CHESTER, Pa. -- Despite the addition of a big defender, the Philadelphia Union could not handle the Fire Sunday.
Bakary Soumare, a 6-foot-4 defender, made his much-anticipated debut for the Philadelphia Union, but Chris Rolfe upstaged his debut with two goals as the Fire won 3-1 at PPL Park.
Soumare signed with the Union on June 26, but was coming off knee surgery. He played a full 90 minutes in Philadelphia's Reserve League match Aug. 4 at Montreal, trained all week and received his first start in a league match against the Fire.
It's going to be a boost in the long run for the Union, who have struggled all season with set pieces and crosses in front of the goal.
"It was a good start, and I was happy to get a full 90 minutes in a league match," Soumare said. "I've said this before, that I never have missed much time, let alone sit out for more than a month. That was hard for me to wait. I was excited to be back and I know there are many great things to come here for me and the club."
Soumare, the 2008 MLS Defender of the Year, starred for the Fire in 2008 and 2009. He played in 63 games for the Fire, earned a spot in the MLS Best XI and helped the club to the Western Conference Finals. In '09, he was named to the MLS All-Star team, replacing Brian Ching.
"Only a couple of players remain from my time in Chicago," Soumare said. "I loved that organization and I have a lot of great memories. This wasn't about me going against my former club. It was about what I can do to help the Union. This is a great organization here in Philadelphia, and I know we have a very bright future."
The Union entered the match with a franchise-record four consecutive wins at home. But that mark came to an end against the surging Fire.
Philadelphia, which received an own goal in the 34th minute to take a 1-0 lead, dropped to 7-12-2.
"I'm very disappointed with this loss," said Union defender Sheanon Williams. "We didn't play well from start to finish and we need to do better because we can't keep giving away points."
Arne Friedrich added one goal for the Fire, who improved to 11-7-5, good for 38 points. It moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind leader Sporting Kansas City, three behind the New York Red Bulls and two behind the Houston Dynamo.
Rolfe's scoring was the difference in this match and helped catapult the Fire another spot in the East.
"We have been playing very consistent soccer lately," Rolfe said. "I liked how we came out, even going down a goal, and kept our focus and composure. We turned it up and came away with three huge points on the road."
The Fire have been one of the best home teams (7-2-2) in the league, but it has been inconsistent on the road (4-5-3). However, the Fire have been turning things around recently on the road, with a 2-1-1 mark over their last four matches.
"We are getting better every day and that's been nice to see," Rolfe said. "I think we're on a very good path now. We have to keep it going."
NOTES: The Union played without defender and captain Carlos Valdes and midfielder Gabriel Gomez. Both players were called up for international duty by Colombia and Panama. ... Philadelphia was also without forward Jack McInerney, who received a red card in the club's last game, a 2-0 loss at Montreal on Aug. 4. ... Fire captain and midfielder Logan Pause made his 250th career MLS appearance. He's second on the franchise's appearance list behind only C.J. Brown (296). ... Marco Pappa leads Chicago with six goals this season. He's tied with Peter Nowak for fourth on the all-time list, with 26 goals.
Rolfe's 2 goals give Fire a 3-1 win
Chicago Fire (Tribune illustration / April 6, 2012)