The Fire missed out on a chance to pull within one point of second-place New York City FC in an uninspiring 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Union. A match that presented a good chance for three points against a non-contender puts them at risk of being surpassed in third place by Columbus and Atlanta and drops them four points behind New York City ahead of next week's head-to-head match-up at Toyota Park.
The Union took a lead early and sat back, allowing the Fire to move the ball around harmlessly before picking advantages in the second half and expanding the lead to 3-0. The lack of a playmaker was evident once again and Bastian Schweinsteiger's absence continues to leave a large gap in the middle of the field but this is a game that a solid contender should have taken something from.
After a less than convincing three-game unbeaten run, the Fire are looking for answers once again ahead of a mid-week match at San Jose and the big one at home against NYCFC. Coincidentally, last week's opponent DC United thrashed the Earthquakes 4-0 in Washington on Saturday night. Wednesday night represents another match that the Fire should and has to win.
GK Matt Lampson (4.5) – Reaction was slow to Pontius' header from close range in the 10th. The free look wasn't his fault, but his strength's certainly aren't based in lightning quick reactions. The second goal came from a ball that should have been handled or knocked out of danger before a rebound could be served up on a platter. Almost gave up another in the 80th after finding himself well out of position chasing a ball in the air.
D Brandon Vincent (5) – Beaten to the loose ball/rebound in the 56th resulting in the second goal of the game for Pontius and Philadelphia.
D Johan Kappelhof (5) – The Union managed too many clean looks after D.C. United was limited to very little last week. There seemed to be some marking confusion on the first goal as the Fire continue to struggle on set piece second ball defending. Sapong beat both central defenders to the spot on the third goal. Good 1v1 defending on Bedoya stopped a chance in the 39th.
D Joao Meira (4.5) – The Fire haven't had their first choice back four intact since July 5, Meira looked a half-step behind in his first start since August 16. Too much open space in the middle of the defense on all three goals.
D Matt Polster (5) – Cross into the box in the 67th found Nikolic leading to the Fire's only score. Slow to close on the right side which resulted in the Union's second and third goals.
M Dax McCarty (5.5) – Decent in combination and attempted to move the ball forward. The Fire couldn't unlock Philadelphia despite substantial advantages in possession and passing accuracy.
M Drew Conner (5) – Big shoes to fill in place of Schweinsteiger but largely uninvolved for a good portion of the match.
M David Accam (5) – His best chance of the game came in the 26th with a clear look, but his shot was wide of goal. The Union kept him in front of the defense and didn't allow balls over the top while sending multiple defenders at him.
M Arturo Alvarez (5) – One shot attempt in the 24th was deflected away for a corner kick. Set piece service was easily defended. Another attempt was off target in the 62nd.
M Michael de Leeuw (5) – Good run up the right side early was denied by an excellent tackle. Freed Accam for his chance in the 26th, but provided little in the second half.
F Nemanja Nikolic (5) – His flick of Polster's cross landed on the foot of Solignac to generate the Fire's only goal of the night in the 67th. Philadelphia managed to cut off service, which D.C. did not do last week.
M Luis Solignac (6) – Made an impact seven minutes after entering the game in the 60th for Accam with a good first touch and settle en route to the goal.
M Djordje Mihailovic (5) – Entered the game in the 68th for Alvarez. First touch was a turnover in the middle of the field. Drew a yellow card after taking a pass from de Leeuw in the 86th. His free kick was badly taken, but deflected toward Blake and an easy stop.
D Jonathan Campbell (5) – Replaced McCarty in the 78th with the Fire trailing by two goals.