Chicago Fire (6-12-4, 22 points) at Philadelphia Union (6-13-5, 23 points)
What: 2015 MLS Regular Season Match; When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: PPL Park; Tickets: here
TV: Fox Sports 1 with play-by-play announcer John Strong and color analyst Tony Meola
Radio: None; Online: MLS Live; Social: Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday
Parking: $20 at all PPL lots; Mass Transit: Shuttle service to and from Chester Transportation Center
There’s an old saying that goes something along the lines of “Once is good but twice is nice”.
Following the Philadelphia Union’s 1-0 win on Wednesday in PPL Park in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals against the Chicago Fire, the Union will try to go out on Sunday and beat the Fire twice in one week at PPL Park.
“I thought our guys had a real professional performance on [Wednesday] at home,” said head coach Jim Curtin. “Again, you have heard me talk about 1-0 games. We haven’t come up with a lot this year. It has been a frustrating year. We know that. We know the moments that we come up short.”
The challenge for the team now is to bring that grit and determination over into league play. Luckily for them, they are 8-5-2 at home this season in all competitions, a record they look to add to against Chicago on Sunday. The Fire are have yet to collect a road win this season, something that will help the Union immensely.
“Obviously having home field advantage is huge,” Curtin said. “It’s difficult to go on the road in this league, whether it’s in the Open Cup or regular season you see even the great teams like LA struggle on the road and I think they just got their first win. It’s a hard thing in pro sports to go on the road so obviously knowing that they’ve struggled on the road this year plays into our hands a bit.”
The game on Wednesday also provided the welcome return of team captain Maurice Edu who missed the Orlando game with a groin injury. Vincent Nogueira is also on the mend and may be available as a substitute on Sunday as he works his way back from a quad injury.
“Vincent looked very sharp on the field,” said Curtin. “I don’t think the quad is quite ready but I’ll talk to him as well. Maybe he could be a reserve and we’ll see what kind of role he plays but again, one of our best players to be honest and one of the guys that we missed in Orlando.”
With Nogueira absent, the team has turned to Michael Lahoud as the person paired up with Brian Carroll in the defensive midfield. Lahoud was instrumental in keeping a clean sheet both in the Orlando City SC game last Saturday and on Wednesday against Chicago. Together with Carroll, he provided a security blanket for the back four and shut down opposing attacking midfield.
“If you go back to the Orlando game, in his first game to push 75 minutes and the job he did on Kaka, he did a good job cutting him out,” Curtin said when asked about Lahoud’s recent performances. “Brian and him have a good understanding of each other. Again, I like to be attack minded at home, but I did not want to mess with the good thing Brian and Lahoud did to get the shutout.”
The Union will go into the game on Sunday with a lot of confidence after their victory on Wednesday, something that they will need to carry with them the rest of the regular season. The game against Chicago is a must win for the team who currently sit in ninth in the Eastern Conference with 23 points. With only 10 games remaining before the playoffs, they sit five points back of the Montreal Impact who are currently occupying the final playoff spot.
To win on Sunday would give the Union back-to-back wins and a lot of momentum heading into their game at Montreal the following weekend. The team needs to manage at least a draw against Chicago but as Richie Marquez warns, it may not be as simple as it appears.
“I’m expecting them to come looking for revenge after this loss,” said Marquez. “They’re going to want to stick it to us in the league and it’s going to make for a better game but if we keep doing what we’re doing we should be fine.”
What do you think is the key to success vs. Chicago Fire? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union writer Kyle Basedow at firstname.lastname@example.org.