CHESTER, Pa. – There was a sequence midway through the second half of Saturday’s game pitting the Philadelphia Union against the Chicago Fire when Philly attempted four consecutive corner kicks.
At that point, the important Eastern Conference battle was tied 1-1, the Union had all of the momentum, and PPL Park was as loud as it had been all night.
But in what turned out to be one of the biggest moments of the evening, the Fire protected their net from a desperate Union onslaught, before getting a late Mike Magee goal to escape with a 2-1 win.
“You could feel the momentum from the crowd,” Union defender Amobi Okugo said. “I had a chance, Conor [Casey] had a chance, [Jeff] Parke had a chance. And, you know, those are the times we need to capitalize. Lucky for them, they were focused.”
All four of the corner kicks, served up by Sebastien Le Toux, proved to be dangerous, none more so than the second one when Okugo put a terrific header on net. But Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made a leaping save, getting one hand on the shot to tip it over the bar.
“We were talking before and I was joking with him that I was going to celebrate hard if I scored on him,” Okugo said. “And he didn’t let that happen.”
Philly’s next best chance came moments later when Parke had a volley saved off the line by Alex. And then, with the entire crowd on its feet, leading scorer Jack McInerney headed the fourth and final corner kick over the bar as his goalless drought extended to six games.
“The way I was thinking about it was one of these have to go in,” said Union right back Sheanon Williams, who had scored the equalizer a few minutes earlier. “I thought we would maybe sneak one in.
“It’s frustrating,” Williams added. “We’re at home. We had a chance to kind of put them out of the picture and get them off our back. And we did the opposite of that.”
Union manager John Hackworth was pleased with the sequence and how it came about, even if his team couldn’t find the back of the net. The biggest problem for him was with the rest of the game, when the Union allowed the Fire to dictate play on Philly's home turf.
“It was not our best night, in any way, shape or form,” Hackworth said. “We started off poorly and got back into the game a little bit. But big picture, that’s not the kind of soccer we want to play.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.