top of page

Union Survive the Cold & Fire: 2-2 Draw at Home Opener

Photo: Mike Barrera of AAT Sports Network

The Philadelphia Union kicked off their MLS season at Subaru Park, and they hosted the Chicago Fire on this cold & windy February evening.


Despite the Union scheduling around the CONCACAF Champions Cup, they went with nearly the same lineup as they did on Tuesday evening at Saprissa. The only change was maybe the most important player on the pitch: Andre Blake. Our Jamaican keeper is dealing with an adductor strain, and we got our first look at Tanner's newest addition to the club: Oliver Semmle. Regarding the rest of the lineup, Curtin wanted to maintain the starters from last week and build on their confidence after a strong outing in Costa Rica. With Tuesday's match just 2.5 days away, we should expect to see some rotation on the 27th.

First Half Summary

It was a frigid evening at Chester, but the Union faithful showed up last night. Even hours before kickoff, the tailgate was packed, and the stadium was filled from end to end. I've been to multiple home openers where Subaru Park (or PPL/Talen Energy way back when) was far from packed. Credit to the fans for making sure the U had a good home field advantage.

It was a less than ideal start from the Fire in terms of rotation. Just four minutes into the match, Gutman went down around midfield and was seen by the training staff. Unfortunately for Chicago, they were forced to make an injury sub, and Gasper replaced his teammate.

All the offseason hype for Chicago was around their newest addition: Hugo Cuypers. Jakob Glesnes, coming off a terrible blunder v Saprissa, welcomed Hugo into the league just after the 10th minute. Cuypers went to take Jakob 1 v 1, but the center back held strong and easily stole the ball. In the post match presser, our own Jose Nunez asked Curtin about the pairing between Lowe and Jakob. Jim spoke highly of his two centerbacks, and considering the recent absence of Elliott, he is fortunate to have 3 starting caliber players at that position. Overall, Curtin thinks they did well to limit the 12 million dollar striker's chances.

The boo birds came out just before the 20th minute. The Union had numbers going to net, and Mikael Uhre was breaking away from his defender. Uhre was then brought down from behind and seemed to be hit in the back of the head. The ref deemed it a clean play, but just moments later, called Kai for a soft foul. We know MLS is working with replacement refs to start the season, but last night's crew had a handful of questionable calls. We might have a few frustrating matches ahead if the strike continues on.

Chicago came inches from scoring in the 29th minute. A cross from right to left gave the Fire a header at net, but it rolled just outside of the goal post, and only inches away from a lunging player. This was the most pressure Semmle felt in the first half hour, and credit to the Union for holding strong in front of their replacement keeper.

The Union answered back with a close call of their own. Uhre and Carranza forced the ball across the box, and Daniel's leap just missed hitting the ball into the net. The offside flag came up, however, and things would remain 0-0.

In a half where neither keepers were really tested, Gutierrez took matters into his own hands. He danced with the ball at the top of the Philly box and then ripped one at net. Oliver had no chance, and I don't think Blake would have stopped that one either. Just like that, the Fire found themselves up 1-0.

Just when the Union needed some luck to fall their way, a misguided ball was sent toward the Chicago net, with only Quinn nearby ready to take control. Unfortunately for Philly, the ball bounced high and behind Quinn, which then let the Fire players close in on defense. That pretty much summed up the first half. Just one pass or touch away from really getting in a groove offensively. The whistle blew after four minutes of stoppage time, with Philly trailing again to enter the break. This is now two consecutive games where the Union are trailing at half, and we hope that streak is broken on Tuesday.

Second Half Summary

Similar to what we saw against Saprissa, the Union came out swinging to start the second frame. McGlynn weaved a ball to Nathan in the box, and Harriel's right footed pass rolled to Gazdag at the front of the goal. Daniel tapped in his first goal of the season, but VAR quickly determined that it was offside.

Curtin spoke about the officiating after the match. He did not have an issue with the replacement refs last night, but he felt that there was not enough evidence to overturn the Gazdag goal. From the Apple telecast, the commentators emphasized the need for a clear and obvious call with the "naked eye". Maybe I'm a little bias, but I don't think the angle they provided us showed enough to overturn it. You can see our friend Jimmy King of Philly Sports Network's post below with the angle we saw.

Despite the let down of the reversed call, the Union kept their foot on the gas, and Mikael Uhre was the next one to find the back of the net. Daniel did well to thread a pass to Quinn in the box, and his right-footed roller easily found a surging Uhre. We know that Mikael had an average season last year, so we like to see him getting a goal early on. You can check out the goal below that was posted from the Union's Twitter account. Take a good look at Quinn's run off the ball, it's perfectly timed to receive the pass from Daniel.

Things settled down into the 70th minute, and the Fire began to make more subs. Former LAFC member, Kellyn Acosta, replaced Shaqiri. Dean also subbed out Gasper. The Union made their first and only sub just before the 80th minute. Jack McGlynn, who again played well, was replaced by Alejandro.

Jim also discussed the sub after the match. Not only is it unusual for a Curtin substitution to come so late, but I can't remember a time when Alejandro played on the left side of the diamond. Jim's reasoning was due to the dynamic effort between Quinn and Nathan. The right side of the Union lineup was dangerous throughout the second half, and credit to Curtin for realizing that and getting creative with his player swap. Finally, Jim praised his sports performance department for having these players ready to roll.

The Union were doing fine keeping Chicago away from Semmle, but a mistake in the 81st minute gave Chicago the chance they were looking for. Chicago pushed the ball into the box to the right of net. Two deflected shots soon found the feet of former Union player, Fabian Herbers. He pushed a right-footed shot into the net, and the Fire carried a 2-1 lead into the final 10 minutes of regulation. With the cold and now possible loss just minutes away, some of the Philly fans began to clear the stadium.

The Union tried to keep the remaining fans happy, and they again found the back of the net in the 85th minute. Damion fell to the ground as he crossed a ball into the box, and a Harriel shot from near the penalty spot leveled the match. VAR was again quickly called, and unlike the Gazdag disallowed goal, this one was clear and obvious. Lowe was clearly offside before he received Sullivan's pass, and things remained 2-1.

Credit to the Union for shaking off two overturned goals, and their patience and effort were rewarded in stoppage time. Quinn Sullivan sent a lofting pass over Martinez and to the feet of Alejandro. Bedoya then fed the cutting Martinez on the right side of the box, and Brujo's cross found the head of Daniel Gazdag. This was an outstanding team goal and highlighted how dangerous this club can be when firing on all cylinders. You can watch the replay shared by B/R Football and MLS off the Union's Twitter page.

Eight minutes of stoppage time were awarded, and despite the Union almost scoring a third goal late, things would remain 2-2. The Union have 3 games in 7 days, with this one being against a revamped Fire squad on a brutally cold evening. We really have to tip our hat to Curtin and the Union for showing a lot of character and poise in these last two matches. Next, we look to close out this CCC round on Tuesday evening and advance.

Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323 on TikTok and Twitter)

86 views0 comments


bottom of page