One last push: Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire Preview

The Union are high on confidence coming off of a dominant win in the U.S. Open Cup Semi Final against Chicago Fire at PPL Park. Tomorrow’s fixture? Chicago Fire at PPL Park. On paper the team could not ask for a better fixture, but can the Union re-ignite their play-off charge with three points tomorrow?

It’s fair to say the odds are all in the Union’s favour. The Fire remain the only team in the MLS yet to win on the road this year and sit below the Union in the league standings. Whilst the Fire were able to rally to a victory against the Union earlier in the season, a lot has changed since then. They are two vastly different teams with different styles of play. The defeat earlier in the week is perhaps the most telling sign of how this game is going to go.

The team didn’t play with any heart against the Union who did the opposite. You’d think that for a team with so little going its way, a chance at CCL Qualification and an opportunity to lift silverware would motivate the team to give 100%. But instead they got outshot 11-3 and if it wasn’t for the Union’s lack of clinical finishing the score would have been much more dominant. The Fire had so many clearances, many of which doubled as attacks as they seemed to hoof the ball over the midfield to try and search out Accam..who’s still missing after disappearing into the back pocket of Gaddis.

Accam you not?

The Fire were well and truly extinguished at PPL Park..we will only use that pun 45 more times I promise! Their main route of attack came from constantly sending through balls to Accam, an idea that proved ineffective from the go. Sure Accam is the teams leading scorer and there is no doubting his ability, but there are ten other players in that team..and I think manager Frank Yallop forgot that. If he fails to find another way of creating chances then the Union are sure to walk away with two wins in seven days against Yallop’s Fire.


In terms of the Union lineup, this is where things get interesting. Jim Curtin would be wise to rest as many of his big names as possible, getting ready to rotate over the coming weeks to ensure that everyone is in perfect shape for the final. Vitoria should return to the back four to partner Ethan White in order to rest Marquez, whilst Nando should get the start to give CJ Sapong a much deserved break. The addition of Aristeguieta adds yet another problem for the Fire as they now have to deal with a huge aerial threat in the box, a threat 3/5 CB’s on their roster are unsuited to deal with.

In terms of the midfield, Nogueira is out with injury whilst Edu is doubtful, which should see Zach Pfeffer get the start alongside Maidana/ Lahoud (depending on just how much Curtin wishes to rest his team) with Carroll sat in behind the pair. Barnetta should feature on the left hand side following an impressive link up with Fabinho and Ayuk will make his return on the right hand side of the field.


If Sapong does indeed get rested for Fernando Aristeguieta, it’s crucial that the Venezuelan is much more clinical in front of goal. We know he’s a work horse and we know how dangerous he can be, but the focus has to be on simplicity. The Union found themselves shooting from an array of different positions but nothing was to beat keeper Sean Johnson, who had an unbelievable performance. We can expect much of the same from Chicago’s goalkeeper so the pressure is on the forwards to convert the chances created by the likes of Barnetta.

Dominant D

It’s two clean sheets in a row for keeper John McCarthy, but it’s more notably 180 minutes of Football that the Union have not conceded in. A Defense that has conceded 40 goals this season has all of a sudden turned into a brick wall. The man marking was excellent in both games as the Union not only eliminated Harry Shipp and Accam from the game entirely but also kept Kaka at bay. This may see Curtin become reluctant to move things around so our lineup of the back four may be way off. But if the Union can defend just as they have recently, with composed tackling as opposed to reckless slides, retaining shape and keeping the wing backs ready for an Accam break at all times, there’s no reason why this record can’t move to 270 minutes without conceding.

Midfield Control

The Union have survived with the absence of Nogueira and with Maidana being allowed to reign so freely, the Union were able to create more chances than the amount of times the Chicago fans chanted the word “fire”.
That may change as the Fire “should” be out for revenge, aiming to completely box Maidana out of the game. The key here is that if something isn’t working, don’t force it. If Chaco continues to be man marked, don’t force the play to him as it will likely be intercepted. Change the focus to the wings, distracting the midfielders and then drive the ball back to the playmaker. If the Union can successfully read Chicago’s gameplan then they should easily dominate the middle third of the field.


If that was a Chicago team playing like there’s no tomorrow..then this will be an easy win. If Curtin rotates and Chicago come out looking for revenge then we will have a fantastic contest on our hands. The Union in the league however are still hunting, all be it loosely for playoffs whilst Chicago are simply after damage limitation. The home side should sweep Chicago this week if they can stick to the gameplan and once again work together as a unit and not as a team of individuals. I’m predicting a 3-1 Union victory, with Barnetta opening his scoring account for his new side. Accam will probably find the back of the net from a free kick, a set piece the Union struggle to defend, but the constant possession and fluent passing should seal a Union victory.

Philadelphia Union 3-1 Chicago Fire