Bridgeview, Ill. (March 24, 2012) - On a windy and surprisingly cool evening at Toyota Park, the Chicago Fire were able to put the pressure on the Philadelphia Union early, and then hang on for their first win of the season.
Dominic Oduro scored for the Men in Red in the 28th minute off a cross from Marco Pappa for the only goal of the match and Paolo Tornaghi made some crucial late saves as a Fire defeated the Union 1-0. The Men in Red now have four points from two matches just like last year as they head to Colorado next Sunday for a match with the Rapids. The Union, meanwhile, now have no points from their first three matches as they face the Vancouver Whitecaps at home next Saturday.
Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas named an unchanged Starting XI from the previous week, and slowly went to work controlling the possession in the early part of the match.
The Fire received the first real opportunity of the match in the 6th minute off of a free kick, but Pavel Pardo’s shot from about 30 yards out went wide.
Sebastian Grazzini tested the Union’s shaky second-year keeper Zac MacMath in the 14th minute, but MacMath was able to easily palm the shot from the top of the box away.
After a…well, boring first 27 minutes, the perpetually under-siege winger Marco Pappa basically broke Union Gabriel Gomez’s ankles and got past Roger Torres to find Dominic Oduro in the box with a wonderful cross that Dominic headed past a flat-footed MacMath to send the Fire faithful into their celebrations. It appeared Oduro created some separation from Union defender Carlos Valdes, which left him basically unmarked. The 28th minute goal was Oduro’s second of the season, as the Ghanaian continued his hot streak from last season.
The onslaught didn’t end there. In the 34th minute, Grazzini played left back Gonzalo Segares through and MacMath was able to knock the ball away. Even through the exchange was ruled offside, it showed the pressure the Fire were creating.
Pappa nearly scored a goal of his own in the 38th minute. Sebastian Grazzini crossed the ball into Pappa on the left side of the box, but the Guatemalan blasted his shot well over and wide.
And in the 40th minute, forward Patrick Nyarko provided a wonderful through ball to Oduro, who rounded the keeper MacMath and fired an angled shot from the right of the box that was headed for the back of the net, but defender Chris Albright showed why he’s still in the league with a superb goal-line clearance.
The Union were surely happy to hear the first half whistle blow as the club looked all sorts of flustered by the Fire’s pace and constant pressure.
As the second half began, the Union made a perplexing move in replacing Torres with Gabriel Farfan. The Colombian playmaker was one of the few bright spots for Philadelphia in the first half.
Farfan promptly picked up a yellow card in the 58th minute for hauling down Patrick Nyarko on the right side of Philly’s goal. However, the resulting free kick from Grazzini did not result in any meaningful scoring chances.
It was Nyarko finding Oduro in the 62nd minute, but on Dominic’s quick shot, MacMath was able to make a kick save to keep the Union deficit at one.
In the 65th minute, the Union switched up their attacking options, replacing Danny Mwanga with the Costa Rican Josue Martinez. Mwanga was largely ineffective throughout the match.
The Fire weren’t done threatening and the re-emerging Marco Pappa almost doubled the Fire’s advantage. After a Nyarko cross, the ball fell to Pappa, who fired a rocket that nicked the right post, but did not go in.
Daniel Paladini entered the match for Pavel Pardo in the 70th minute.
The Union received a lifeline in the 81st minute when Cory Gibbs was ruled to have fouled the Union’s last sub Jack MacInerney just at the top of the Fire’s box. On the resulting Gabriel Gomez free kick, Paolo Tornaghi was called into action after the shot was deflected. Tornaghi was able to deflect the ball into the air and make the catch to avert danger
Tornaghi was called on again in the 85th minute when he made a diving save on another Gomez free kick. The shot, from left of the box was goal-bound, but Tornaghi dove to his left to swat the ball away and keep the Fire’s lead.
Shortly after, Rafael Robayo made his Fire debut, replacing Grazzini.
The Union continued to gain more possession as they looked for the equalizer and their first points of the season.
But the Fire nearly scored their second goal as the Union pressed too far. Gibbs found Nyarko with a long cross to midfield, who then played an unmarked Oduro on goal. The finish, however, left much to be desired and MacMath was able to come off his line and make the save.
The fourth official called for four minutes of stoppage time, and Fire nearly scored in the first. Oduro was able to find space on the right side of the box. With MacMath charging, Oduro nearly found the third and final substitute Federico Puppo (who came on for Pappa), but the cross was just out of reach.
The Union made one last attempt to find an equalizer, but could not get off a shot and the Fire picked up their first win of the season.