The Union is unbeaten in seven matches after a win against Columbus on Wednesday night. The priority quickly shifts to the next match! Philadelphia travels to Chicago for a match this Saturday. These are two teams are polar opposites. The Union sits in third place in the east, while Chicago is the worst team in MLS. This match should be an easy win for Philly; there are five ways the Union can keep the unbeaten streak going at Chicago.
Five ways the Union can easily beat Chicago Fire
Philly and Chicago are two very different teams. The Union has a built a true identity over the last three years, while the Fire is now into a second rebrand in two years. The fire used to be the class of MLS in their early years, now they are looking like the most dysfunctional club. In MLS.
Chicago has only scored four goals in nine games. They’re 12th in shots per game and 14th in chances created but still lack that finishing touch. They’re last in MLS in goals per match with 0.4. Their defense isn’t that good either. They’re in the bottom four in goals conceded per match, letting in 1.6 per game. Their defense is always busy. Chicago has the second most successful tackles and the tenth most saves per match. Their attack can’t get going and their defense has to scramble to keep them in matches.
This Union-Fire match should be one-sided on the scoresheet. The Union should dominate this match with their counter-pressing/attacking style. For Philly to keep their unbeaten streak going into the month of July they’ll need to take points from Chicago, a team they should beat easily as they did in May. Here are five different ways the Union can beat Chicago in this match!
1. keep the defense-first approach
The Union’s defense has been so so good in 2021. There were some major question marks coming into this season on the Union’s backline. Could they overcome losing two players from their Supporters’ Shield winning defense and still be a top team in MLS? The answer through 10 games is, yes! Jack Elliot and Oliver Mbaizo have come in and not skipped a beat. Philly has one of the best defenses in the league, and now they go up against the worst finishing team, Chicago.
If the Union looks to rotate a few players on the backline to manage minutes, they’ll still need to keep their defense-first approach that looks to smother the opposition and start counter-attacks. In this match, the Union will need to do what they have done in their last seven matches. Keeping Chicago’s real chances to a minimum will allow the Union to know that they can and will be organized from the back. This then allows Philly to push the ball forward and create attacks where they will push for three points.
2. create overloads out wide in attack
The Union has done this all year. It is how they create width for their attack. The outside backs move forward and the shuttlers can run in the channels between those backs and the strikers to give another option for a ball in behind. We’ve seen in years past how Montiero and Wagner have a great connection moving down the left side. This season, we have seen the same type of chemistry from Bedoya and Mbaizo.
These two have really been a bright spot for the Union’s attack. The combination on the right-wing allows the strikers to make good runs in the box, and the number 10 to sit at the top of the box for a cutback. This is one way that Chicago has been picked apart before this season. If the Union can do this down their right or left-wing, they will be able to create good chances inside Chicago’s box and win the match.
3. take advantage of set piece opportunities
The Union has shown that they can take advantage of the size they have on set pieces. Of their 12 goals scored this season, the Union has scored five from set-pieces. With players like Przybylko, Burke, Glesnes, and Elliot in the box, the Union is getting more chances to score from corners and free kicks. In the first match against Chicago, the Union scored their two goals off of dead-ball situations.
If the Union can win free kicks or corners they have the height advantage and where-with-all to win second balls to create chances and score goals. They did it twice in the first match. This time around Philly should be even more prepared to capitalize on this advantage.
4. Deny Beric chances to strike
The main danger man for Chicago is Robert Beric. He has not had a good 2021 so far. He only has one goal from nine matches played. In 2020 he scored 11 goals in 20 matches. There’s one clear reason as to why this is happening has to do with the lack of service that Chicago gives their DP striker. The Union will need to be wary of this and keep this trend going to deny Beric the chance to strike.
Chicago had the bulk of possession in the first match against Philly and if they have that happen again, then Beric will be able to have a few chances to score a goal. Whether it be from service or through interplay if Beric is in a good position he should be able to convert. He’s Their DP attacking option, and while hes in a rut, you don’t want him to find his groove in this match.
5. Don’t play down to the opponent
In years past, Philly has gone into matches with lesser teams and they end up playing down to their opponent. This was back when the Union didn’t have a true identity. Now that they do this has rarely happened, but this would be the worst time for this Union team to lose to the worst team in MLS.
The Union plays the same at home as they do on the road now. No matter who the 11 players are on the field, Jim Curtin will have this squad raring to go, to press and counter for 90 minutes. Philly is too good to play down to Chicago. The Fire has no clear identity and hasn’t scored a goal since May 22nd, letting in a goal or dropping points from this match would be a failure for Philly.
Win and bring the unbeaten streak into July
It’s prediction time! Philly is clearly the better team and has five different ways that they can beat this team. All of these paths to victory depending on Philly showing up and playing their game. In all honesty, this Union team should win this game by multiple goals.
Should Philly want to keep pace with Orlando and New England, who both won midweek, they will need to win against teams they should beat. I see the Union winning 3-0 in Chicago Saturday night. They’ll bring their unbeaten streak into the month of July while closing the gap at the other top teams in the east!
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Mandatory Credit: Chicago Fire FC