CHESTER, Pa.– The Chicago Fire aren't delivering quite as many dramatic last-minute comebacks as the San Jose Earthquakes, but when it comes to coming back to win games they have trailed in, the Fire have been as good as any team in MLS this year.
The Fire pulled off their latest comeback on Sunday night, erasing a 1-0 deficit with three unanswered goals to knock off Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia, 3-1, at PPL Park.
Chris Rolfe scored a pair of goals to help the Fire move past D.C. United into fourth place in the East, just three points behind second-place New York. The defeat was a crushing one for the Union, who now sit 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Union started off brightly in the first half, testing Chicago's defense and knocking the ball around well, but some there were some early signs that the Fire would cause problems for the Union defense, which played without All-Star centerback Carlos Valdes, who is on national team duty with Colombia. Bakary Soumare made his debut for the Union starting in place of Valdes, but even the presence of the 6-foot-4 centerback couldn't keep the Union defense from being overrun.
Freddy Adu helped give the Union a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute when he floated in a long cross into the penalty area that knocked off Fire defender Jalil Anibaba and into the net for an own goal.
The Union held the lead for just nine minutes before Rolfe and Arne Friedrich scored goals just before halftime to take the lead for good. Rolfe re-directed a Sherjill McDonald cross to tie the score before Friedrich beat Ray Gaddis to head home a Pappa corner kick.
Union head coach John Hackworth responded to the deficit by making the curious decision of removing Adu and inserting Antoine Hoppenot, a move that gave the team some attacking energy, but also took away the team's creativity.
With the Philadelphia attack failing to connect, the Fire took control and created a plethora of chances. Rolfe provided the insurance goal in the 56th minute when he beat Zac MacMath with a hard shot from 18 yards out to make the final score 3-1.
Soumare made his first MLS appearance since 2009, and he showed the rust to be expected for a player who was recovering from a knee injury and a lengthy layoff from regular playing time.
One player who did look sharp was Fire forward Sherjill McDonald, who troubled the Union with his quickness and movement. The designated player showed improvement from previous appearances since signing with the Fire last month.
The loss snapped a four-game home winning streak for the Union, who gave up three goals for the first time since a 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls on May 13th.
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had a relatively easy night in his final match before joining the U.S. United national team for its match against Mexico on Wednesday.
Valdes wasn't the only Union player missing due to national team duty. Gabriel Gomez was with the Panamanian national team ahead of its upcoming friendly.