Philadelphia Union (5-8-7) at Chicago Fire (3-4-10)
What: Major League Soccer regular season match
When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET; Where: Toyota Park, Chicago, Il.; Tickets: N/A
TV: Comcast Sports Network
Radio: None; Online: Streaming video via MLS Live;
Win, and then win again.
Sounds simple enough but putting together back to back wins has been a point of concern this season for the Union. That is exactly what they look to do on Saturday when manager Jim Curtin takes his 6-1-1 record to Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire.
The teams have met 11 times before; Philadelphia leads the series 5-4 with the teams tying twice. But it’s hard to think of a time when the Union were going into a game with more momentum.
On Wednesday the squad put together an impressive showing at PPL Park against the New York Red Bulls. The game ended 3-1 in the Union’s favor and anyone who saw the game understood the dominating performance on the field that night.
(Click for highlights from Wednesday: Union v Red Bulls Highlights)
But they mustn’t revel too long in their midweek success because they quickly have to turn their sights to a desperate Chicago team.
With only three wins in 17 contests the Fire need a result to even have a slight hope of staying relevant this season. The team has been performing well of late though, having not dropped points since June 7th. In terms of player personnel it’s all about Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa. Magee is the reigning MLS MVP while Amarikwa is the team’s leading goal scorer. The 26-year-old striker registered a goal last game against the Revolution and has impressed up top throughout the season.
Also, youngster Harry Shipp has been productive as a forward this year. The first-year player is tied with Amarikwa for the team lead in goals, and with Magee in assists. Maurice Edu will be looking to quiet Shipp through his tough play at the center back position.
For Philadelphia it’s about the return of Michael Lahoud and Amobi Okugo. The midfield tandem was both suspended for Wednesday’s game because of red cards they had picked up previously. Manager Jim Curtin will finally have a full deck of cards for the first time this season, which should be a welcomed relief. The lineup against the Red Bulls impressed, so it will be intersting to see who finds themsleves in the starting XI on Saturday.
Midfielders Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira shined bright on Wednesday, as Maidana, while he did sustain an injury, provided his usual array of tricks and should be fully fit for Saturday. Nogueira displayed his talent for distributing balls throughout the field, consistently playing long balls across the field to change the point of attack.
Which brings us to what has developed into the most heralded part of the Union squad, the attack.
In the past ten games the Philadelphia strike force has been lethal in front of goal, scoring 26 times and registering three or more goals in seven of those ten (Open Cup and MLS regular season).
Conor Casey has looked like Thomas Müller at the World Cup and if there is a penalty on Saturday you can bet Le Toux will convert, the forward has yet to miss while wearing the blue and gold.
Keeping the ball out of the back of the net has been a point of distress for the Fire as well. They only have two clean sheets on the entire sesaon, which means Casey and Co. should find all sorts of joy in front of net.
Tomorrow will be a big test for the Union as it's their third game in eight days, “Yeah, it’s tough,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “Obviously, we had an injury today and that’s probably because of tired legs. Tomorrow we’ll have a good day to recover and then we’ll probably be light the day before the game. It’s just about recovery.”
Having had the necessary days to relax and refuel, Philadelphia should be raring to go and leave Chicago with no less than three points.
Do you think the Union will leave Chicago with three points? Leave your comments below.