Carlos Ruiz struck a stunner to hand the Union a 2-1 win over Chicago on Saturday night.
In a game that brought some new blood to PPL Park, both the weather and the roster supplied change from recent days. On the first day that did not rain in Philadelphia for quite some time, the crowd of 18,372 was much more satisfied with the latter change. Those roster changes brought an exciting match, ending with a 2-1 victory for the Philadelphia Union. The usual tale of two halves broke out, with both teams working their way into a comfort zone for the second half.
The Union came out with a similar game plan to last week’s match against FC Dallas. The first thirty minutes played out with the teams very even with each other. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, that also meant a scoreless first half. Midfielder Michael Farfan started and made his presence felt this week. He brought energy that was seen from the start of the match, teaming up with Justin Mapp to create a bevy of scoring opportunities.
The game was infused with change even after the start, with Union midfielder Amobi Okugo having to exit the match in the 2nd minute due to a high ankle sprain. Kyle Nakazawa came in as a substitute following Okugo’s departure. Following the break, it was another midfielder who led the charge for much of the first half, the aforementioned Justin Mapp. Mapp has been coming along very well in recent weeks, and he continued that tonight.
Even with Danny Mwanga not dressing due to injury, the Union continued the aggression for nearly the entire first half. Even defenders Carlos Valdes and Danny Califf were involved with the attack. Following a breakaway by Justin Mapp, a cross to Sheanon Williams led to a corner kick. Sebastian Le Toux hit it wide, but got the deflection, and led it to Carlos Valdes who headed the ball just a little too strong and up over the net.
Unlike last week, the opportunities for the offense did not cease. Both Carlos Ruiz and Le Toux had multiple shot attempts on goal. One of Le Toux’s attacks brought the match’s first yellow card, issued to the Fire’s Bratislav Ristic in the 31st minute. Following this, the action died down, and the match went into the half tied 0-0.
Following a fast start to the first half, the story was expected to come from whether there would be a similar aggression from the Union. However, as seen so often this year, it was a tale of two halves, with the Fire being the faster team to start the half. However, the first shot on goal came from Nakazawa.
With that, a much more balanced game broke out. Applause continued to pour out from the crowd, but it remained for the Union’s effort, and not for goals being scored. The referees were the most active men on the field in the first fifteen minutes, issuing yellow cards to both the Union’s Jordan Harvey, and the Fire’s Dominic Oduro.
After the yellow card to Oduro, the Union picked up the pace, and crossed midfield with yet another offensive opportunity. In the 64th minute, Nakazawa broke left, crossing the ball back to the middle of the field. Fire defender Cory Gibbs deflected it right to a charging Michael Farfan, who struck the ball to the back of the net for the match’s first goal. That is the second time in the last three games the Union scored a goal off of a defensive assist.
It did not take long for the Fire to return the favor. The Fire’s attack finally came to life with Oduro leading the charge. On a clean breakaway, the forward charged towards the net and tapped a pass from Gonzalo Segares in for the tying goal in the 68th minute.
After the defensive lapse from the Union, and a substitution to bring Roger Torres in, the scoring continued. Just seven minutes after the game tying goal for the Fire, the Union again took the lead. In one of the more exciting goals of the year, Carlos Ruiz had a free kick from twenty five yards out. Following a deflection, Ruiz, by instinct alone, kicked the ball towards the net. To Ruiz’ surprise, and even more so keeper Jon Conway, the ball hit the top cross bar and went just across the line for a goal.This went on to be the game clinching goal.
This match was very well exemplified with a 2-1 final score. The Union's aggression was rewarded with the three points they earned towards the season’s standings. The Fire had only so many opportunities to take advantage of. The Chicago club will return home for a match against the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday while the Union will head north to Toronto to take on Toronto FC for the first time this season.
Keep updated with Major League Soccer by visiting Goal.com's MLS page and joining Goal.com's page.