CHESTER, Pa. — The Fire took a step up in class Saturday, and it wasn’t pretty.
The Eastern Conference-leading Union won 4-1, snapping the Fire’s unbeaten streak at five and dropping them three points out of the final playoff spot.
“What I told the players after the game is that we have to put this one behind us,” Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “We have had a good run of form, and tonight we just didn’t show up, and when you don’t show up in this league, especially against a team like that, you’re going to pay.”
After the Union took a 2-0 lead at halftime, Chris Mueller scored four minutes into the second half to pull the Fire (8-11-6, 30 points) within a goal. Xherdan Shaqiri and Federico Navarro had assists on Mueller’s fourth goal this season.
But Julian Carranza quickly pushed the Union’s lead back to two with his ninth goal in the 53rd minute. Cory Burke capped the scoring with his fifth goal in the 82nd. The Union (13-3-9, 48 points) are tied for the East lead in goals with 45.
“I don’t feel like this team is four goals better than us, but I thought we gave up some very untimely goals tonight,” Hendrickson said. “We let the third one in, and that one really, really put us out.”
“I think we all know that we are much better than what we displayed tonight,” midfielder Chris Mueller said. “I think we folded at a pretty difficult moment in the game when we gave up that third goal. I don’t think it’s acceptable to give up on the game, so to say, in the way that we did.”
Daniel Gazdag gave the Union the lead with his 12th goal in the 16th minute. Defender Jack Elliott picked up his first goal of the season, scoring unassisted in the 41st minute to give the Union a 2-0 halftime lead.
Andre Blake had six saves for the Union. Gaga Slonina saved three for the Fire.
The Fire lost Gaston Gimenez to a hamstring injury that Hendrickson said “didn’t look good.”