Bridgeview, IL (March 24, 2012) – Through their first two games, the Chicago Fire only have one player who has been able to find the back of the net. Dominic Oduro found a different way to score this time though.
Oduro headed the Men in Red in front in the 28th minute off a cross from Marco Pappa for the only goal of the match as the Fire defeated the visiting Philadelphia Union 1-0 in front of a crowd of 18,075 in the club’s home opener at Toyota Park.
The goal was Oduro’s second goal of the season and his 14th in MLS play since joining the club just over a year ago. Despite that impressive tally, the goal Saturday night was his first header with the Fire. After the match, the speedy Ghanaian forward spoke about his desire to become a more well-rounded scoring threat.
"As to whether I'm working on my headers or not, I believe once the ball gets there, I will use any part of my body to score, as long as it's not my hand," said a cheerful Oduro.
Despite Oduro's heroics, the club named former Inter Milan youth product Paolo Tornaghi as man of the match. The young Italian goalkeeper had to be called into action a number of times late in the match to preserve the win.
Despite making only his second start for the club, Tornaghi said he felt comfortable in net.
"I've played in preseason and I played last week with the guys - we are a team and I feel like I'm a part of the team now," he said. "I know my job on the field and as a team we are there to help each other. "
Veteran defender Cory Gibbs also had positive things to say about Tornaghi.
"He's a great shot stopper and his composure is spectacular for his age, which comes from him playing for a big club in Europe," said Gibbs. "We could (not) ask for more from him - his composure everyday in training is so laid back, he's not nervous and that's huge for us."
The Fire came into this match off a 1-1 draw in Montreal with the expansion Impact. In front of a crowd of nearly 60,000, The Men in Red went down early, giving up the Impact's first goal in MLS, before Oduro equalized to help his club escape with a point.
In front of a home crowd for the first time this season, the club dominated possession in the first half, resulting in a 1-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, though, the Union threatened with more frequency as they tried to pick up a result from the match, but the Fire were able to hang on for three points.
The Union came into this match off of two hard losses to start the season. They took the lead in Portland before giving up three second-half goals to the Timbers, and then returned home to lose to the Colorado Rapids by a score of 2-1.
Adding to the Union's woes was a potential rift between Head Coach Peter Nowak and Captain Danny Califf. After starting in the Timbers match and playing all 90 minutes, he was unexpectedly held out of the Union's home opener against Colorado. As Brotherly Game reported, he did not travel to Chicago for this match. According to a Union spokesperson, Califf was out due to injury precautions, but would not list a specific problem. Califf recently had surgery to clean out his meniscus and received a cortisone shot.
Now having been unable to pick up any points in their first three matches, Nowak tried to stay positive after the match.
"We have the quality to win the games," said the former Fire midfielder. "That's my job right now to inject the confidence and the security that they are still a good team."
Among the bright spots for the Union was young goalkeeper Zac MacMath. After making some mistakes in the club's first two matches, he was solid in net against the Fire, denying Oduro on a number of one-on-one opportunities late in the match as the Men in Red tried to double their advantage on the counter-attack.
"It was a full 90 that I think I didn't make any big mistakes like the previous games so I was happy about that," said MacMath. "It's still very disappointing with the result."
Another bright spot for the Union was Gabriel Farfan. Nowak switched things up from last week's loss, introducing midfielder Roger Torres into the starting line-up. While Torres was somewhat effective in the first half, Nowak subbed him for Farfan, the twin brother of Union midfielder Michael, at halftime. Gabriel picked up his first 45 minutes of the season in the second half and helped the club get forward and push for a result.
"We did well getting forward in the second half I thought, and we had a couple looks," said Farfan. "Luck just wasn't on our side today."
Farfan admitted that after the match, there was some anxiousness building for the club to pick up their first points of the 2012 season.
"We always want to get three points and right now we need three points more than ever, but right now we don't feel the pressure too much," he said. "Obviously there is (pressure), but I think all the guys in the locker room can handle it."
Fire head coach Frank Klopas was pleased with the result, but warned against the club getting too far ahead of themselves.
"We need to reach the objectives that we set before (the season), but we're not going to do that without hard work," said the former Fire player turned technical director turned head coach. "We need to stay focused and keep working because it's (only) one game."