Wednesday night’s contest pits the team at the top of the Eastern Conference against the team at the bottom. But Chicago Fire FC’s difficult start to the season hides a potent attack that can be dangerous when clicking, and the Union will feel pressure to consolidate their hold on the top spot in the east.
Over the last season and a half, the Union have rebuilt their attack around Daniel Gazdag and, now, Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza. All three players are technical and can score, which is what attackers do. Perhaps just as important for the Union, though, is how they set the defensive tone from the front. Philly’s style of play is designed to put pressure on the opponent in all phases of the game. With Sergio Santos and Cory Burke consistently pushing for a spot in the starting lineup, the Union now have a full stable of attackers that force mistakes higher up the pitch.
Chicago has also sought to rebuild their attack around proven MLS goalscorer Kacper Przybylko and Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri. The former Union striker and former Liverpool attacker have only combined for six goals thus far — one fewer than Gazdag has secured on his own — but they provide the Fire with breakout potential.
That said, the Fire only have three wins this season and two of them came over DC United. They went a full three months between wins before knocking off DC at home on June 19, and promptly went to Houston and were shut out. Developing momentum is key to saving Chicago’s 2022 season, and a win over Philly will do a lot to put them back on the right track.
And Philly will need to be careful as they face off with first Chicago and then Columbus this week. Both clubs are sputtering right now but can put together a solid match at any time, and Jim Curtin continues to have a short bench with four Homegrowns starring for the U.S. U-20 National Team right now.
Curtin may explore how he can use Matt Real, a former left back who has become a versatile defender/midfielder off the bench this year. In Real, Stuart Findlay, and Olivier Mbaizo, Curtin has real defensive depth, but in midfield he has fewer options. Cole Turner has been a standout player for Union II this year, but asking him to fill in for an in-form Jose Martinez is no small request.
Philly and Chicago Fire FC meet at 8:00 p.m. ET at Subaru Park on Wednesday, June 29. Don’t miss the contest with coverage on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com starting with Union Pre-Kick Live at 7:30 p.m. ET.