Philadelphia Union will square off against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, June 5 in their second game of a three game road trip. Despite an overall record of 2-5-1 and a 1-5-0 record away from home, the Union head to Chicago with confidence after securing their first road victory of the season in dramatic fashion last weekend at Houston.
“As a group we look confident,” said manager Peter Nowak. “I am sure (the last) two games help our confidence as well.”
Chicago enters the match in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points and a record of 2-3-4, just three points ahead of the seventh place Union. Although the Union have played the fewest games of any team in the league, a win will move them into a tie with the Fire and push them as far up in the standings as fifth place.
Momentum has been the theme for these two teams over the past few weeks, and this matchup is a tale of two extremes. The Union are looking to extend their unbeaten streak to three games, as they will try to ride the emotion of their past two games, both of which ended in a thrilling manner.
In their second home game of the season in front of over 25,000 fans, rookie Danny Mwanga came off of the bench and scored a goal in the final minute of stoppage time to draw even with FC Dallas and preserve a point at home for the Union. The Union took this momentum on the road two weeks later as they defeated Houston behind another last minute goal by Mwanga. As they prepare for their matchup against Chicago, Philadelphia will look to feed off of this momentum and get a result in their second consecutive road game.
“We understand that we are going to have to get results on the road,” said Union forward Alejandro Moreno. “Hopefully we continue to carry that (confidence from the win over Houston) on to Chicago.”
Chicago, on the other hand, is looking to get back on track after a very tough month of May, in which the team saw few results. The Fire are winless in their last seven contests (4 league matches, 3 friendlies), and ended May with an overall record of 0-3-4 in the month. The Fire have not won a game since April 24, but will look to take down the Union after suffering a 1-0 loss against Ronaldinho and Italian power AC Milan last week.
Coming off of their 3-2 victory over Houston, Philadelphia is looking to keep mistakes to a minimum on the defensive side of the ball without sacrificing their attack. In last week’s game, both Houston goals were scored by headers off of set pieces. The Union will need to tighten up their defensive marks against Chicago as they face one of the best forwards in the league in Brian McBride, who excels in the air much like Houston’s Brian Ching. Moreno and the Union are aware of McBride’s strength in the air and the need to maintain marks defensively.
“The one constant for them going forward is Brian McBride and the problems that he can present on set pieces and on crosses in the box,” Moreno said. “We obviously showed against Houston that perhaps it’s something we need to work on, so it’s important that we are aware of some of those things.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Union will look to build on their three goal game last week. Goals have come in bunches this year, and scoring early would help set the stage for a win against the Fire.
“We know they (Chicago) are going to be ready to play," added Moreno. "Can we match it and can we be ready to play and show the same character we showed in Houston?"
The answer to that question will likely determine the outcome of Saturday's match.