Union rescue victory from Chicago Fire, 4-3

The Union beat the Fire 4-3 on the strength of a David Accam game-winner and a Cory Burke brace in Chicago on Wedneday evening.

Haris Medunjanin also tallied for the Union. Alexsandar Katai scored a goal and drew a penalty for the Fire, while Bastian Schweinsteiger scored a would-be equalizer in stoppage.

Union lineup: Blake; Gaddis, Trusty, McKenzie, Rosenberry; Bedoya, Medunjanin; Picault, Dockal, Ilsinho; Burke

Fire lineup: Sanchez; Ellis, Campbell, Kappelhof, Corrales; Bronico, McCarty, Schweinsteiger; Katai, Nikolic, Campos

The Union and Fire started slowly, with the Union pressing and the Fire having problems getting the ball out of the back. Richard Sanchez, the Fire keeper, had trouble handling the ball all night, only compounding Chicago’s buildup problems. After a couple of collisions with Cory Burke, Chicago defender Kevin Ellis couldn’t continue and Elliot Collier came on in the thirteenth. Just four minutes later, Ilsinho was forced to leave with an upper leg injury and was replaced with former Fire mainstay David Accam, who received a round of warm applause as he made his return in front of the fans for which he did so much. If only they knew what was to transpire…

It was the Union who got on board first. Haris Medunjanin came out of a scrum at the top of the Fire box with the ball, walking in on Sanchez and placing the ball in the lower right corner to break the ice just after the half hour mark. Things were looking good despite the lack of possession for the Union when Mark McKenzie rashly took down Katai in the box in the thirty-eighth. Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic converted the chance, pounding the ball into the upper right corner, giving Blake no chance even though he guessed correctly. What looked like to be another blown chance to go into the room with the lead at half was suddenly rectified as Fafa Picault sent a lofted cross to the far post in first half stoppage and Cory Burke rose above everyone and headed the ball into the net with authority to give the Union a 2-1 advantage at the half. For his part, Picault caused havoc most of the match with his speed, beating defenders and sending in crosses for Union runners to get onto all night.

The second half saw the Fire come out with a sense of urgency, pressing higher up the field and pressuring the Union. As a result, the Union had chances going the other way, but it was the Fire who scored next. Katai got the ball at the top of the box at the left corner, took a couple touches across the top of the box, and let loose with a hard, low, bending shot that skipped off the turf and beat Blake, nestling into the corner of the net in the sixty-ninth minute, just moments after Warren Creavalle came on for Borek Dockal to strengthen the defense.

Undeterred, the Union struck back soon after. Sanchez’s poor ball-handling finally bit him as Accam ran down the right side and put a low, hard shot on the keeper. Sanchez spilled it and Cory Burke was there to get a knee onto it and put it into the net for a 3-2 Union lead in the seventy-third minute and his first brace in a Union kit. Surely, the Union could hang on, right? Ah, not so fast. Following C.J. Sapong’s entrance into the match for Cory Burke and subsequently taking two blows to the head (including the second one in stoppage time), the Fire found themselves with a corner kick at what was supposedly the death. There were three minutes of stoppage added, and the corner came at the three minute mark, finding Schweinsteiger unmarked in the box for a simple header to equalize in the Union’s latest “that’s so Union” moment.

The referee said play on, however; Sapong had been down for a while in stoppage and time was being added on. Enter David Accam, who split two Fire players at the top of the box and put a perfect low curved shot into the far corner past a helpless Sanchez to make it 4-3 Union and wrest all three points back for the boys in blue. The goal, which was Accam’s first league goal for the Union in a tough year for him, caused him to tear his uniform off and celebrate in what was clearly a mix of jubilation and relief that his slump was over while Sanchez lay on the ground, face down in dejection. The rest of the team soon followed Accam, sure to celebrate the three points that were on the plane and heading back to Chester.

Notes: Cory Burke now has four goals in three starts for the Union. With the win, the Union jump into a tie for sixth place with Montreal, who lost 3-0 to NYCFC tonight. With an easy save in the first half, Andre Blake passed Zac MacMath for the Union all-time record in saves.

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