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It looks like there’s nothing better to wipe away the bitterness of a tough result than playing the Chicago Fire.
Fresh off their most lopsided defeat of the season – a 4-1 setback to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday – the Philadelphia Union picked up a 1-0 win over the Fire on Saturday for the second time in eight days.
And while the loss to the two-time defending champion Galaxy shows that the Union probably still have a long way to go before they are title contenders, the two straight shutout wins over lowly Chicago proves they certainly know how to take care of business against teams beneath them in the standings.
In this week’s “Inside Doop,” we take a closer look at the week that was for the Union, as well as what to expect in the week ahead.
Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. What more can we say about Jack McInerney at this point? The 20-year-old star not only netted his eighth goal of the season – two ahead of anyone else in the league – he was also all over the place on the field, even making a couple of important defensive plays and tracking back into the midfield to help Philly secure the win. And after scoring on a Sebastien Le Toux pass for the third time this season, he continues to show that he can do a lot of damage whether he’s paired with Le Toux or Conor Casey up top. McInerney wasn’t able to score in the midweek game against the Galaxy but Landon Donovan and other L.A. stars commented beforehand that the 20-year-old is a unique and special talent. It’s crazy to think that last year at this time McInerney wasn’t even cracking the 18-man roster.
2. Following Wednesday’s loss to the Galaxy, Union manager John Hackworth and some players were quick to come to the defense of Zac MacMath, even though the goalkeeper surrendered four goals, including an own goal. Perhaps that helped the 21-year-old bounce back with his second straight six-save shutout against the Fire. Truthfully, this past week is probably what you have to expect from a young goalkeeper: great games sandwiched around an ugly one. But the fact that everyone is sticking by him though the good times and the bad is important for his maturity and development.
3. After enjoying a terrific starting debut Wednesday, Jose Kléberson wasn’t quite as effective in Saturday’s game. But that’s probably to be expected since he only had four days to rest between his first two starts. More importantly, the high-priced Brazilian seemed to bring out the best in fellow midfielders Brian Carroll and Michael Farfan. Perhaps those three paired together, along with Le Toux or Danny Cruz on one of the wings, could be the recipe for success to the Union’s midfield woes.
Three questions for the week ahead
1. Center back Jeff Parke was one of the team’s most valuable players before missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. Considering Hackworth said he was a full practice participant this past week, Parke figures to return to the lineup when the Union cross the border and play Montreal this Saturday (7 p.m., The Comcast Network). But where does that leave Bakary Soumare, who filled in admirably this past week and enjoyed what was easily his best game as a member of the Union two days ago? It seems likely Soumare will return to the bench but it also seems doubtful Hackworth will continue to shop him (as he was earlier in the season on Soumare’s request), especially when you consider that Parke or fellow center back Amobi Okugo could be called up to the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup in July.
2. One intriguing storyline to watch in this Saturday’s clash is the matchup of McInerney and Montreal Impact striker Marco Di Vaio. Both are among the leaders in the MLS Golden Boot race, with McInerney in first and Di Vaio tied for second with six goals. Of course, Di Vaio is 16 years older than McInerney and has played for 10 more teams than the 20-year-old during a long and illustrious career. But, hey, that’s what it makes it so intriguing.
3. One non-Union game to keep your eye on the week is the matchup between Union affiliates Reading United AC and the Harrisburg City Islanders on Tuesday in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. The fact that both of Philly’s affiliates are playing each other this early in the prestigious tournament is far from ideal, but we can still get a good look as to what’s cooking with the local lower-division clubs.
Stat of the week
Le Toux is tied for first in MLS with five other players with four assists and is second in assists per 90 minutes.
Quote of the week
“It’s encouraging for all of us that care about the game,” – Donovan, on McInerney’s breakout season.
Player of the week
Kleberson made the most of his two starts this week and could be the answer the Union are looking for in the central midfield.