BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – In a battle of youth vs. experience on Saturday night at Toyota Park, the cohesive Chicago Fire beat the severely short-handed Philadelphia Union 1-0.
With the Union missing three players to Olympic qualifying duty and captain Danny Califf to injury, the Fire provided most of the scoring chances in their home-opener, including Dominic Oduro’s 28th-minute goal.
Fire coach Frank Klopas started the same lineup as he did in last week’s 1-1 tie against Montreal, and all 10 field players were regular starters in last year’s impressive season-ending run.
The Fire controlled the game in the first half, taking nine shots to the Union’s two. Oduro put Chicago on the board in the 28th minute of the game, heading home a Marco Pappa pass after Pappa drew cheers from the crowd for his nifty footwork up the right sideline.
Oduro nearly doubled his total in the 40th minute, when he collected a through pass from Patrick Nyarko before veering around goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Oduro was forced to shoot from a sharp angle and Union defender Chris Albright was able to clear the ball off the line.
Early in the second half, Pappa made the Union defense sweat, smacking a hard shot against outside of the post.
Despite the disparity in scoring chances, the Union surged ahead in the final 10 minutes of the match and nearly leveled the score in the 82nd minute, when Gabriel Gómez’s 25-yard free kick was parried away by goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi.
Two minutes later, Gómez again lined up a free kick from the corner of the penalty area. Tornaghi was caught out of position while several players crashed the goal, but the Italian was able to make a fingertip save.
With the Union pressing, Oduro sprung through the Union defense twice, but one breakaway shot was saved by MacMath and the other opportunity ended with an errant pass.
For the Fire, who won just one of their first 11 home games last season, Saturday's victory already matches that total. Chicago next head west to face the Colorado Rapids on April 1 (7 pm ET, Galavisión).
The loss for the Union, meanwhile, means the team is still without a single point through three games. They'll next have a chance to get on the board when they host the Vancouver Whitecaps at PPL Park on March 31 (4 pm ET, MLS Live).
FULL HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago 1, Philadelphia 0