August 12, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
GRINDING IT OUT
Rolfe leads Fire past Union
CHESTER, Pa.—Solidifying a spot in the Major League Soccer playoffs may be a grind, but the Chicago Fire continue to grind out tough points, as they defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-1 at PPL Park Sunday night.
|Chris Rolfe scored twice as the Fire defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-1 Sunday at PPL Park.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The win improved the Fire record to 11-7-5 with 38 points, moving them ahead of DC United into fourth place in the MLS East. It further distanced them from the Union, who have desperately been trying to grind out points themselves to get back into contention. Philadelphia drops to 7-12-3 with 23 points.
The Union took the lead in the 34th minute. Freddy Adu sent a cross from deep on the right side into the area looking for Chandler Hoffman. Hoffman got in front of Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who slipped to the ground. The ball skipped off Hoffman’s head and hit Fire defender Jalil Anibaba. At first the goal was credited to Hoffman, then changed to Adu, then finally corrected to an own goal.
The euphoria at PPL Park didn’t last very long. Nine minutes later, Anibaba played a ball down the right side to Sherjill MacDonald. MacDonald took the ball along the end line and slipped it into the penalty area for Chris Rolfe to tap in.
Less than two minutes later, in stoppage time, the Fire took a 2-1 lead. Marco Pappa took a corner kick from the right side and Arne Freidrich beat netminder Zac MacMath with a header to the near post.
The Fire added another goal in the 56th minute. This time, Rolfe broke past a Union defender on the right side and teed up a shot from the corner of the penalty area. MacMath got a hand on the ball as it whizzed past him and into the net.
At first it seemed like the Union might dominate the game. Keon Daniel almost scored just 40 seconds in, but his header went wide. In the 18th minute, a cross into the area found the heard of Michael Farfan, but his header went over the bar.
The momentum briefly shifted to Chicago, as Pappa had a clean chance in the 20th minute that MacMath covered up. Then three minutes later, Alvaro Fernandez had MacMath beat, as the goalkeeper came out, but the shot went over the top.
For a time in the second half, it seemed like Chicago was going to blow the game open. Rolfe and Fernandez tried a cheeky give and go in the penalty area, but wasted too much time to get off a clean shot in the 63rd minute. Two minutes later, McDonald took a shot from the right edge of the 18, which had MacMath beat, but it went high.
In the 86th minute, Rolfe got into the area, but his shot was tipped out by MacMath for a corner kick. The in the 88th minute, Rolfe chested down a ball over the top, and slipped while taking a side volley, narrowly sending the ball wide left.
The Union could not seem to capitalize on the few chances they had. In the 61st minute, Antoine Hoppenot, who replaced Adu at halftime, broke in on the right side, but his shot hit the outside of the net.
Less than a minute later, Michael Farfan blasted a shot from the top of the 18 that hit the right post, then sent one wide in the 67th minute.
In stoppage time, Hoppenot turned on a good ball in the penalty area, but Johnson, who on Sunday was named to the U.S. National team roster for its friendly against Mexico on Wednesday, dove to make the save.