While Saturday's road game in Chicago might not look as intimidating as the atmosphere in Portland, Fire officials are expecting a possible 20,000 seat sellout for their home opener vs. the Union. That environment, plus an improved Chicago side, combined with Philadelphia's early struggles, make this an interesting matchup.
Here are three questions to ponder going into the game:
Does Zac MacMath play his best game of the young season? He's a strong willed, talented goalkeeper who has made some big saves in the first two games, but he's also been at fault for at least two of the five goals allowed. I still strongly believe in his ability.
How does Philadelphia deal with the absences of Danny Califf and Sheanon Williams? Califf is staying in Philadelphia in an attempt to work towards full fitness for next Saturday's home game against Vancouver. Williams' call-up to the USA U-23's was well deserved, but the timing probably couldn't have been worse for the Union.
How much does Porfirio Lopez have to give after playing for Costa Rica on Wednesday and having to travel back to Philly from Jamaica on Thursday? He went the full 90 in that friendly.
While the Union are currently 0-2-0, their record should be better. With better finishing, they could have put Colorado away in the first half of last Sunday's game, instead of losing 2-1. In that game we saw the Union create more and better chances than in game one. We also saw a little bit more out of Lionard Pajoy, who looks like he can be successful in MLS.
For the game in Chicago, the concern is more on the defensive side of the ball. How do you stop, or at least contain, the speed of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko? More importantly, can Philadelphia stop the supply of the ball from Sebastian Grazzini and Pavel Pardo?
The Fire are an improved team compared to last year. Had the 2011 season been extended by a couple of games, I think they would have made it to the postseason. Chicago simply ran out of time, playing their best soccer of the season when Frank Klopas took over for the fired Carlos de los Cobos as head coach.
Having midseason pickups Grazzini and Pardo on board for the full season makes them stronger. The club has also added some youth from the MLS SuperDraft and some veterans for depth. They recently added German international Arne Friedrich, projected as a starting central defender, but he is not expected to play this weekend. He just began training with the club this week.
I'm looking forward to our first local telecast of the season. We're broadcasting on The Comcast Network Saturday, beginning at 8:00 p.m. with a 30-minute pre-game show. See you then.