BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Before his 28th-minute strike against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, Chicago Fire forward Dominic Oduro couldn’t remember the last time he scored off a header.
The time off didn’t show. In fact, Fire head coach Frank Klopas thought that the Ghanaian striker looked like a natural when he rose up to beat ‘keeper Zac MacMath off a cross from Marco Pappa in the 28th minute at Toyota Park.
“It was good for him to beat a guy and finish in the air,” Klopas said. “Normally, that’s not one of his strengths, but his timing, the jump, the way he headed the ball was perfect.”
Oduro’s strike – an AT&T Goal of the Week candidate – proved to be the difference in the Fire’s 1-0 victory over the Union. Despite the heroics, however, Oduro was quick to deflect credit.
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“I was just right there,” he said. “I said before, I will score with any part of my body. It was a good ball [from Pappa].”
Oduro had several chances to register his first multi-goal game with the Fire. Union defender Chris Albright, though, cleared his open-goal shot in the 40th minute, and MacMath saved his breakaway attempt late in the game.
“The first one, I could have had it, but the defender made a good recovery,” Oduro said. “The second one, he just made a great save. I don’t have any remorse or regrets or whatever. He just made a great save.”
On another play, Oduro’s broke free of the defense and had Federico Puppo open in the middle of the box, but MacMath was able to block the pass.
“They pushed numbers forward,” Klopas said. “We knew that and we had a couple of opportunities on the break to put the game away. … We thought we were going to catch them, and we had two or three good chances. It’s just the final pass wasn’t there to put the game away.”
Offense created early
In an opening week game against Montreal, the Fire had difficulty creating chances early. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, when the Fire had multiple chances to take a multi-goal lead in the first half.
“From the start, guys pressed very high and we created a lot of chances,” Klopas said.
Klopas wanted to improve on ball movement along with distribution from goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi last week. He was happy with both.
“I was happy because there was a big improvement from what we were working on all week from the last game,” Klopas said. “Our ball movement was very good.”
Defense stout late
After the Fire dominated early in the game, momentum shifted.
As Philadelphia pushed numbers forward late in the game, they were finally able to create chances.
“I thought the second half, we started a little bit slow, I think we were a little bit slow moving the ball through the midfield,” Klopas said. “I think there was a shift in momentum.”
The Fire’s defense, though, was up to the challenge. Center back Cory Gibbs made a few key tackles to preserve the shutout, but the veteran credited the entire backline, including fellow central defender Jalil Anibaba.
“Jalil and I are a year-and-a-half into this thing, and our communication on switching men was spectacular,” Gibbs said. “[Outside backs] Gonzalo [Segares] and [Dan] Gargan kept the back line tight, unlike other games when we can get stretched out. Nothing got behind us.”