Saturday could be a very special night for the Philadelphia Union.
First off, Union Manager Peter Nowak makes his return to Chicago, where he first won an MLS Cup as a player with the Fire back in 1998. One of his ex-teammates, C.J. Brown, still plays as a starter with Chicago. It will be extra special for Nowak and the team if they can get a win, or even a draw. At this point, besides improvement, the team is looking for points and consistency.
A win would make it two straight triumphs on the road, while a win or a draw would push their unbeaten streak to 3 games. Either way, you are talking about momentum and confidence as you approach the two week break for the start of the World Cup. After the Chicago game, it’s just one more road game at Kansas City, followed by a favorable home schedule beginning with the PPL Park opener on June 27th vs Seattle.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
How will the Union play vs the Fire? My guess is the same way they did vs Houston. Be aggressive, go after the Fire. Try to get that first goal. Remember that Chicago struggled a year ago at home, and this year they are in the same boat, going 1-1-2 at home. To this point, the Fire do not look like a confident team at Toyota Park.
YOUNG GK’S BATTLE
Both goalkeepers are getting a chance to be a number one for the first time. The Union have been patient and have allowed Chris Seitz to grow. Seitz is coming off his best two game stretch of the season. For Chicago, Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos cut the popular, established veteran Jon Busch right before the season to make young Andrew Dykstra their number one keeper. The Fire coach told me last week he stands by his decision and believes that Dykstra is growing, game by game.
Philadelphia gave up two goals to Houston last week off of free kicks. While it didn’t cost the Union the game, it surely could have. Chicago have players who like to take you on, like Patrick Nyarko and Justin Mapp, so they are going to draw some fouls. On free kicks, and corners, they will look for Brian McBride. The Union know this, but knowing and executing are two different things. You have to be close to McBride.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
No surprises here, Sebastien Le Toux leads Philadelphia with 5 goals, and also leads the team in shots and shots on goal.
Pay attention to Shea Salinas and Danny Mwanga too, whether they start or come off the bench. Salinas was effective in both the Dallas and Houston games, while Mwanga has goals in each of his last two games. One was a game tying goal, the other was a game winner.
For Chicago, Brian McBride is their best threat to score, be it on a set piece or during the run of play. The Fire are at their fastest when both Mapp and Nyarko are starting. Marco Pappa and Collins John are both offensive threats, but neither player started in the Fire’s last game, a 1-1 draw vs Dallas. Until that last game, Pappa had started every Fire game in 2010.
Hope you will join us for full coverage of Philadelphia vs Chicago on Saturday on 6abc, beginning at 8:00 pm Eastern time with the pre game show.