Dispatch from a Man in the Stands: Fire at Philadelphia Union

Fire fans (top right of opposite side), Delaware River (background), sweet Ron Jon shirt (foreground)

Good day, Fire fans. Stephen Mangat here again. This time to give you postgame thoughts on the Fire v. Union game that I witnessed at PPL Park last night. As you may (or may not) have noticed, I’ve been added as a contributor to this fine blog, so expect more great analysis (and great animated gifs) from yours truly in the coming month.

The Chicago Fire played well, looked dangerous and beat the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park, snapping the Union’s four match unbeaten run at home.

Three of the game’s four goals came with significant help from the defending team and even though it was a four-goal game, the attacking quality was sporadic and came in spurts. Yours truly was in the stands and here are my thoughts on the game. Analysis, hooooo!

Philly started off with their usual 4-3-3 formation but a different lineup than I expected. Bakary Soumare got his debut in the back (all-star Carlos Valdes was on international duty) and rookie Raymon Gaddis started at left back. This pushed Gabriel Farfan (Garfan) into the midfield where he partnered with his brother Michael (Marfan) and Brian Carroll. This gave Philly two attackers and a tackler in midfield. Up top Philly had Keon Daniel to provide some size and athleticism, rookie Chandler Hoffman to provide I’m not sure what and Freddy Adu to provide the ball to Chicago players. Finally (and fatally), Zach Macmath started in goal for the Union (see fan reaction below).

Chicago started with new boys Sherjill MacDonald (up top) and Alvaro Fernandez (right midfield). Chris Rolfe was a supporting forward behind MacDonald and Marco Pappa was the left midfielder. Pardo and Pause were in the center. In the back was as usual for the Fire with Friedrich, Berry, (college opponent of mine) Segares and Anibaba, who was in place of Philly-native and (high school opponent of moi) Dan Gargan.

I’d rather not go into a minute-by-minute chronological breakdown of the game, so I’ll give my thoughts bullet point stylee.

  • Not tons of Fire fan support even though I saw on twitter that busloads of fans were coming. There were a few rows of Chicago fans in the traditional fan section of PPL Park, but that was the only concentrated group.
  • MacDonald was a handful. Strong and fast — he skinned Soumare to create Chicago’s first goal and he looks like a great signing who will cause problems for just about everyone in the league.
  • Chris Rolfe is a killer. Great finish on the first goal, good skills and great movement overall. He looks like the player that was on the fringe of the USMNT in his first go-around with the Fire.
  • As predicted, Chicago scored on a corner and Zach Macmath was to blame. In fact, as predicted, Macmath was the weak link, giving away two goals. He was leaning the wrong way on the Rolfe goal, thinking that Rolfe would pass. I definitely heard boos directed at Macmath and one guy yelled “Macmath, you suck!!!” Actually that guy was me, but you get the point.
  • Chandler Hoffman has neither speed nor strength nor a great amount of skill. Don’t see how he’s worthy of a start.
  • Pavel Pardo did a great job finding spaces to get the ball and then distribute. He’s class.
  • As predicted, Freddy Adu sucked though he did provide a good cross for the first goal. The cross should have been defended by Chicago but Anibaba lost focus/concentration and put the ball in his own net.
  • The own goal was weird because (a) Adu was initially credited with the goal when he obviously didn’t score it (note for scorekeeper – this isn’t ice hockey) and (b) chandler Hoffman celebrated like he scored in the World Cup. Both giving Adu the goal and Hoffman’s celebration smacked of desperation. The stats were later adjusted however.
  • Shame that Logan Pause got hurt because it handcuffed Klopas. I think Patrick Nyarko and Dominc Oduro are fantastic change-of-pace attacking options off the bench and they will punish someone on the counter this season. I can easily see Chicago going up a goal, pulling Pappa for Oduro in the 70th and killing teams with the three-man counter of MacDonald, Oduro and Rolfe. Actually now that I think about it, that’s how Chicago can win the East. 
  • Bakary Soumare played okay and he understandably looked rusty. He should be a good addition for Philly.
  • Alvaro Fernandez‘s work rate was impressive. His hustle combined with his skill make him a great addition to the Fire.
  • Farfans need to shoot more. Marfan almost scored a beaut after beating a few defenders with quick, close control only for the shot to go off the post.
  • Macmath sucks.
  • While I’m not a huge fan of Jack McInerney, he does offer good runs behind defenders which allows Philly to play the ball over-the-top. By stretching defenses, he creates some more space in midfield (even if his runs aren’t normally rewarded). This is why I hoped that Hoppenot would have started as he is quite similar in style to McInerney. Hoffman isn’t fast enough to worry defenses and this allowed Chicago to play a higher line and press more which caused Philly problems.
  • Logan Pause got hurt and was replaced by Patrick Nyarko which is hardly a like-for-like switch. Nonetheless, Nyarko did well in a less-attacking, more disciplined role. Take a look at the Opta Chalkboard (filtered for ‘distribution’) below and you’ll see Pause (#12) and Nyarko (#14) played in very similar roles. Kudos to Nyarko for adapting.

In the end Chicago deserved the three points and were the better team, even if two of their goals were gifts from the terrible Zach Macmath. Philly needs some help up top and Coach John Hackworth should shoulder some blame for playing Hoffman (in place of Pajoy and Hoppenot).

Chicago is going to be dangerous in the East. If MacDonald and Fernandez continue to assimilate and Rolfe and Pardo keep playing well, I can see the Eastern title going to Chitown.

Philly, on the other hand, is out of the playoffs and two big questions remain for the team: (1) Will Hackworth do a good enough job to lose the ‘interim’ tag and (2) How will he approach the rest of the season? Actually these two questions are interrelated as Hackworth can keep trying to win games with the current starting group or he can look to develop the younger guys with a view to next year (taking a few more losses as a result).

Nonetheless, it was another fun game and thanks to Scott for the space. Hopefully you’ll be hearing more from me in the future and next time, I’ll be sure to come to Chicago to watch a Union victory!

One thought on “Dispatch from a Man in the Stands: Fire at Philadelphia Union

  1. Pingback: Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution 8.18.12 « On the Fire

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