CHICAGO – The Philadelphia Union, featuring a rotated squad, battled back from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits to take a 3-3 road draw from the Chicago Fire on Saturday night on a waterlogged pitch at Soldier Field.
Quinn Sullivan scored a spectacular bicycle kick in the first start of his career for the Union’s first goal and Cory Burke also ended up on the scoresheet. The Union’s third was an own goal from Boris Sekulic that was set up by Kacper Przybylko to tie the match in the 79th minute.
“A tie on the road, we’ll take it, but we’re not happy,” Curtin said. “On a different night, we play a little cleaner, little more disciplined, it should be 3 points.”
The Fire scored first on an own goal from Jakob Glesnes. Their other two goals came from set pieces, with Sekulic scoring the second and Mauricio Pineda notching the third.
The Union remain in third place in the Eastern conference and jumped a point to 19, but squandered an opportunity to catch Orlando City at 21 points. The Fire improved their league-worst point total to five.
The Union rotated their squad with five changes from Wednesday’s lineup as Sullivan, Stuart Findlay and Alvas Powell all made their first starts for the Union. Findlay slotted in alongside Glesnes at center back while Jack Elliott stepped into the midfield as the base of the diamond.
From the opening kick, it was clear the rolling storms in the Midwest had soaked the pitch beyond normal conditions, with the ball slowing up in many instances and players losing their footing often.
The Fire benefitted right away, and in the second minute took a 1-0 lead after Glesnes deflected a cross off the ground to loop past Andre Blake.
The Union responded well and had plenty of joy down the right hand side through Powell and Sullivan. They ultimately tied it at 1-1on a corner kick in the 28th minute. The delivery glanced off Francisco Calvo, but Sullivan adjusted his feet and belted in one of the best goals of the young MLS season.
The Union continued to press on the front foot despite some Fire chances on the counter from Luka Stojanovic and Robert Beric. In the second minute of first half stoppage time, the Union nearly scored twice on the same sequence, only for the Fire to clear a mad scramble. The clearance found its way to Glesnes, who lofted a ball over his own head to Burke. The Jamaican ripped home a ball to the far post for a 2-1 lead, his sixth career goal against Chicago.
While it looked like the Union had control coming out of halftime, a desperate Fire team capitalized on two set pieces to take the lead. Alvaro Medran whipped in a gorgeous free kick delivery from 40 yards out and Sekulic, who ran past Leon Flach, smashed home the point blank header past Blake to make it 2-2 in the 56th minute.
Just 11 minutes later, the Fire took a rare lead this season on another Medran set piece. The Spaniard’s corner found Mauricio Pineda and he shrugged off Olivier Mbaizo for inside positioning before stabbing home a finish to make it 3-2.
“It still comes down to, when we play man to man, knowing what your responsibility is and not losing your man,” Curtin said.
The Union were chasing the game with Przybylko, Gazdag and Mbaizo all subbed in and eventually, Jim Curtin’s changes paid off. In the 79th minute, the Polish striker shrugged off one Chicago defender, sent another tumbling, and whipped in a shot at a tight angle. Bobby Shuttleworth could only deflect the effort, and it bounced off of Sekulic to give the Union the equalizer.
Jamiro Monteiro had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 86th minute after he was played in one-on-one by Burke, but Shuttleworth got down for a crucial save to keep the match tied.
Given the conditions, the squad rotation, and the wacky nature of the game, the road point was both hard-earned and disappointing for the Union.
“When we get into it, a lot of teams will rest their stars,” Curtin said. “We’re getting wins and results. We have to play the schedule. I’m happy with my guys for gutting through it.”
Philadelphia will be back in action next Saturday with a trip to Nashville. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET from Nissan Stadium.