The Chicago Fire used Dominic Oduro’s 28th minute header to open their 15th MLS home campaign with a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union in front of 18,075 Saturday night at Toyota Park.
Bolstered by the electric home crowd, the Fire threatened first in the 14th minute when defender Cory Gibbs’ long ball out of the back was brought down by striker Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian took a touch and played it into the path of the charging Sebastian Grazzini who broke into the box before sending a blistering effort that Union goalkeeper Zach MacMath parried away.
The Union nearly found themselves ahead four minutes later when Roger Torres’ in-swinging corner kick from the left sent goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi backtracking towards his line before palming the effort over the bar.
The Fire would find the go-ahead goal in the 28th minute when midfielder Marco Pappa took the ball to the right sideline, before juking Gabriel Gomez and Roger Torres on the dribble. The Guatemalan international took a step towards the box before a driven left footed cross found the head of Dominic Oduro who powered his effort past MacMath and inside the near post.
The Men in Red nearly doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Pappa forced a turnover inside the Fire half. Pappa played a short ball for Nyarko who touched it into space before putting Oduro towards goal. MacMath came off his line to cut Oduro’s angle before his acute shot was cleared off the line by Chris Albright, leaving the Fire to settle for a 1-0 halftime lead.
Pappa nearly opened his 2012 account in the 66th minute, starting a play on the left before sliding the ball to Nyarko. The Ghanaian chipped a cross that Union defender Carlos Valdes headed into Pappa’s path. The Guatemalan international took a touch into the box before rocketing a blast off the right post.
With the Union still looking to earn a point, it was Tornaghi who twice came up big on two Philadelphia free kicks in the waning moments of the match.
The first came in the 82nd minute when Gomez’ driving effort through traffic saw the Italian ‘keeper punch the ball in the air before collecting the follow-up.
The Union earned another dangerous free kick to the right of the Fire goal two minutes later. Gomez again took the opportunity but his bending effort towards the back post was denied by an outstretched Tornaghi, whose late efforts earned him Miller Lite Man of the Match.
The Fire nearly grabbed an icing goal in the 88th minute when substitute midfielder Daniel Paladini picked up a loose ball in the back and played ahead for Nyarko. The Ghanaian attacker collected and entered the Union half where he found his countryman Oduro striding towards goal. Oduro collected before firing a low effort that MacMath sprawled out for, leaving the Fire with a 1-0 Opening Night victory.