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Chicago Fire earn a hard-fought point in Philadelphia after a controversial red card

After Wyatt Omsberg was sent off in the first half, the Fire were able to scrape out a 1-1 draw against the Union

MLS: Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union
Francisco Calvo had several key blocks to help the Fire preserve a point on the road
Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight season, a controversial red card bit the Chicago Fire on the road against the Philadelphia Union.

Unlike last season’s match at Subaru Park, which the Fire lost 2-1 after a Francisco Calvo red card that was later overturned, Chicago was able to scrape out a point in this one, despite playing down a man for an hour after Wyatt Omsberg was sent off for a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

“It was very, very, very soft,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said after the match, clearly fighting the urge to say more. “Look, I cannot say much.”

In the 34th minute, Union forward Cory Burke pulled Omsberg’s shoulder as Omsberg was heading the ball back to Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. The tug caused both men to fall forward, and referee Michael Radchuk initially awarded a goal kick to Philadelphia. After a video review, the call was changed to a red card for DOGSO, and Omsberg was sent off.

There’s a process in place in which MLS beat reporters can submit questions after matches to PRO, the organization that provides referees to Major League Soccer. PRO did not directly answer a question submitted by Hot Time regarding the decision, but did issue this statement based on a similar question from a Philadelphia reporter:

“The left knee of Omsberg made contact into the back of the right calf of Burke, causing Burke to lose balance as he moved onto the ball which was close to him in front of goal, with only the goal keeper to beat. Burke had an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and that opportunity was denied by the contact from Omsberg. Omsberg was therefore sent off for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and the game was re-started with a direct free-kick to PHI, as the contact had happened just outside the CHI penalty area.”

The call clearly bothered Fire captain Francisco Calvo, who was back with the team for the first time in a month after Gold Cup duty with Costa Rica.

“For me, it wasn’t not even a foul on this guy, Burke,” Calvo said. “I mean, for me, the referee made not the best decision. But what are you going to say to the referee in that situation? They are always right, and we can’t do anything.”

The Fire looked strong before the foul. Przemyslaw Frankowski, who has been red hot since returning from the European Championship with Poland, struck first, heading a cross by Boris Sekulić past Union keeper Andre Blake in the 10th minute.

Philadelphia’s Kai Wagner equalized in the 36 minute, off the free kick just outside the box caused by the Omsberg red card. He struck the ball low, under Chicago’s wall. Fire midfielder Fabian Herbers was lying on the ground behind the wall, but appeared to sit up just as the ball was struck, letting the ball pass by.

The Fire’s defense was strong after that point, keeping Philadelphia off the board through the rest of the half, the entire second half, and the eight minutes of second half stoppage time (which turned into ten minutes) awarded by Radchuk.

Shuttleworth recorded four saves, including a point-blank save in second-half stoppage time. He leads the Eastern Conference with 60 saves on the season. Calvo was particularly strong, winning 10 duels, and coming through with several key blocks to seal the draw.

“It was a fantastic point,” Calvo said. “It was a fantastic point for us. I think we make a really, really great effort. We take the point and move forward. I think we need to have Wyatt’s back, and take the point and go home, sleep, and in two nights, we have another game.”

The Fire host New York City FC on Wednesday night at Soldier Field (7 p.m. CT, WGN-TV and CFFC Live).


After a first half yellow card, Herbers will be suspended for the NYCFC match for yellow card accumulation.

Omsberg will also miss the match because of the red card, unless the Fire decide to appeal it, and that appeal is successful. There’s no word yet on whether the club will decide to push forward with an appeal.

Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Pineda, D Omsberg, D Calvo ©, M Sekulić, M Herbers (Bornstein 81’), M Frankowski, M Medrán, M Giménez, F Offor (Berić 64’), F Aliseda (Stojanović 81’)

Subs not used: GK G. Slonina, D Espinoza, D Kappelhof, M Gutiérrez, M Ivanov

Philadelphia Union: GK Blake, D Elliott, D Glesnes, D Wagner, D Mbaizo (McGlynn 89’), M Bedoya, M Martínez, M Flach (Ilsinho 64’), F Burke, F Gazdag (Sullivan 75’), F Przybylko

Subs not used: GK Freese, D Harriel, D Real, M Turner, M Aaronson

Stats Summary: PHI / CHI

Shots: 25 / 4

Shots on Goal: 5 / 2

Passing Accuracy: 83.0% / 78.8%

Saves: 1 / 4

Corners: 13 / 1

Fouls: 14 / 8

Offsides: 2 / 1

Possession: 55.8% / 44.2%

Referee: Michael Radchuk

Assistant Referees: Cameron Blanchard, Brian Dunn

Fourth Official: Silviu Petrescu

VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero, Eric Weisbrod