Fire 1 Union 0 - recap and ratings

The Fire have their first win of the season following a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union. Heavy winds, cold, and even snow played a part in forcing both teams into some disjointed play but the Fire took advantage of a Warren Creavalle red card in the 47th minute to control the rest of the game and earn the result.

Both teams had chances in the first half with the Union hitting the woodwork twice and possession nearly even. The Fire held a 51-49 advantage heading into half time but the Union owned a 12-3 shot advantage. After Philadelphia midfielder Ilsinho's shot ricocheted off the cross bar in the 47th, Creavalle's ill-taken tackle attempt changed the game. It was all Fire from there with the man advantage.

It wasn't pretty but Chicago can take some solace in knowing that chances were created without David Accam on the field and that they were able to hold on to a win that they may have found a way to turn into a tie last season. Calling this a must-win situation this early in the season is probably premature, but the Fire needed to win this one.

Whatever the circumstances, they did just that.

Player ratings

GK Matt Lampson (6) - The Union were able to take 18 shot attempts but only 3 were on frame. Those three saves don't take into account the three shots that were denied by the post and the crossbar. The conditions could not have made it easy for goalkeepers, particularly in the first half but neither team managed to score. Lampson talked about the weather after the game right here.

D Rodrigo Ramos (6) - Chris Pontius scored twice in the Union's 2-0 win in Columbus a few weeks ago but he wasn't a factor in this game on Ramos' side. His ball into the box in the 23rd was mishandled by Blake and created a chance. A good combination with Alvarez one minute earlier also generated an opportunity.

D Jonathan Campbell (6) - Quietly going about his business with solid starts in the last three games. Blocked shots and timey tackles in the first half helped keep the clean sheet.

D Johan Kappelhof (5.5) - Seems to be developing a good pairing with Campbell although the Union did take advantage of gaps on his side for looks. Slip in the 44th resulted in a chance for Sapong.

D Michael Harrington (6) - Assisted on the winning goal and blocked an open net look early in the second half to keep the game scoreless. Did have some issues with Ilsinho but contributed to the win after missing one game due to red card suspension.

M Michael Stephens (5) - The Fire's overall passing improved to 80%, thanks to the man advantage, but Stephens finished at 71%.

M Matt Polster (5.5) - Converse to his central partner, Polster's completion rate was at a team high 91%. Not much of it was in dangerous areas however and the yellow cards for grabs from behind will add up. Could have had another yellow earlier in the game but referee Silviu Petrescu carded Ramos instead.

M Arturo Alvarez (5) - A few random combinations were good but the Fire aren't getting much from outside play without Accam in the line-up.

M Razvan Cocis (5.5) - Played in an advanced role underneath Gilberto for a good portion of the first half. A good counter between the two resulted in Cocis being caught from behind by the defense nullifying the chance. Decent in combination but lacking in the final third.

M Kennedy Igboananike (5.5) - Scored the winning goal with a clean finish but had several other chances that were squandered. The effort is always there if the quality is not. Team low 70% passing accuracy.

F Gilberto (5) - Involved in opportunities but final touch failed in some instances and shot accuracy in others. More should be expected from a player with his talent.

M John Goossens (5.5)  - Replaced Alvarez in the 62nd. Contributed with a shot attempt that was saved by Blake in the 63rd and some good moments in combination. Corner kick in the 82nd was subpar.

M Nick LaBrocca (5) - Subbed in for Cocis in the 87th.

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • A tough loss for the Union! And not a great win for the Fire. But this game shows steady progress for the Fire. I'm particularly impressed with the defense which has not yielded a goal since the fourth minute of the Orlando game now, a mark that is pretty hard to ignore. That mean 266 minutes of soccer without yielding a single goal. While there is still much to complain about, it's becoming hard to argue with the contention that they have a plan and are rebuilding slowly but surely into a Fire that we can once again respect.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    "266 minutes." I think we might actually move up to 17 on the MLS power rankings this week.

    On a serious note, it's nice to have 5 points in 4 games. Without checking the stats, I can't even recall the last time we had an equivalent start.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    May of 2015. Two ties followed by a win. And just a little earlier last year they had won 3 straight! After that the bottom fell off the bus.

