Don’t judge a book by its cover: Union vs Fire preview

The Union travel to Chicago to face the Fire Saturday night. Chicago has had a rough season. They have been one of the worst teams in the league. Right now they sit at the bottom of the entire league; at 5-12-8. They have 23 points on the season, but they are a very fundamentally sound team. So keep this in mind Union fans; this game is not an automatic win for Philly.

The season series is split between Philadelphia and Chicago. Each have won their home stand. The Fire won back in April 1-0, in a game that featured a sideways snow storm! The Union won a thriller 4-3 back in June, Where Roland Alberg got a hat trick! Now is the third installment of this interesting matchup, and both teams are in very different spots.

The Union are three points out of first place, and they could tie for the top spot with a win. The Union have turned a corner since the beginning of August, and are almost a lock for playoffs. Chicago are nine points away from the last playoff spot, and just lost a game to DC United 6-2. Even though Chicago has been lackluster this season, they are still a hard team to beat.

The Fire did just get walloped by DC United. However, DC’s coach Ben Olson gave Chicago high praise. He said to Union coach Jim Curtin on a phone conversation, that Chicago are a hard team to break down. And before the Fire’s 34th minute red card Olson said Chicago had the upper hand. If you look at the Chicago Fire’s play you can see Olson’s point.

Chicago are a team that loves to sit back and counter attack. Their speedy attackers, talented passers in the middle of the field, and strong defenders provide the making of a dangerous counter. their counter is one that has hurt the Union this year. In the second minute of their second meeting this year, Chicago sprung a counter attack. A turnover was created by Chicago’s defense. The ball popped out to the fire’s midfield, and a ball was played to the Fire’s most dangerous player David Accam. Accam used his super human speed to fly by all Union defenders to give the Fire an early lead. This is the threat that Chicago poses. The Union will need to find a way to beat that while they’re shorthanded.

The Union will have to beat Chicago without two of their most important players; Andre Blake (Jamaica), and Alejandro Bedoya (USA). They both will be playing for their national teams in World Cup qualifiers. Both are set to play significant roles with their national teams. In the last round of games before the final World cup 2018 qualifying round, USA are looking good; but Jamaica needs to do some work.

USA are in a qualifying spot already. They look win their group by getting wins over Saint Vincent and The Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica are three points out of a qualifying spot they will need to get good results against Panama and Haiti. These key Union players will be serving their country, so who takes their place for Philly Saturday?

Philly native, John McCarthy will get the start in net during Blake’s absence. McCarthy, a fan favorite after the work he did for the team 2015, will get his first league start on Saturday. He is skilled enough to fill the keeper slot. Now who is going to play the number eight for the Union? Warren Creavalle has stepped up big in the last few games in Brian Carroll’s absence. Creavalle has looked good in the six role, but now Brian Carroll is healthy again. It is possible that the Union bring back Carroll back this week and play him next to Creavalle to sure up their defense against the counter attack of Chicago. However, if the Union want more offense they can always turn to Roland Alberg.

Alberg, who has flourished in his super sub role as of late, can come on the field to play the ten spot. This would move Tranquillo down to the eight spot. This move is one that the Union turned to when they lost Vincent Nogueira back in June, and it had mixed reviews. Whatever the Union do they will need to do something only two other teams have done this season!

Only NYCFC and Montreal have beaten Chicago on their home field in 2016. Chicago has not lost at Toyota Park since April! Since their April 16th loss the Fire are 6-0-5 across all competitions. This fire team plays well at home, but they have not won at home in their past three games. Chicago finds ways not to lose in front of their home fans. To beat Chicago in their building takes great effort by great players.

Luckily, the Union have great players, and are on a hot streak that can take the Eastern Conference by storm! The past two games prove that the Union are built to succeed as the season progresses. Philly won a tough road win against Columbus. Then they followed that result by dominating home win against SKC just three days later, This formula is one that Philly needs to recognize. If they can continue to grind out road results, and protect their home turf they will be a force to be reckoned with. But first the Union’s sites are set on getting the result in Chicago.

Philly takes on a Chicago team that, on paper, looks bad. Really, Chicago is one of the best teams at home, and their strong defense and counter attacking style creates difficult match-ups on the field. This game is by no means an automatic win for Philly. If the Union can find a way to maintain possession, and high press against Chicago’s counter attacks then the Union have a chance of getting a good result Saturday night. If Philly does not play well when transitioning then Chicago’s counter attack will find ways to hurt them.

The game is on The Comcast Network (TCN) at 8:30 EST. We will see if the Union can be the first team to best Chicago in Illinois for the first time since April. Come back to Philly Sports Network after the game for post game analysis. Until then, Peace out!