Despite three separate snowfalls, the weather could not ice the Fire offense Saturday as Kennedy Igboananike finally broke through in the 51st minute with a low shot to Andre Blake's left that beat the keeper for what would be the winner.
While the end result was well earned against a 10-man Union side, it was not all pretty and perfect for the Men in Red.
In an often windy and snowy first half, the Fire failed to score on a handful of chances.
The team started with the majority of possession in the first 10 minutes with Matt Polster often moving the pieces from midfield. The Fire had to fight against strong winds as they ran right into it during the first half. Gilberto did his best to push through the resistance in the 4th minute off a nice pass from Michael Stephens, but was shut down by the Philadelphia backline.
The back four of the Union was stout all half, especially Ken Tribbett who closed down both Razvan Cocis and Kennedy Igboananike on what could have turned into great scoring chances.
Crosses from the from the foot of Rodrigo Ramos on the right side proved to cause the most chaos for the Union defense, once to Igboananike in the 15th minute and again in the 23rd minute when a deflected ball fell to Cocis for a chance that went wide.
Philadelphia picked up the pressure in the 30th minute and kept it up for much of the remaining half. C.J. Sapong threatened multiple times, sending a header off the crossbar and another shot off the post in the 41st minute. He later sent a shot just wide of the post shortly before halftime.
Polster and Stephens routinely picked off passes, though Stephens also committed a couple turnovers in his own half. The backline of Ramos, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof and Michael Harrington held together well for the most part.
Campbell had a massive blocked shot in 41st minute when he stopped the rebound attempt from Sapong's shot off the post.
By the end of the half, Philadelphia had outshout the Fire 12 to 3.
The Union kept that momentum going to start the second. Philadelphia swarmed the Fire and looked to shoot early and often. In the 46th minute, Roland Alberg broke free into the box but Harrington, who occupied left back, recovered well and made a huge block to preserve a clean sheet.
But Philadelphia's offensive aggressiveness backfired a minute later when Warren Creavalle, already booked with a yellow card in the first half, made a reckless challenge on Cocis from behind, earning a red card. With Philadelphia down to 10 men, the Fire took back possession and started to press forward.
Just five minutes after making a potentially game saving block, Harrington found himself cutting toward the right side of the Union's box. After getting a pocket of space, he made a perfect pass to Igboananike who collected the ball, turned and fired in the eventual game winner.
The Fire attack received another jolt in the 61st minute when John Goossens came on for Arturo Alvarez. Goossens made an immediate impact, forcing a diving save from Blake. He followed that up with a spectacular pass to Igboananike who ran free in the box and netted another ball, but the referee ruled the play offside.
Goossens was not done creating, nearly assisting on a second goal. In the 80th minute, he played a perfectly weighted pass to Gilberto, who was standing alone near the top of the box. After bring the pass down, Gilberto shot to his left and missed the right post, going wide as he did far too often Saturday.
After that Gilberto miss, the Fire failed to create any more dangerous chances and had to do some tough defending as time expired.
It was a big win for the club, giving Veljko Paunovic his first MLS victory and some confidence to a group that is still coming together. At 1-1-2, Chicago is right on track with the rest of the conference early in the season.
As always, check back tomorrow for analysis and post-game reaction!