The Chicago Fire finally found the three points they had been looking for since April 24 with a 2-1 win over the expansion Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park on the first Saturday night in June.
Fire great Peter Nowak returned to Chicago with his Union team on Polish Night in Bridgeview to try to keep the Fire winless since their victory over Houston in April. The Fire scored once in each half with scores by Baggio Husidic and Marco Pappa to give Chicago their margin of victory. The first score by Husidic was set up by an excellent run to the goal by Patrick Nyarko which drew in the Union defense and opened the middle for Husidic. The second half goal by Pappa came after an outstanding save by Union keeper Chris Sietz of a blast by Justin Mapp which could not be cleared and lead to the Pappa score in the 74th minute. The Fire seemed to toy with the Union after the Pappa score feeling the three points where secured but an extra time goal by Danny Mwanga for the Union kept things interesting until the end.
The game was highlighted by excellent saves by both the Union keeper Sietz and Fire net minder Andrew Dykstra. Each team can point to work by their keepers that kept them in the game. The Fire however avoided the defensive mistakes that have plagued them in their winless streak. The midfield seemed solid if unspectacular except for Patrick Nyarko who continues to expose the opposition defense with his speed. Polish defender Krzysztof Krol gave another impressive performance both with his defense and his ability to contribute to the offensive effort as he moves the ball in the offensive zone with effect.
Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos realized the importance of the game and kept his starting eleven on the field for most the night. Knowing that a win was vital we saw veterans Brian McBride, defender C.J. Brown, and midfielder Justin Mapp stay on the field when one would have thought they would have been substituted for with a 2-0 lead at the 74th minute mark. This seemed all the stranger when you take into account that the Fire will host the Colorado Rapids on June 9 for the final game before the World Cup break. Will de los Cobos be forced to change his starting line-up for the Rapids match and start some of his bench players is a good question? It appears that former Fulham forward Collins John has fallen out of favor with the coach and is becoming only a rarely used substitute. When may know this for sure after the Rapids match.
With the win over the Union the Fire now are now 3-3-4 on the season with 13 points. While good enough for 4th place in the MLS Eastern Conference both Columbus and New York have 21 points and seem at this point to be difficult for the Fire to overtake unless both of them have a major breakdown or injury. The Fire have played two less games the New York which makes the Colorado game all the more critical. Especially since come July, New York and a few other MLS teams may be sporting new signings that can change the landscape of the MLS season. Three points before the World Cup break seem all so important.
With the weather threatening a crowd of 14,656 turned out to see the Unions first ever visit to Toyota Park. Those that did attend received an ESPN program guide to this year’s World Cup. World Cup viewing parties seem aplenty in the Chicago area with the Daley Center Plaza hosting an event for the opening game on June 11 and Soldier Field being the site for an all-day event on July 11 for the final. The Fire will host a watch party for the USA v. England game on Saturday at the Bull & Bear pub on Wells street in Chicago’s River North area.
The Chicago Tribune reported during the last week that Wrigley Field home of the Chicago Cubs may soon see the Fire host the well-known Mexican side Club America. Wrigley Field is no stranger to soccer having seen many a Chicago Sting game back in the days of the old NASL.
Food choice: It was Polish Night so it had to be a polish sausage.