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Union beat Fire, 3-1

On the back of a Chris Pontius brace, the Union broke a six-game winless streak.

Trey Madara -

After nearly a month away from Talen Energy Stadium, the Philadelphia Union returned home to see off the Chicago Fire, 3-1, in front of a sellout crowd. Chris Pontius got his first two goals of the season, and CJ Sapong scored his 14th, tying Sebastien Le Toux for the club record for goals in a single season.

Pontius got his first of the night in the 10th minute, as he deftly redirected Keegan Rosenberry’s cross past Matt Lampson to give the Union an early advantage.

Though they came into the game with the third-highest-scoring offense in MLS, Chicago hardly tested Andre Blake in the first half. Aside from David Accam’s weak effort in the 18th minute, Blake did not have much to do as Chicago could only muster one shot on goal in the first half. The Union didn’t fare much better, as they failed to put another shot on net following Pontius’s goal.

The Union began the second half exactly like the first: with an early goal from Chris Pontius. In the 56th minute, Fafa Picault fired a shot that Lampson parried. Pontius jumped on the loose ball and doubled both the Union’s lead and his goal total on the night.

Pontius looked like the 2016 version of himself on Saturday night. With Bedoya and Rosenberry behind him, the winger was free to move up more offensively and cause havoc for Brandon Vincent.

The Union added a third for good measure less than ten minutes later to complete the rout. After picking up a pass from Bedoya, Fabinho hit a low, driven cross to the near post. There, Sapong beat Joao Meira to spot and added the third Union goal of the night.

Chicago got one back three minutes later, when Luis Solignac picked up a deflected cross to put Chicago within two goals. Despite countless opportunities to try to close the gap in the final 20 minutes, the match still finished 3-1.

With the loss, Chicago stay put in third place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points through 30 games. The Fire are back in action Wednesday, when they travel to San Jose. They’ll then head home to take on NYCFC next Saturday.

With their playoff aspirations all but done, the Union and Jim Curtin decided to experiment with a 4-3-3 instead of their regular 4-2-3-1 on Saturday night. The shift allowed the Union to forego playing a No. 10. In lieu of the number ten, Haris Medunanin and Alejandro Bedoya pushed up while Warren Creavalle played as the lone defensive midfielder. Though the midfield worked differently than it had at any other point this season, with no set No. 10, Curtin disagreed that he changed the formation.

“To be honest, it is still a 4-2-3-1,” Jim Curtin commented on the supposed tactical change. “By design, we still had someone next to Warren [Creavalle].”

With the win, the Union move to 36 points through 30 games, six points behind the sixth place New York Red Bulls, who do have a game in hand. No, it does not mean the Union are close to making the playoffs. But, for at least one night, the Union showed something that can be built on to finish the season strong. The Union will travel to red-hot Atlanta United on Wednesday before heading back home to take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.