    So lets not let our hats fly off just yet. But Nelson & Pauno seem to be putting together the slow & steady project they have been predicting, so far. Which is fair, considering the mess we've endured for so long. And it's keeping me watching.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    What I'm alluding to is that since my days began in 2010, (with the exception of 2012,) we've always started off horribly. Moreso psychologically than in actual points, but the fact that we only have one loss in the first four games is encouraging, plus the fact that we've had a straw to hold on to. I remember that horrible, horrible experience called The 1st Third of 2013. Even after the addition of Magee, we were still pasted with the desperation of hole un-digging.
    2014 was a continuation of 2013. 2015 need never be mentioned, lest the brass knuckles and hard stares come out.
    No, I'm rather happy with what has been accomplished so far.

    In the perspective of long-term rebuilding, I feel you. It feels like a slow-motion process, but I'm willing to stick with it. We're seeing some kind of tangible results, plus some very badly needed identity, both in tactics (which might be partly me and my own learning curve over the years,) and in on-field play.

  • Definitely a very ugly win. Would have been interesting to see if the Fire would actually win if there was no red card.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    It's impossible to say but my gut tells me they wouldn't have got the win without the red card. But you still have to give them credit. That red card was NOT a gift. Cocis earned it with his play.

  • Guys the defense seems to be improving. I am impressed for the fist time in years. If we can only get some offense it might be worth the harlem Ave journey.

  • We played "fine" yesterday. They absolutely deserved a goal and looked the better team when they had 11 guys on the field. We never looked threatening until they lost a man. Iggy works really hard, so he has that going for him. The only difference between Gilberto and Quincy is that Quincy worked really hard. Stephens is a poor mans Logan Pause. I think Campbell will turn out to be a solid defender in this league. He has a lot of Austin Berry in him. Alvarez is garbage. Goosens looked good when he came on. He at least tried to be creative. Polster probably needs a break at some point.

    It took Philly going to 10 men for us to finally keep the ball on the ground and move it around the field. For this season, are we more focused on trying to develop a style of play or getting results? It seems like right now we are trying to get results.

  • I was just happy to see positive movement from the fire for the first time this season. I thought the midfield did well in bringing the ball up. I think this is the first time this season that we have seen them be able to bring the ball up from the back. I personally felt that we were seeing a bit more of an attacking style come through. This is also the first game that I thought lampson had any sort of confidence in goal out of these 4 games. I still don't think he's great. But he was better, even was able to make a play 1v1 which was atrocious from him the last two games.

    1 decent game doesn't make a trend though, so heres hoping they keep on an upward trajectory when they face off against nycfc again.

  • GR I think your rating of Igbo was a little harsh. I have seen dramatic improvement of his play relative to last year and consistent improvement over the course of the first 4 games. He clearly is being taught the Pauno way. There is no one on the field who is working harder. I think his scoring will improve because I think his decision making/positioning is improving each week. I totally associate this improvement with the coaching staff. GR, I think you need to give Igbo a little more love.

    Each week there has been a clear game plan. The team is on the same page regardless of the style or plan of attack. To me, this is the sign of a well coached team. Each opponent has tried the same tactic against a young and new back four (or 6): press and force errors. The defense is now withstanding that pressure which allowed the mids to maintain more possession. Goosens made a huge difference from the moment he came on. He should start ahead of Alvarez.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Igbo's goal was really really good actually, so I agree with you Krasov. Nice first touch, quick strike, perfect placement. I have a hard time seeing a forward getting less than a 6 with a great game winning goal, short of a red card or something.

    To be fair though, I only saw the highlights. :)

  • I was in town for work and got to see the game. I wouldn't say that the Fire was overwhelming, but it was good to see them dominate possession for the first time and improve their passing percentages. I read some comments from Philly fans who felt that the Union dominated the game. I'd disagree, but it is true that the woodwork saved us several times. On the other hand, there was Igbo's goal that was called back...

    What I like about the team this year is that after the NYC opener, it's clear that Pauno has been concentrating on shoring up the defense. Campbell was a good find, though Pauno has shown that he can develop players in the right environments. No, the offense hasn't been as good as it could be but in line with what someone said above, the objective has been to get points, and they have done that. I'm not happy with the fact that we have gone to far too many "rebuilds" over the past 6-7 years, but it's not NR and VP's fault that AH let the team go to pot during that time.

    One thing to note is that the game would have been far different with Accam in the lineup. Philly has a slow defense and if it had been David on the end of some of the through balls that Gilberto and to a lesser degree Igbo got on Saturday, I have to think the result would have been different not only in terms of Philly's defense but also how far their midfield advanced in support of the attack.

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