Thunderbirds “Steel” Home Matchup From Chicago Union

Photo credit: Kim Alifen

June 17, 2024
By Grant Loehrke

The Chicago Union hosted their third home game of the season Friday evening, taking on the middle-of-the-pack Pittsburgh Thunderbirds on the heels of an almost two week-long hiatus from games ahead of the mid-season matchup. Following the opening toss (courtesy of TC Hager of Northwestern Athletics), the Union came out strong, jumping to a 5-2 lead after the first quarter. Pittsburgh fought back to take a 7-9 lead at the half, and the Union were never able to get back over the hump, eventually falling by a final score of 12-17.

Photo credit: Kevin Holliday

A key element that likely contributed to both teams posting lower-than-average scores on Friday was the high wind speed coming off of Lake Michigan, which led to high turnover numbers for both teams (Pittsburgh recorded 26 and Chicago 33). Nonetheless, in the sport of ultimate, wind levels the playing field, as both teams have to fight the same weather conditions. Wilson Matthews of the Union had himself a game, scoring 7 of the team’s 12 goals and posting  a plus/minus of 6. Assists were hard to come by in this game, but Andrew Sjogren led the Union in this category with a total of 3. Pittsburgh excelled in the red zone, converting on 82% (14/17) of their trips, as opposed to the Union’s rate of 67% (10/15). Huck completion percentages and overall conversion percentages were lower than season averages for both teams in this game, a stat line that likely also fell victim to the windy conditions at Martin Stadium Friday night. 

On the topic of Martin Stadium in Evanston, fans likely noticed a few changes for Friday’s game. The Union’s home stadium lies on the lakefront of the campus of Northwestern University, and the university’s former football stadium, Ryan Field, is in the process of being demolished and rebuilt. While construction proceeds, the university has chosen Martin Stadium to be the temporary home of Northwestern Football, meaning that for the duration of June while construction takes place, Chicago Union fans will be positioned in bleachers facing away from Lake Michigan instead of towards it. Despite this change in perspective, however, the fervor and anticipation of Union fans was untampered by the change in venue setup if Friday’s game against the Thunderbirds was any indication.

With the Madison Radicals having recorded another win, the Union now sit in fourth place in the UFA Central Division approaching the midpoint of the 2024 season. The Union now hold a 4-3 record, and their next game will also be at the under-construction Martin Stadium on Saturday, June 22, at 6:00pm with tickets still available online. The team will face off against the Indianapolis AlleyCats for the second time this season, with eyes on making up for their loss to Indy earlier this month and moving up in the UFA Central Division standings. Also, calling all Swifties: the theme night for the Indy game is Taylor Swift night, so plan accordingly!