Gridlock: Union Draw Fire at Three

After beating the Chicago Fire Wednesday at PPL Park and advancing to the finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the two teams met again on Sunday at the same venue and settled for a 3-3 draw.

Credit: Philadelphia Union

First Half

Ten minutes into the match, the Chicago Fire (6-12-5) were first on the scoreboard after a Patrick Nyarko cross that was headed home by Kenny Igboananike. Philadelphia’s defense once again was shaky after the ball slipped by Richie Marquez and two other Union defenders before going into the back of the net.

The Union (6-13-6) bounced back in the 21st minute with a corner kick from Cristian Maidana that was finished by Fernando Aristeguieta to level the game at one apiece.

Ten minutes later, Philadelphia led a great counter-attack and got the go-ahead goal when Fabinho scored off of a Chicago Fire defender deflection into the net. Thus the ultimate playmaker, Cristian Maidana, added another assist to the night and Philadelphia headed into the locker room with a one goal lead.

Second Half

Unfortunately for the Union, Chicago was not done with their scoring for the night. In the 54th minute, Igboananike dribbled past Ray Gaddis and squared the ball right to Nyarko to level the game once again.

Following Chicago’s goal, head coach Jim Curtin made two substitutions in the 60th minute, bringing on C.J. Sapong and Michael Lahoud for Warren Creavalle and Tranquillo Barnetta.

The next 30 minutes were full of chances but Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was brilliant in the net, making several world-class saves.

While Sean Johnson finished the night with eight fantastic saves, his defense became his demise. In the 90th minute Maidana logged his 3rd assist of the night as Sebastian Le Toux scored in what was believed to be the winning goal of the night. Le Toux slipped the ball through the legs of Lovel Palmer and past the goalkeeper.

As seen in past games, the Union consistently struggled to finish out the game. What started out as a bad call by the assistant referee (Jason Johnson appeared to have handled the ball but the play continued on), Fire players Harry Shipp and Mike Magee somehow kept the ball in play and Kennedy Igboananike once again was there to finish it off for his second goal of the night. There’s nothing quite as painful or elating as a stoppage-time goal.

Bottom of the Table

Both Philadelphia and Chicago are among the last place teams in the conference. With this draw, both teams are quickly disappearing in playoff conversation, and head coach Jim Curtin has his share of frustration:

“We invent different ways to blow leads,” Curtin said. “It’s unacceptable, you score three goals at home, you should win no matter what. And, again, I’m upset because neither team really benefits from a tie.  You have two teams at the bottom of the table; a tie really does nothing for us.”

Philadelphia returns to MLS action on Saturday in Montreal against the Impact while Chicago head home and face the Colorado Rapids the same day.

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