By: Todd Kurpel
In a match, held Saturday, September 11th, that the Chicago Fire needed to win to keep its playoff hopes alive, it was the Philadelphia Union that walked away with the three points. With the 1-0 victory, backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton helped the Union record the team’s first shutout in franchise history.
One of the main stories of the Union’s expansion season has been inconsistent goal play, with Chris Seitz recording the majority of the minutes in goal. Seitz has looked solid at times, but there have been a number of instances where careless goalkeeping mistakes have lead to preventable goals. In the only other match that Knighton has started this year, he was sent off the pitch after receiving a red card in the early part of the first half in a match against FC Dallas. The Union were never able to get back into the match after Knighton’s mistake forced the team to play a man down, and the Union ended up losing 3-1.[picappgallerysingle id=”9737863″]
An impressive display by Knighton against Chivas de Guadalajara in an international friendly on September 1st perhaps gave Union Team Manager Peter Novak the confidence to rest Seitz and start the backup against the Fire. The decision turned out to be the right one, as Knighton looked confident in goal and was able to prevent the Fire from getting on the scoreboard. The Fire, perhaps finding themselves tired due to injuries to key starters, and also the team was playing their third match in a week, were not able to get into any type of offensive rhythm for most of the first half. A couple of changes in the second half helped pick up some momentum for Chicago, but were unable to score. The Fire’s best chance came in the 76th minute when second half substitution Calen Carr found himself wide open in front of the goal, but was unable to score as his header of a Mike Banner cross was sent over the bar.
While the Union’s expansion season has in part been defined by inconsistent goal play, it could also be said that the season has shown the emergence of Sebastien Le Toux as a star. Le Toux provided the game’s only goal, his eleventh of the season, in the 36th minute. The goal was set up when Alejandro Moreno lobbed a ball into the Chicago defense. Fire defender Dasan Robinson tried to clear, but instead the ball was sent directly into the chest of Justin Mapp. With the shift in momentum, Mapp spotted a streaking Le Toux and led him with a pass that put the forward in a position with only the goalkeeper Sean Johnson to beat. As he has done all season, Le Toux did not waste the opportunity and rifled a right foot shot into the lower left hand corner past Johnson. The eleventh goal puts Le Toux two behind LA Galaxy’s Edson Buddle and one behind New York Red Bulls Juan Pablo Angel in the race for the 2010 Budweiser Golden Boot. In addition, Le Toux is only two behind Landon Donovan for the lead in assists.
The Philadelphia will next travel to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes on Wednesday, while the Fire will travel to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake next Saturday.