With the recent departure of Vincent Nogueira, the Philadelphia Union needed a spark of inspiration in midfield.
Enter Roland Alberg.
The Dutch newcomer bagged a hat trick in just his fifth MLS start, plus created an own goal, to power the Union past a ragged but relentless Chicago Fire side 4-3 in a wild affair at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday night.
Chicago snatched a very early lead via a blazing-fast solo run by David Accam, the club's fastest goal of the season to date. But the home side quickly equalized via an Alberg shot that ping-ponged off both the post and goalkeeper Sean Johnson before Jonathan Campbell got the final touch to earn an unfortunate own goal.
Alberg then reeled off three unanswered goals on either side of halftime, the final one from the penalty spot, to give Philly what looked like a comfortable 4-1 lead.
The Fire refused to lay down, however, as Razvan Cocis, then Khaly Thiam found the net to set up a tense finish. That rally fell short in the end, as the Eastern Conference-leading Union extended their strong start to the season while last-place Chicago fell further off the pace.
- 2' - CHI - David Accam
- 11' - PHI - Jonathan Campbell (OG)
- 11' - PHI - Roland Alberg (Fabian Herbers)
- 45+2' - PHI - Roland Alberg
- 56' - PHI - Roland Alberg (PK)
- 69' - CHI - Razvan Cocis (Rodrigo Ramos)
- 80' - CHI - Khaly Thiam (John Goossens)
- Full box score
- Watch highlights
1. ALBERG, ALL THE TIME: Some Union fans have been clamoring for coach Jim Curtin to let their offseason Dutch acquisition off the leash to see what he's got, and on this evidence, he's got quite a lot. Alberg was dynamic and opportunistic against Chicago, ranging from box to box and directing six of his seven shots on target...and the other one clanged off the woodwork and eventually made its way into the net for Campbell's own goal.
2. PLUCKY, UNLUCKY FIRE: In some ways this is just another hard-luck result for the Men in Red. It's unfair to write them off yet, though: On this occasion they were sloppy in defense, but resilient and hard-working as a group, as their late rally showed. The match stats were generally balanced between the two sides; the Fire do need to get more touches for their quicksilver strike duo of Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, however.
3. HERBERS STYLE: The Union got this win without muscular target man CJ Sapong, who continues to heal an ankle injury. Rookie Fabian Herbers is a different type of No. 9 from Sapong, and possibly a useful alternative in certain situations. He wasn't at his sharpest against the Fire, but his movement was clever and bodes well for his team's depth and flexibility.
- PHI: Saturday vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (7 pm ET, TSN, MLS LIVE)
- CHI: Tuesday vs. Columbus (US Open Cup, 8:30 pm ET, YouTube)