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Deflections of Perfection: Fire fall 4-3 to Union

Philadelphia got out to a 3-1 lead at halftime and was able to hold off a late Fire rally. The Union benefitted from a number of deflected shots, nearly all of which were finished clinically by Roland Alberg.

Roland Alberg was a hat trick hero for Philadelphia Wednesday, scoring many of his shots off deflections.
Roland Alberg was a hat trick hero for Philadelphia Wednesday, scoring many of his shots off deflections.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It all started so well.

Less than two minutes into the game, David Accam latched on to a Michael Stephens pass in midfield, turned around defender Ken Tribbett and blazed past Brian Carroll up the left side to score near post.

It was 1-0 Fire and Chicago had a chance to dictate play and get their first road win in nearly two years. But then Roland Alberg happened. Or maybe Ronaldo Alberg happened. Either way, Alberg happened a lot, scoring three goals en route to a 4-3 Philadelphia victory.

It was a difficult loss but one that provided an entertainment factor not seen since the season opening loss of the same score to New York City FC. In fact, the Fire had not scored more than a single goal in any game since the season opener.

So when Chicago got off to that incredibly quick, there was reason for optimism. But the lead would be short lived.

Alberg made his first statement on the game in the 11th minute when he sent a shot off the post that deflected off Sean Johnson and then Jonathan Campbell before rolling in the net. It was officially credited as an own-goal to Campbell, who unfortunately deflected in the game-winner at Colorado just a week ago. I would suggest he stop the Adailton impression as soon as possible.

But unsatisfied with scoring a goal off Campbell, Alberg was right back in the attack in the 15th minute. This time it was Tranquillo Barnetta who sent a shot off the other post from about 20 yards out. The shot bounced to Fabian Herbers who deflected it to Alberg in the box for the score.

At 2-1, the Fire still managed to pressure Philadelphia for much of the half. Chicago had 56 percent possession and attempted eight shots, three of which were on target. The best chance came from Accam again who was on the receiving end of a Razvan Cocis pass in the box. Despite the space, Accam rushed the shot and sent it about 15 rows up on what was a fairly open net.

The Union would not allow the Fire to go into the locker room with a 2-1 deficit though and Alberg put in one more. On this goal, it was Herbers who had a good look in the 45th minute but Johnson deflected the shot on a great diving save. Alberg collected the rebound and went for goal but Johan Kappelhof came sliding in to deflect that attempt. Unfortunately, it once again went right back to Alberg who fired in the shot on the open net.

The game looked out of reach as the Fire started the second half with a 3-1 deficit, but it would get worse before it got better.

The Union came out strong, setting up a great chance in the 47th minute as Alberg once again volleyed a Keegan Rosenberry pass toward goal. The rocket volley likely had Johnson beat but it went just wide of the frame. About 10 minutes later, Campbell would once again be victimized.

Chris Pontius made a darting run into the box and Campbell pulled him from behind. The ref pointed to the spot, Alberg set up the kick and scored after sending Johnson the other way. The hat trick was complete and the Union were up 4-1.

Unlike previous games this season, the Fire had some unexpected answers and managed to make the Philly faithful sweat a little. The comeback started when John Gossens ignited some life into the team when he came on in the 60th minute.

Goossens aggressive play forced a corner in the 69th minute. Accam took the short corner and set up Rodrigo Ramos outside the box. Ramos played a cross into the box and Cocis slid in toward the six yard box, getting his foot on the pass and sending his shot past a diving Andre Blake.

At 4-2 with 20 minutes left, the Fire kept pushing. In the 80th minute, the Fire took advantage of another corner. This time Goossens took the corner and sent it in the box straight away. Khaly Thiam managed to get of a low shot through heavy traffic that deflected of Joshua Yaro and past Blake.

But with 10 minutes left, the Fire were unable to manage another dangerous chance and fell 4-3.

It was ultimately a missed opportunity as they had the rare possession edge in the first half but still managed to find themselves down 3-1. The deflections could be considered unlucky, but there was also fault on the team defense for freezing after the initial shot which allowed Union players to lose their mark and take advantage of rebounds.

Still, after the anemic performance in Colorado, seeing the team take 14 shots and put five on goal was promising. Coach Veljko Paunovic was as harsh as he has ever been after the Colorado game and a 4-1 loss would've been a disastrous response from his men. Instead, they clawed back 4-3 and showed energy and life we will hopefully see the rest of the season.

There is no easy answers for this team, but entertainment is a step in the right direction and the game was certainly that.