CHICAGO FIRE Starting XI: Tornaghi; Gargan, Anibaba, Gibbs, Segares; Pause (C), Pardo, Pappa; Grazzini; Nyarko, Oduro
PHILADELPHIA UNION Starting XI: MacMath, Albright, Farfan, Valdes, Lopez, Gomez, Daniel, Tores, Carroll, Mwanga, Pajoy
Check back here at half-time for first half analysis and more. Follow @ChicagoFireBlog on Twitter for live updates at Toyota Park before, during and after the match.
First half analysis:
It’s been a story of the counter attack during this first half. Dominic Oduro put the Fire ahead 1-0 in the 28th minute after pure magic from the heavily criticized Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan nutmegged a defender, skipped past another, and whipped in a beautiful cross that Oduro met to power a header past MacGrath. A sublime goal for the first goal at Toyota Park this season.
From then on Chicago dominated play and gave Philadelphia the run around with its dangerous counter attacking play. The Fire looked particularly dangerous on the counter in the 31st minute with Grazzini bursting through the middle with Oduro and Nyarko on the wings. His through ball waas just ahead of Oduro and Albright intercepted for a corner. Minutes later the same trio was again on the counter but Nyarko couldn’t spot Grazzini sprinting down the left. Yet another counter in the 40th minute nearly led to the Fire doubling their lead as only a goal line clearance by Albright prevented Oduro from making it 2-0 after skipping around an onrushing MacGrath.
Overall, the Fire have dominated play and look solid in defense as well. Tornaghi has had just one save to make off the corner and the Fire have had the freedom of attacking at will during this first half. The Fire could so easily be ahead by more than 1-0, but the second half promises plenty more attacking play and, hopefully, a few more goals.
Second half analysis:
Despite dominating almost the entire match, no one was breathing easy until the final whistle. Time and time again the Fire should’ve doubled their lead but poor finishing and execution in the final third ensured it was a nervy final few minutes. Paolo Tornaghi earned the Fire fans their free Aldi milk with several top saves in the second half, further enhancing his growing reputation in these parts. By the time 90+ minutes was up, the Fire were grateful for the first three points of the season but well aware they should have put the game to bed as early as the first half.
Pappa was very impressive tonight. Apart from a few wayward passes early in the first half, he has combined well with the rest of the Fire attack and has given several Union defenders a run around at times. After assisting the opening goal, the midfielder was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself in the 66th minute after thumping a shot off the right post. Following a dismal performance last weekend, Pappa looks to have found his form. Now can he keep it though?
Sebastian Grazzini also impressed in midfield with a dominating performance. The Argentinean pulled the strings for the Fire throughout the night and was always at the center of the Fire’s counter attacks. Captain Logan Pause also put in a workmanlike shift in the middle of the park and was heavily involved on both ends of the pitch, even scuffling out a 3 vs. 1 Philadelphia counter attack midway through the second half.
Elsewhere, Oduro put in an absolutely tremendous shift at center forward. A goal was the least of what he deserved having run the Union defense inside out throughout the match. A second goal should’ve been in the bag in the 89th minute after being sent through on goal, but MacGrath guessed correctly to save the Ghanaian’s low shot.
So with so many positive performances tonight, who gets Man of the Match? My vote has to go to Marco Pappa. He was a nightmare for Philadelphia down the right wing and his play down the right before crossing for Oduro was worthy of a dozen replays. In the end, a great overall performance which will hopefully carry through to the next several matches for the Fire.