The Union beat the Chicago Fire, 2-0, on Saturday at Soldier Field for their first regular-season win of the season. Cory Burke and Jakob Glesnes scored the goals, both in the second half.
Here are some observations on the game.
Jack McGlynn’s first start
The biggest news of the day was the 17-year-old rookie getting the call to start in central midfield after four appearances as a substitute so far for the Union (1-2-1, 4 points). He looked up to the moment, and the Fire’s apparent belief that they could ignore him was quickly proven wrong.
Twice in the first 15 minutes, McGlynn found himself wide open on the left side of the field when Olivier Mbaizo was serving crosses from the right. Both opportunities turned into shots for McGlynn that were blocked by last-ditch Chicago defending.
McGlynn ended up playing 62 minutes before being subbed out for Anthony Fontana. He recorded 32 touches, three shots, seven duels won, four recoveries, three blocks, and one tackle, and completed 13 of 16 passes. That’s a fine performance for a first professional start.
Olivier Mbaizo was unstoppable
You could make a pretty good case that he was the Union’s man of the match. Chicago had no answer for his attacks down the right flank. In 79 minutes on the field, Mbaizo’s stat line included 68 touches, two chances created, five duels won, nine recoveries, and 22-of-36 passing.
Jakob Glesnes was everywhere
Here might really be the man-of-the-match winner. In addition to scoring the second goal, he was a force on defense: 11 recoveries, five clearances, four duels won, two interceptions, and one tackle. He also completed 24 of 35 passes.
The Przybylko-Burke striker duo
Though the Union won this game comprehensively, they did not answer a question that has loomed increasingly large over this season.
We know the talents that Kacper Przybylko and Cory Burke have separately, but they haven’t looked great playing together this year. The first half was another example. Though the Union took nine shots in the half, Burke had just one of them and Przybylko had none.
Burke’s goal at the start of the second half was well-taken, and well-set up by Jamiro Monteiro’s delightful chipped pass backward from near the end line. But because it came off a set piece, it didn’t show us whose job is it to do something Sergio Santos is really good at: break open an opposing back line when the team is in transition.
When Santos charges forward and creates gaps in a defense, Przybylko or Burke runs into those gaps and receive crosses. And when the big men are holding the ball up, Santos makes off-the-ball runs into open space created by collapsing defenders.
Manager Jim Curtin acknowledged after the game that this is an issue, and had a fair response to it: His team’s schedule has been so packed that there hasn’t been enough time for regular practices.
“All we’re doing right now is playing games at max intensity, recovering, going through some tactical stuff,” Curtin said. “We’re not getting the reps in training, because we’re simply not training. It sounds crazy, but it’s just the reality of the schedule right now.”
He added that he’s “OK with that right now,” but he might not be for much longer.
“For the amount of chances and getting the ball in good positions that we’ve had, Cory, Sergio, and Kacper haven’t had enough attempts at goal,” Curtin said. “We need it to be five to six per half where those two [Przybylko and Burke] are involved ... whereas right now, one or two at the most. I think that will come with time.”