August 12, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
Fire net an important road win against Philadelphia
CHESTER, Pa.---Winning games in difficult venues could be the difference between a team making the playoffs, or again being on the outside looking in.
|Fire defender Arne Friedrich celebrates his game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Sunday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas knows that, which makes Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union important on several levels. The Fire won on the road in a tough place to be the visitor. They not only took all three points, but they took them from a team that’s looking to move up from the bottom of the table and has had a great run the last two months.
“Obviously a great win for us in a difficult place to play,” said Klopas. “I knew coming in they are a team with a good mentality. We knew that they were going to come out at home with a lot of energy and they press throughout the game and we expected that. They put on a lot of high pressure. At times they were very direct, so we wanted to make sure that we were ready from the start. I felt that one of the things we could exploit was the gaps they leave behind and our ability to be good with transitions and make opportunities.”
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.
“We didn’t start really well,” said Klopas.” I think in the first 15-20 minutes we looked a little lethargic and obviously we fell asleep on that goal.”
The euphoria at PPL Park didn’t last very long. Nine minutes after conceding the lead, 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 for the first of his two goals.
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.
“We scored at the right time in the half and obviously we had good opportunities in the second half as we pushed the game and kind of put away.”
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.
“You get him close to goal and get him opportunities; he’s one of the best that I’ve seen,” Klopas said of Rolfe. “I was happy for him, but also for the group. I can tell you , if he would have scored two goals and we would have lost, it would have meant nothing. That’s the most important thing. Goals only mean something if they help the team win.”
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, and while it further distanced themselves from the Union, it by no means leaves them in a comfortable position.
“Every game is important,” said Klopas. “You can’t relax, because the east is very strong. Every game is a derby, with the games meaning so much in your conference. There’s a lot of games to be played. A lot of things can happen. We cannot relax. Obviously a very good win. We need to go back, start working, because we have a tough game at home against New England. We need to stay focused so we can push it even more .”