Philadelphia Union preview: Chi-Town throwdown

Union

It had to happen eventually, right? After a month that saw the Union flying high with incredible results, the team’s first loss in over a month finally happened. The team fell to FC Cincinnati 3-1 this past Saturday in a game that Jim Curtin would most like to forget. While the team did not have their best game, one must not forget that this is only their third loss through twenty-four games to this point in the season. Despite the loss, things ended up working in the team’s favor as NYCFC lost 3-2 against Columbus, keeping the gap between first and second place at three points.

Five ways the Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire

The team must now turn their attention back home as they welcome the Chicago Fire to Subaru Park. The last time these two teams faced, Chicago managed to squeak out a 1-0 victory at home in an ugly affair that saw Jose Martinez get two yellow cards and get sent off. Let us check in to see how Chicago has fared since they faced the Union, the player to watch out for, and a prediction for this upcoming weekend’s game.

2022 MLS Season

The Chicago Fire picked a good time to start getting some solid results. In the seven games, since they beat the Union, they have accumulated a record of 4-2-1 in that span for four wins, two losses, and one draw. So far, through twenty-four games, they have a record of 8-10-6 for eight wins, ten losses, and six draws. The thing that has seemed to change for the Fire during this impressive run of form has been the offense finally starting to click.

Ezra Hendrickson has finally gotten his team to start playing better in the final third while also getting the defense to play a bit better than they had done earlier in the season. Even with the impending transfer of goalkeeper Gaga Slonina to Chelsea in the winter, the defense has been truly picking it up while also providing a bit of a spark for the offense as center-back Rafael Czichos has chipped in three goals to this point in the season.

X-Factor

The player that the Union needs to watch out for might be one of the shortest players on the field, but do not let his size fool you into thinking that he is a slouch on the field. I am referring of course to the Swiss attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. After what appeared to be a slow start for the Swiss captain, he has truly taken the team on his back during this run of form and helped pull them into some solid results. Through twenty games played, he has put together a scoring record of four goals and ten assists which is a decent tally considering how he started the season.

The Union will be familiar with how Shaqiri operates after their game in Chicago. He excels on the ball with loads of space to pick his head up and ping out long passes. This is something that the Union needs to stop and truly press on. Allowing Shaqiri to have the time and space he wants to pull the strings of the offense is something Jim Curtin will hopefully look to stop. If Shaqiri gets going, it could potentially be a long night for the Union backline.

Prediction

After a rough game in Cincinnati, I think there could potentially be a couple of lineup changes, but at the same time, Jim Curtin has been known not to tinker all that much to keep the chemistry going. I do not expect the likes of the front three of Gazdag, Uhre, and Carranza to be kept off the scoresheet again this game. Expect the Union to come out on the front foot and truly take the game to Chicago. I believe that this team will want to shake off the ugliness of the previous game and show the fans that the month of July was no joke.

If the team can stop the likes of Shaqiri and Mueller, the Chicago offense will slow to a grinding halt and it will be the Union’s game to control. There will be plenty of chances for the Union to test Gaga Slonina and it could be a rough game for the young keeper. I fully expect the Union to rebound from a tough effort and take this game 3-1. Game time on Saturday is at 7:30 pm.

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Doop on Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

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