Pressure starting to mount for Union after third defeat?

This is certainly not the start Peter Nowak wanted for his club.

But even after the Philadelphia Union lost their third straight game to open the 2012 season – a 1-0 road setback to the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening – the Philly manager bemoaned nothing but the team’s lack of finishing.

“It’s never easy to be in the situation we are after three games,” Nowak said, "but I think from last week to this week, we played much better. We need to be more opportunistic.”

Full Highlights: CHI 1, PHI 0

Indeed, aside from a pair of well-struck free kicks from midfielder Gabriel Gómez in the final 10 minutes, the Union struggled to create many scoring opportunities, which doomed them to another zero-point night.

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But, if nothing else, Nowak appeared pleased with his team’s effort, as well as the job second-year goalkeeper Zac MacMath and a makeshift backline did against Chicago’s speed and creativity.

With starting defenders Sheanon Williams (Olympic qualifying) and Danny Califf (offseason knee surgery) both out, the Union started with a three-man backline featuring Carlos Valdés, Porfirio López and Chris Albright, the latter of who prevented further damage with a clear off the goal line in the first half.

The Union were also without starting midfielder Freddy Adu, who is captaining the US U-23 team during Olympic qualifying.

“I don’t think overall we had any kind of problems,” Nowak said. “The only thing missing right now is the results.”

MacMath – who has shown flashes of brilliance mixed in with a couple of key gaffes so far this season – had another up-and-down game, finishing with four saves, including a big stop on a counterattack in the 89th minute but allowing a Dominic Oduro first-half goal.

The Union ’keeper said he was disappointed not to get a hand on that Oduro header but, like his coach, expressed optimism about the rest of the season.

“I think we showed a lot of heart tonight and we were very unfortunate not to come away with a tie or even a win,” MacMath said. “I think in the locker room we all looked at each other like we know we can fight for each other.”

The Union’s next chance to get their first point of the 2012 season comes next weekend against ex-Union standout Sébastien Le Toux and the Vancouver Whitecaps in a game that is important for many reasons.

“You always want to get three points and, right now, we need three points more than ever,” said Gabriel Farfan, who linked up well with Keon Daniel on the left side of the pitch. “But we don’t feel the pressure too much. Obviously there is [pressure], but I think all of the guys in the locker room can handle it.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.