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Fire, Union settle for point in dramatic draw in Philadelphia

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Fire, Union settle for point in dramatic draw in Philadelphia

Whether Sunday night's match will be slammed as a spurned chance or an impressive resurgence come late October - when the playoff picture is cemented - may be up for debate.

What is certain, though, is that after recording a 3-3 draw away to a Philadelphia Union team that had secured their passage to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final four days prior, the Fire would've certainly preferred to walk away with all three points from PPL Park.

"Three points are vital at this point in the season, but you take what you get and to be honest, a point was good for us to get with the chances that Philadelphia had," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. "It's a tough place to come after a disappointing game Wednesday night. That was very tough and our guys dug deep and got something out of the match in the end."

The Men in Red faced adversity once more: showing the pluck and mettle that was nonexistent in recent matches; seeing their second-half lead quelled and ultimately settling for a road point against Jim Curtin's side. A Patrick Nyarko strike, supplemented by Kennedy Igboananike's two goals and backed by Sean Johnson's heroic performance helped the Fire salvage a result from an absorbing, back-and-forth and end-to-end encounter that left Yallop's group rooted to the foot of the Eastern Conference table on 23 points, five back of a playoff spot heading into the final third of the MLS regular season.  

[RELATED: Fire look to offset USOC loss with league result vs. Union]

Yallop made four changes from the side that fell to the Union midweek, giving Matt Polster, Harry Shipp and David Accam a rest, with Michael Stephens, Nyarko and Igboananike taking their place, respectively. Shaun Maloney reverted to a wider role, while Igboananike partnered Jason Johnson - who replaced the injured Gilberto - up front.    

The Fire (6-12-5, 23 points) were hoping to rebound following their exit at the semifinal stage of the Open Cup midweek and procure anything and everything they could from their second straight bout with the Union (6-13-6, 24 points). Despite conceding an early goal in the first half, the Union forced Johnson into making eight spectacular saves - many of them late on - and were perhaps unfortunate to see just three goals ripple the back of the net on the night.

First half proceedings saw both sides struggle to grasp a firm foothold before Jason Johnson released Patrick Nyarko down the right flank. The Ghanaian whipped in a ball to an onrushing Igboananike in the six-yard box for the redirect, which skipped past Union 'keeper John McCarthy in the 10th minute.

Despite gathering some steam and retaining possession, the Fire fell victim to another set piece, their seventh of the season. Cristian Maidana's corner-kick delivery in the 21st minute found Fernando Aristeguieta, who got in front of Lovel Palmer and poked past Johnson to level the score at 1-1.

Ten minutes later, Maidana, who had tormented the Fire defense frequently during the Open Cup semifinal, pounced on a loose ball in the Union's defensive half and was sent on the counter attack, eventually picking out a streaking Fabinho on the left side. After cutting in on Palmer to his right foot, the Brazilian unleashed a sizzling shot that deflected off the Jamaican's foot and past a helpless Johnson to give the hosts a 2-1 lead heading into the halftime interval.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]

After latching onto Nyarko's service for the opening goal, Igboananike turned provider in the 54th minute, taking Union defender Ray Gaddis to the end line before sliding the ball across the face of goal to an unmarked Nyarko at the back post, who notched his second goal of the year to level the match at 2-2.

The frenetic pace of the match reared its head late on, with Johnson earning full marks. A double save to deny Maidana and C.J. Sapong in the 81st minute, and again four minutes from time, batting away efforts from Brian Carroll and Sébastien Le Toux.

Le Toux's persistency paid dividends, rolling a shot past the outstretch arms of Johnson in the 90th minute with what was sure to be the game-winner, but Igboananike scored deep into stoppage time to help the Fire emerge with a point. Next up for the Fire is their final cross-conference clash of the campaign, which pits them against the Colorado Rapids at Toyota Park on Saturday.

"That was big time from Kennedy," Johnson said. "I'm happy for him. I think the confidence that that pumps into those guys, especially going forward in this last stretch, we really need to press. We have two home games coming up that are big for us and we'll need those guys to step up. And not just them, but across the pitch. Everybody has another gear, including myself, and we can really push ourselves to get to that point and really make these last 11 games meaningful for our club." 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko (Mike Magee, 84'), Razvan Cocis (Matt Polster, 74'), Michael Stephens, Shaun Maloney (Harry Shipp, 68'); Kennedy Igboananike, Jason Johnson.

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

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@JTHAZZARD

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

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USA TODAY

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.