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Match #10 Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire

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Setting: Saturday, May 21 at PPL Park in Chester; kickof scheduled for 8:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (J.P. Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Bob Rigby), coverage starting at 7:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show and leading into SportsNite after the match / Galavisión nationally in Spanish with tape-delayed coverage starting at 9:00 PM Eastern / No local television or radio coverage in Chicago / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (Canada only)

Chicago's Record: 1-3-5 (eighth in East)

Chicago's Last Match: T, 2-2 at Toronto FC

Philadelphia vs. Chicago Last Season: 1-1-0 (Philadelphia 1 @ Chicago 2 on June 5; Chicago 0 @ Philadelphia 1 on September 11, the Union's first-ever MLS shutout)

For the Chicago Perspective, Visit Hot Time In Old Town

It's been a tough couple of weeks for the Philadelphia Union, who are coming off playing three matches in nine nights, gaining only one point in the process. Yet, they will remain in second place in the Eastern Conference heading into Saturday night's match at PPL Park against the Chicago Fire. Coming in with a record of just 1-3-5 in MLS play, one would think that the Union are being gifted with yet another opportunity to revitalize their offense, and strengthen their play in front of Faryd Mondragon, who has reportedly fully recovered from a groin issue.

Do not, however, take the Fire lightly. Yes, they sit second to last in the Eastern, and yes, they're 0-2-3 on the road this year, but they've managed to earn draws in their last four matches. No, they're not the LA Galaxy or Real Salt Lake, but if the Union play like they did in Dallas, and Chicago plays like they have over the past few weeks, it will be Philadelphia coming away from yet another match thinking about what could have been. Chances must be finished in the offensive third, and opposition chances must be thwarted in the defensive third.

Indeed, that's what appeared would be happening in Dallas last Saturday. But the Union's first true domination of another club this season was fleeting, and slowly but surely, the team on the pitch began to look like the 2010 Union. What happened to the club that was willing to do whatever necessary to prevent a defensive breakdown? The same club that sacrificed their bodies to block countless opportunities whenever it was too late to legally do anything else? Wherever that form went -- the one with relentless defending and its opportunistic finishing -- it needs to come back. It was far from perfect, no doubt, but it's better than the form the Union have been playing in these last several matches, with adequate defending that has its moments of leaving Mondragon out to dry, and no scoring whatsoever outside of gifts from the other team.

Projected starters, up-to-date injury reports and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: Mondragon; Harvey, Califf, Valdes, Williams; Mapp, Carroll, Okugo, Le Toux; Ruiz, Mwanga

Chicago: Conway; Segares, Cuesta, Gibbs, Anibaba; Paladini; Pappa, Puerari, Bone, Oduro; Chaves

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, third-string 'keeper Thorne Holder remains unavailable following a concussion, as is Zach Pfeffer, who is of course still recovering from his appendectomy. Stefani Miglioranzi has been deemed "doubtful" due to a right groin strain, while Juan Diego Gonzalez is considered "questionable" due to illness. Faryd Mondragon, Gabe Farfan and Danny Mwanga are listed as "probable" despite a right groin strain, left hamstring strain and right shoulder sprain, respectively.

For Chicago, Mike Banner and Steven Kinney are unavailable due to left Achilles tendinitis and recovery from a right Achilles repair, respectively. Patrick Nyarko and Michael Videira are both ruled as well out due to concussion symptoms. Marko Maric is considered "doubtful" thanks to a left deltoid sprain as well as a talar contusion. Pari Pantazopolous and Josip Mikulic have been deemed "questionable" due to a left quad contusion and left shoulder injury, respectively, while Sean Johnson is listed as "probable" despite a right quad strain.

Of note:

  • Hilario Grajeda is scheduled to be the match referee. In 41 career MLS matches, Grajeda has called for an average of between 25 and 26 fouls per match, handed out an average of between three and four yellow cards per match, given a total of eight red cards and has called for a total of eight penalty kicks. Let's hope that the officiating from Grajeda is not Hilario-usly bad (sorry, way too easy).
  • Danny Mwanga will receive a one-match suspension after he is given his next yellow card, as will Gonzalo Segares, due to high collection of cautions. Sheanon Williams is now only two yellow cards away from a one-match suspension, as are Diego Chaves and Daniel Paladini.
  • Jon Conway had a real howler in Chicago's 2-2 draw at BMO Field in Toronto (where the Union are scheduled to play a week from Saturday). Should he get the start as expected, the Union will absolutely want to put everything they can on frame early to see if they can shake Conway's confidence a bit into letting out a few rebounds.
  • No worries for the Union about potentially facing Chicago Designated Player Nery Castillo anymore. Castillo, who is on loan with Aris FC, isn't coming back to Chicago anytime soon, with Frank Klopas saying "he's not a guy that fits" on the Fire right now.
Can the Union get back on the winning track, or at least score a goal or two? Or will it be another disappointing two hours for the Union, with Chicago leaving PPL Park and Chester with a statement result under their belt with which to continue turning around their season? Hope you can join us for a gamethread!