Game: Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire
Date: Sunday, March 29th
Time: 5:00 PM EDT
Venue: Toyota Park
"A must win game." Hoo boy, am I getting sick of writing and saying that when it pertains to the Philadelphia Union. Must win games are never fun to talk about, if your team wins you merely stave off that feeling for another week. If you lose, it only continues the dogpiling of doom and gloom that surrounds the team. But entering Sunday's contest with a record of 0-1-2 against a Chicago side that is 0-3-0 what else can one say? The Union NEED to win on Sunday, they need a margin of victory of 2 goals or more, they need to start proving to the fanbase that the 2015 Union season won't turn out like the 2014 one, i.e. where the team digs itself into a hole so deep that a late season run can't save it.
But on the plus side, if there is a side playing worse soccer in the league currently, it is the Chicago Fire who scored the first goal of their season last week against San Jose in Avaya Stadium. The Union haven't lost to the Fire in Bridgeview since 2012 (a 1-0 affair with a goal by Dominic Oduro so historically speaking the Union are sitting on some decent history against the Fire.
The Fire will also be missing Scottish Designated Player Shawn Maloney who has left the squad to join up with the Scottish National Team. The Fire are also missing Mike Magee (hip surgery) and Patrick Nyarko (Torn ACL) due to injury. The Union for their part are battling some injuries themselves with Cristian Maidana (MCL Sprain), Conor Casey (Sports Hernia), C.J. Sapong (Concussion, Fractured Cheekbone) and Sheanon Williams (Hamstring Tightness). Meaning that if Williams isn't ready to go we're probably looking at a backline with Fabinho at LB with Ray Gaddis on the opposite side. Obviously Fabinho struggled against Dallas in the previous game and Chicago will certainly seek to exploit his defensive lapses.
The Chicago Fire will no doubt rely heavily on Harrison Shipp, Quincy Amarikwa, and DP Forward David Accam (who saw the field as a sub for the first time in a Fire uniform against San Jose). More than likely with Maloney being called up the Union are looking at facing Accam and Amarikwa in some kind of 4-4-2 formation. As for the Union, with Maidana out with injury and Pfeffer suspended with a red card the Union will be looking for someone to step in an fill the role of an attacking midfielder. Logic would suggest that Vincent Nogueira be given free reign to move forward from the central midfield with Maurice Edu hanging back to help Fabinho on defense. If Williams cannot start on Saturday, the back line will more than likely consist of Fabinho, Vitoria, White and Gaddis (the obivous choice). As for up top, I could see Dzenan Catic getting the nod to start up top with Fernando Aristiguieta. However, if Catic doesn't start, a midfield consisting of Lahoud, Edu, Nogueira with Wenger and Le Toux filling the Winger roles is probably likely.
How will the Union fare? I honestly have no earthly idea. So far in 3 games the Union have gone from being beaten by the referee to beating themselves. Chicago is playing terrible right now and if there is one team out there that the Union SHOULD be able to put a "W" on their schedule it is this game. The Union actually played decently (before the red card) against FC Dallas a team that by all accounts, is the best in the league right now. They were on the verge of beating Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium before a terrible PK call nixed that. But they couldn't beat a woeful Colorado squad that they had a man advantage on for over 20 minutes.
But I'll drink the Kool-Aid one more time, this is a game that they SHOULD win, NEED to win and WILL win.
2-0 Union, with goals by Aristiguieta and Nogueira.