The weather outside was frightful, but the Chicago Fire finally have a win in 2016.
The Fire beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Saturday at Toyota Park. It was the Fire's first win of the season.
Kennedy Igboananike scored the match's only goal in the 51st minute, just a few minutes after Philadelphia's Warren Creavalle was sent off for a harsh tackle from behind on Razvan Cocis.
With strong wind, occasional snow and cold temperatures, some fans from Section 8 started singing "Let It Snow" with some help from a trumpeter. The conditions definitely impacted the fans in the stands, but the field remained in decent shape when the snow wasn't swirling over the field.
The win gave the Fire (1-1-2, 5 points) the first win under first-year coach Veljko Paunovic.
“It means a lot for me and for this locker room, who works very hard so far," Paunovic said. "I think winning this game gave us more confidence now and believe we are on a good path, which we always knew that we were."
The game could have gone very differently with the Union (2-2, 6 points) hitting the goal frame three times in the match. Union forward C.J. Sapong headed off the crossbar in the 29th minute and drilled a shot off the post in the 41st minute.
Meanwhile, the Fire were unable to put a shot on goal in the first half.
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Early in the second half a long shot from Ilsinho went through goalkeeper Matt Lampson's hands and ricocheted off the bar. A minute later Creavalle was sent off with a red card and the match changed almost immediately. Creavalle had picked up a yellow card in the first half.
“The sending off obviously changes the game," Union coach Jim Curtin said. “We talked about to Warren about being careful and not leaving his feet so a little bit silly in the area of the field. I think he should just let him turn there and we live to fight another day.”
It took less than five minutes for the Fire to turn the man-advantage into a lead. Michael Harrington slotted a pass in the box to Igboananike, who was able to quickly turn and slide a low shot just inside the far post.
“That’s a really, really good finish to turn and quickly shoot it like that," Fire midfielder Michael Stephens said. "It was a good team goal and it came off a big sequence of passing, which is something we worked on this week.”
The Fire held on for a second straight shutout at home while returning to a four-man back line. Harrington returned from his red card suspension to take Brandon Vincent's spot at left back. Rodrigo Ramos earned his second straight start at right back and Jonathan Campbell paired with Johan Kappelhof at centerback. Campbell's start is a sign that he may have passed up Joao Meira, who played every minute of the Fire's first three matches, on the depth chart in Paunovic's mind.
“I think it’s gotten better every week," Kappelhof said. "We train hard and we communicate good. It’s getting better. We are improving. We are not there yet, but we are working hard.”
Next up for the Fire is an April 10 match at New York City FC, who beat the Fire 4-3 in the season opener at Toyota Park.