The Union are in the midst of an unbeaten streak. While there are plenty of things happening off the field that instill one to look toward the future. The Union’s play on the field may just turn heads back to what it’s all about; the game. After winning at Montreal, dismantling RSL at home, the Union picked up a crucial away point at Red Bulls last weekend. Now three games unbeaten, Philly looks to add a fourth as Chicago comes to town for a midweek clash. Our Philly Sports Network’s Union Crew preview if the Union continue hot streak by dousing the Fire!
The boys in blue will look to salvage the month of May with a win over the Chicago Fire Wednesday night. After a brutal ending to April and start of May, the Union could finish 3-2-1 for the month if they can enforce their will and pull off a win at Talen Energy Stadium. The team as a whole has been playing its best soccer of the season and this matchup has playoff implications written all over it.
Chicago’s season has been similar to the Union’s. More lows than highs and not much consistency. They sit only one point behind the Union and have played the same amount of matches. A loss for Jim Curtain’s squad could be costly come October.
It’s no surprise the Fire are being led by their two stars, forward Nemanja Nikolic with 6 goals, and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger with 5 assists. The young Union back line has been playing well and will no doubt have their work cut out for them.
The Union are in an interesting spot. They have three games in one week yet again, but they’ll have the international break of two weeks immediately after that stretch. I originally prognosticated that David Accam would get the start against his old club. I’m sticking to that. Fafa Picault is not listed on the injury report but he was banged up after last Saturday’s match. If Accam is non-productive early into the 2nd half, look for Fafa to get the quick sub.
The one starter I think needs the night off the most is Haris Medunjanin. Although the midfield is showing improved chemistry, something about him just feels off this season. Haris had the worst second half of any player in the Red Bulls match. I counted at least three times when he flat-out gave the ball away to New York in dangerous positions. He will start and they are going to have to ride this wave. Atlanta and Toronto are looming…
Prediction: Philadelphia Union: 2 Chicago Fire: 2
Union man of the match: Borek Dockal
“It’s the young guys. It’s the old guys. It’s everybody coming together,” said Philadelphia Union head coach earlier today in a brief video interview released by team staff. Curtin mentioned his team’s sharpness in training over the past few weeks. This week especially. He then mentioned the unique schedule his team is facing currently.
Tonight’s match against Chicago Fire marks the second in just fours days with another match Saturday followed by two more matches next week on Tuesday and Friday. All in all, that’s five matches in less than two weeks. Philadelphia’s depth will be called upon. Perhaps tomorrow night’s match will be a glimpse of what’s to come during this grueling stretch.
The midfield trio of Borek Dockal, Haris Medunjanin, and Alejandro Bedoya will be an interesting position grouping to watch going forward. Any of the three could benefit from a break, whether an entire match or entering as a second half substitute.Will Matt Real return the starting XI, or matchday 18 for that matter. And will Jack Elliot provide relief for the impressive Mark McKenzie?
Enough about the possibilities of which players could show or not. What does the next home match for Philadelphia mean?
A whole lot. Curtin’s team is riding a three-match unbeaten streak into a home match. A loss would be detrimental; a return of the boo-birds. A loss would be the reemergence of those always present doomsday doopers.
But a win would continue the pounding of that River End drum set followed by plumes of smelly smoke. A win would mean the absence of negativity for a few more days. A win would foster the continue growth of confidence throughout the locker room.
“You can expect to see some changes, especially with the front three,” said Curtin during the press conference today.
Which of the three will be swapped? My guess would be Fafa Picault and Marcus Epps could be replaced for David Accam and Ilsinho respectively. An opportunity for Cory Burke at the #9 position from the opening whistle would also be seen as a refreshing change of pace.
Regardless of the lineup Curtin throws out on the field Wednesday night in Chester, a win must be the result. After earning a draw and a point on the road against Eastern Conference rival New York Red Bulls, a win vs. Chicago could leave Philadelphia fans in the highest of spirits for some time now.
Prediction Philadelphia Union: 2 Chicago Fire: 0
Man of the Match: Andre Blake
As the Union continue on their grueling end of May/early June schedule. They will have to look to their depth, and at who they are. Jim Curtin has said he asked the team who they want to be this season. Could we be in the midst of them answering that question?
A three game unbeaten streak is a nice little run, but adding to that tally would show that this side is committed to competing for a lower seeded playoff spot. To do this they have to win their home games. Especially home games against eastern conference opponents.
As the Chicago Fire come to town, look for the same squad that has secured the three game win streak to stay mostly intact. The only changes I see happening would be a possible change at striker (if not tonight, then it will definitely happen saturday at Atlanta). Cory Burke is due another crack at the #9, especially since CJ Sapong is struggling so much. Will that happen tonight? We’ll see. The only other change I can imagine would be starting David Accam out left for Fafa Picault. While Fafa has played some inspired soccer as of late, I think Accam will want a crack against his old teammates. Whether we see him from the jump, or off the bench, I’d expect him to be up for this one.
Chicago has had an up and down 2018 season. Much of their flashy form from 2017 has been tabled by injuries. They come to town looking to right their ship against the Union. One point separates both teams. Should Chicago win they’d be just one point behind New England (should they lose tonight to Atlanta) for the sixth place. Should the Union win, they’d be level with New England and overtake them based on their win over them back in March.
The Union will be raring to go again in front of their fans. While Chicago is looking to make up the same ground as Philadelphia, the Union should be able to best them in this one.
Prediction: Philadelphia Union: 2 Chicago Fire: 1
Union Man of the Match: Marcus Epps
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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports