Chicago Fire

Union beat Fire, extend Eastern Conference lead

USA Today Images/Bill Streicher

Union beat Fire, extend Eastern Conference lead


CHESTER, Pa. — Marco Fabian and Anthony Fontana scored and the Philadelphia Union beat the Chicago Fire 2-0 on Saturday night to increase their Eastern Conference lead.

Fabian opened the scoring for the Union (11-6-6) in the 12th minute with a low-driving right-footed blast into the left corner from long distance. The 19-year-old Fontana entered as a substitute in the 61st minute and scored in a deflection four minutes later.

The Fire (5-10-8) extended their winless streak to four games.

Fabinho, Union aim for redemption in 3rd Open Cup final

USA Today Images

Fabinho, Union aim for redemption in 3rd Open Cup final

CHESTER, Pa. — Fabinho cringed at the memory. 

“I remember it because I put everything into it,” the veteran left back said, recalling the 1-1 (7-6) penalty kick defeat to Sporting Kansas City in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup final. “My wife tried to help me but I cried for three days in a row.” 

It’s a common sentiment for those that recall the Union’s back-to-back 2014 and 2015 Open Cup final losses. But after taking down the Chicago Fire, 3-0, in the Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday at Talen Energy Stadium (see observations), the opportunity to cure that misery has presented itself for the club.

“To be honest, there’s still a bitter taste in my mouth,” said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who, along with Ray Gaddis and Richie Marquez, also lost to the Seattle Sounders, 3-1, in 2014. “We’ve been there two years in a row. I think this time, the third time, hopefully we can get it right.”

Reaching the final again presents a unique situation for the Union, who will see their third appearance in five seasons. The two infamous losses were at home, but the next one will be away — the Union’s first away match of the tournament. 

“Any time a different team comes in your home ground and gets to celebrate and you have to watch them, it’s always a horrible feeling,” said Blake, whose club faces the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. “We get a chance to go somewhere else and celebrate on someone else’s pitch. It’s gonna be great. I think all the guys are looking forward to it.”

They’re also looking to avoid infamy. Three final losses in five years would make the Union the Buffalo Bills of the modern Open Cup, something they’d desperately like to avoid. 

“Don’t say that,” Union manager Jim Curtin shot out, when presented with the possibility of becoming the Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls. “We’ve had about as heartbreaking of losses as we could’ve had in those two. I still believe it makes you stronger. Certain types of people that would say, I don’t want to get to a final game because you could have that Buffalo Bills thing come up. But you can’t operate like that in life. You have to go for it.”

It’s that hungry-dog mentality that could give the Union the edge — and first-ever trophy.

“In soccer, to have a chance to be champions, you cannot lose,” Fabinho said. “You have to play like it’s the last game of your life. That’s how we have to treat anyone we play against. Everybody has to have this mentality to win it this year.”

Cory Burke, Alejandro Bedoya lead Union back to U.S. Open Cup final

USA Today Images

Cory Burke, Alejandro Bedoya lead Union back to U.S. Open Cup final

CHESTER, Pa. — For the third time in five seasons, the Union are headed to the U.S. Open Cup final. 

With the go-ahead goal and insurance from forward Cory Burke, the Union outlasted the Chicago Fire to take the semifinals matchup, 3-0, on a balmy Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

The Union, who are 0-2 in final appearances — both at home — will hit the road for their third to face the winner of LAFC-Houston Dynamo at either Banc of California Stadium or BBVA Compass Stadium. 

• In the 60th minute, Burke found the net off a beautiful give-and-go from Alejandro Bedoya and Borek Dockal. The captain chipped the final pass over the Fire’s defensive back and to Burke, who gathered and placed a shot past Richard Sanchez for the crucial 1-0 Union lead.

• Matching up with the Fire, who defeated Louisville City FC to advance, was a beneficial draw. The Union entered the match 2-0-0 against the Fire, with a 3-1 win at home on May 30, and a dramatic, last-second, 4-3 win at Toyota Park on July 11. They added another on Wednesday.

• In the 78th minute, after a heat-induced water break, Burke nabbed his second. He took a pass at the top of the box, split two Fire defenders with ease and played a right-footed shot past Sanchez for the 2-0 lead. It was also assisted by Bedoya.

• Union attacker Fafa Picault put a nail in the contest in the 86th minute by dishing to Sapong for the tap-in. Now down 3-0, the Fire were visibly gassed and defeated. 

• Center defender Jack Elliott made the start for Mark McKenzie, who was sidelined with a knee contusion. Elliott was his typically sound self to preserve the shutout. You can tell the Union feel safe with him in the back. 

• Andre Blake was also solid when he needed to be, earning the one save shutout. 

• In the 17th minute, Haris Medunjanin nearly collected the goal of the season. Outside the box, the veteran ripped a golazo-style free kick that curled inside and beat Sanchez, but plunked off the crossbar. 

• Outside of Medunjanin’s attempt, it wasn’t the most thrilling first half with both clubs appearing sluggish at times. The Union finished the stanza with nine shots, one on target. The second half was completely different, as all seven of the Union's second-half shots went on frame.