely - if at all - made contact with it. The ball fell to Alberg, who buried it past a helpless Sean Johnson to give the Union the lead.

5.) But wait, there’s more - Going into the half up a goal after conceding before the second minute would have been a positive for the Union. Luckily for the Union they went for it, leading to this.

First, what a ball by Ilsinho up to Tranquillo Barnetta. Barnetta all of the sudden found himself upfield with acres of space. He played it right to Herbers, who put a shot on goal. Sean Johnson stopped Herbers’ shot, but gave up a huge rebound right to Roland Alberg. Credit to Johan Kappelhof for making the stop on the initial shot, but the rebound went right back to Alberg whose shot nutmegged his countryman for his second goal of the night.

6.) Another smart sub - Jim Curtin learned the lesson from the last Chicago match, when Warren Creavalle picked up a second yellow card shortly after the half, putting the Union down a man with just under 45 minutes to play. Ken Tribbett was having trouble countering David Accam’s speed all night, picking up a yellow card early. Going into the half I said I thought Tribbett was going to pick up a second yellow card, however he wasn’t given the opportunity - instead being subbed off for Joshua Yaro. While still recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Yaro’s speed was a better match for Accam, who was neutralized by Yaro during the second half.

7.) Please remove your hats - Alberg became the second player in Union history to score three goals in a game thanks to a great run by Chris Pontius.

Pontius does well to cut inside past Jonathan Campbell, who inexplicably grabs onto Pontius’ arm and spins him to the ground. Campbell had help coming in from Eric Gehrig, and he most likely would have made it difficult for Pontius to shoot or pass. Alberg steps up to the spot, and the rest is history.

8.) Corner kick woes, part 1 - The Union historically have struggled from set pieces, and tonight drove home that point. Up 4-1, this should have been a run out for the Union. The Fire didn’t give up and got one back in the 68th minute off of a corner kick.

Josh Yaro has to do better at marking Razvan Cocis on this. Fabian Herbers also could have dropped back into coverage instead of simply standing on the spot. Still, the Union were up two with time running out. Nothing to worry about, right?

9.) Corner kick woes, part 2 - Again, not so fast. Chicago had another corner kick, and again poor marking allowed for a pretty easy goal.

One of the few bad plays from Keegan Rosenberry this season, as Khaly Thiam beats him to the ball and slots it past Andre Blake. Luckily this was the end of the scoring, and thus not the end of the world for the Union. While it made for a nervy 10 minutes for Union fans, the club held strong and kept their franchise-record home unbeaten streak alive.