Two matches on Wednesday night, two completely different results for the playoff teams involved.
Chicago 1:3 Philadelphia
What is happening to Chicago? This is the second match in a row where the Fire looked outclassed. While that kind of result might be expected in the Cauldron against a better Sporting Kansas City side (as was the case on Friday night), the result Wednesday against the Philadelphia Union on home soil at Toyota Park may be telling heading towards the playoffs. See, Chicago hadn’t lost an Eastern Conference clash in Bridgeview in two years, and less than a month before the playoffs isn’t a good time to begin showing cracks in the concrete.
Jack McInerney took advantage of a great through ball from Danny Cruz in the 7th minute to get the Union off to an encouraging start. Philadelphia controlled possession through the early and middle portions of this match, but it took until the 67th minute to extend the lead to 2 goals. McInerney flicked on a ball just outside the 18, and Gabriel Gomez picked it up, sprinted into the area, and from the right blasted a high strike inside the far post.
The Fire responded immediately through a low roller from Dominic Oduro. He beat Zac MacMath near post, yet another disappointing goal allowed by the Union thus far this season. But much of the danger for the Union was lessened as second-half sub Guillermo Blanco went studs up into Brian Carroll and drew a red card.
While Chicago did press to equalize, the Union made the 10-man Fire pay on the break in the 87th minute. Michael Farfan countered into open space down the right, and laid a nice low cross out of the reach of Sean Johnson. Antoine Hoppenot, who came on for McInerney, cleverly finished the chance to give the Union a 3-1 upset on a night commemorating the Fire’s 15 year-existence. The ceremony included one particularly compelling member of the Fire’s all-time team – Philadelphia’s former manager Peter Nowak.
Vancouver 4:0 Chivas USA
Chivas USA has become Major League Soccer’s version of a batting practice pitcher, serving up 70 mph meatballs for struggling teams to smoke out of the park. In their match at BC Place in Vancouver, the Whitecaps took advantage of the Goats’ current predicament and racked up their own 4 goal performance against a team that is leaking goals like candy in a parade.
It’s a big result for the Whitecaps, who have faded lately as head coach Martin Rennie has come under increased scrutiny. F.C. Dallas had crept back into the playoff hunt, thanks in part to some major changes in personnel that Vancouver made over the summer. But the players Rennie brought into the club were all over this match: Dane Richards got a 35th minute goal, while Rennie’s countrymen Kenny Miller (assist) and Barry Robson (73rd minute goal) also contributed to the box score. This was their first win since August 11th, and with only two games remaining, seizing a grand opportunity for maximum points greatly enhances their chances to swat away Dallas.
The only Western Conference team that had been in worse form than Vancouver is Chivas, who now have lost 7 in a row and 9 out of 11 matches. They haven’t earned a victory since July, and while the West can be an unforgiving Conference, this team is one of the bigger eyesores in MLS. With a dwindling crowd and unstable ownership, something needs to happen to the Goats to get them on the right track. With all the talk of a 20th team entering MLS in the near future, the Chivas USA franchise needs to be settled one way or another – whether by sale, relocation, or a combination of the two.