Scouting report: Breakdown of Chicago heading into Union's fight with Fire Saturday (5 p.m.)
It's true that Chicago is a winless team in 2014, but this new-look Fire squad has scrapped for some pretty good early season results.
The team is coming off three straight draws, one at home against New York, and two more on the road against D.C. United and Portland.
They are 0-1-3 and looking for their first three points of the year.
It's always a good matchup when these teams get together. All-time, Philadelphia has a 5-4-1 series edge over the Fire. The Union are 2-2-1 in five games at Toyota Park and picked up a 1-0 road win last year to go along with a 3-1 road win at the tail-end of the 2012 season.
Graphic: A look at the Chicago Fire's potential Starting XI and formation against the Union Saturday
This will be the 10th all-time meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals, who will get together three times in 2014. Two games will be played in Chicago, and one in Philadelphia.
New manager Frank Yallop has shown no reservation in playing his young core this season.
The club opened the season with a 3-2 loss at Chivas USA, after which Yallop dropped DP striker Juan Luis Anangono and long-time winger Patrick Nyarko to the bench.
That move, combined with an injury to outside midfielder Dilly Duka, provided starting opportunities for newcomers Benji Joya and Harrison Shipp, and journeyman striker Quincy Amarikwa.
Amarikwa has played for four teams since 2009, but his energized performances have already earned him two goals and a couple of starts in 2014. Shipp, meantime, is a rookie winger out of Notre Dame who signed a home-grown contract in the Winter. Joya is a returning U.S. youth international who was acquired via lottery. Shipp will probably play wide right, with Joya on the left side of the field.
But the main reason Chicago was able to contend for a playoff spot last year was the addition of Mike Magee. The reigning league MVP picked up a hamstring injury in the offseason and has been slow out of the gates this year. He did play a full 90 in the recent draw with D.C. United but has not scored through the first four games.
As far as the central midfield, the first-choice pairing has been MLS veteran Jeff Larentowicz and the Brazilian Alex. Larentowicz, who has two goals this year, will play in his customary holding role, with Alex allowed to push the attack and get forward into dangerous areas.
You'll probably see three players on the backline that did not play for Chicago last season.
At left back, Pennsylvania native and former Reading United product Greg Cochrane should be filling in for the injured Gonzalo Segares, who is dealing with a sprained ankle.
On the right side, former Vancouver midfielder Matt Watson has been preferred to Lovel Palmer.
And in the center, ex-Union defender Bakary Soumare is likely to pair with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who was acquired via trade with Seattle in the Winter.
Possible Starting XI: Johnson (GK), Cochrane, Soumare, Hurtado, Watson, Larentowicz, Alex, Joya, Shipp, Magee, Amarikwa (4-4-2)
What look do you think Chicago will show Saturday? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com