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The Union rise above adversity once again to close in on hardware

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Jose Martinez tests positive for Covid-19, Andre Blake and Ray Gaddis leave the game with injuries, but the Union still prevailed

The game was ugly and not anything you would expect after the shellacking of Toronto FC a few days earlier, but considering the challenges the Philadelphia Union faced even before the whistle blew to start the game Wednesday night a hard fought 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire was still reason to celebrate.

“I can’t say enough just how proud I am of the players for their resiliency, their ability to adjust, adapt and embrace any new challenge that comes their way,” head coach Jim Curtin said post-game.

With Jamiro Monteiro already out serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation, the Union lost a second key player in Jose Martinez when a positive Covid-19 test was confirmed.

The absences in the midfield were noticeable as the team came out flat and looked nothing like the team that couldn’t stop scoring against Toronto. A little bit of luck changed that when a handball in the box handed the Union a penalty kick and a 1-0 lead inside a half hour. When Calvo was shown his exit eight minutes later with a questionable straight red card it looked like the game was basically over.

That’s not what happened. At all.

After some positive attacking moments that nearly produced a quick second goal, Chicago found a way back in it and probably could have even taken a lead into the locker room.

Things only got more interesting from there. Fouls, yellow cards, injuries and a little bit of soccer happened before the full time whistle finally blew after eight minutes of stoppage time on three more points for the Union.

Fighting for their playoff lives and down a man, the Fire threw everything they could at the Union, even getting the stretcher crew in on the act to slow the game down with repeated players on the ground calling for treatment. Referee Guido Gonzales Jr. went to his pocket eight times, four for each team and whistled the Union for 20 fouls to Chicago’s 17.

“It was chaos, it looked like,” Curtin said. “It looked like 1999 MLS where it was just tough to really identify the sport of soccer tonight.”

It took a goal from substitute Cory Burke off a cross from Olivier Mbaizo, who came on at the half for an injured Ray Gaddis, and a goal line clearance from yet another substitute in Andrew Wooten to secure three points. Wooten cleared a ball off the line after it appeared to come off the arm of a Chicago player and nearly beat reserve goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who made his Union debut when an injured Andre Blake wasn’t able to continue.

“This is a true team in the sense of the word, where all 11 guys, you know, are selfless playing for each other and playing for the badge,” Curtin said. “We don’t have any superstar that thinks they’re bigger than the team.”

With the win the Union stayed unbeaten at home in 2020 and have all but wrapped up the franchise’s first piece of hardware with a three-point lead on Toronto for the Supporters’ Shield with two games left.