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Fire vs. Union: Who's worse?

We know that both of these teams are bad, but we take on the monumental task of deciding which one's worse.

Union legend Justin Mapp dribbles past the entire Chicago Fire XI.
Union legend Justin Mapp dribbles past the entire Chicago Fire XI.
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Both the Philadelphia Union and the Chicago Fire are very, very bad teams. This is an undeniable fact. But which of these two truly awful teams is worse?


Fire: Chicago is 6-12-4 through 22 games, with a points per game average of 1.

Union: The Union are 6-13-5 through 24 games, with a points per game average of .96.

Advantage: Fire


Fire: The Fire play their home games in 20,000-capacity Toyota Park. Located in Bridgeview, Illinois, the stadium is about 12 miles southwest of Chicago proper. Unfortunately for Fire fans, it's a pain in the ass to reach. Public transit options aren't quite ideal, and driving to the game can be a hassle.

Union: Chester-based PPL Park is the home of the Union. Designed by the same architecture firms, it bears a striking resemblance to Toyota Park, especially in the grandstands and the roofs hovering above them. PPL, like Toyota Park, isn't situated in the city for which the team is named. Just off I-95, it's not too hard to access by car. Public transportation, complemented by private shuttles, is another option, but it's a long, somewhat precarious trek.

Advantage: Union

Designated Players

Fire: Since the rule was created back in 2007, the Fire have had 11 Designated Players, the most of any team in MLS. Of the 11, only one (Cuauhtémoc Blanco) has played more than 30 games in a Fire uniform. The club has made its share of mistakes over the years, but its DP misdealings take the cake. Don't believe me? Ask Sherjill MacDonald.

Union: The Union have had some spectacular DP failures in their time, but they have a ways to go before they reach the Fire's level of incompetence. Signed by Peter Nowak in August of 2011, Freddy Adu was the club's first Designated Player. Nowak got the boot the following June, and his successor, John Hackworth, wasn't as big a fan of Adu. The denim-clad, XFINITY Live-frequenting playmaker was barred from practice before he was shipped to Brazil in exchange for the club's second DP: Kleberson.

Kleberson appeared in three World Cups, but he couldn't get off John Hackworth's bench. He only played 11 times during his short, uneventful stay in Philadelphia.

Since then, the Union have actually had a decent record with DPs. Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu, both signed in the winter of 2014, have excelled in their time with the Union.

Advantage: Union

Piotr Nowak

Fire: Piotr Nowak was the Fire's first legend, joining the club in their inaugural season and leading them to three major trophies before his retirement. Three times the club MVP, he was a veritable hero to the fans who watched their new soccer team take MLS by storm. When the Fire created their club hall of fame, Nowak was the first inductee.

Union: The club's first coach, Nowak was similarly revered by Union fans. His blunt, outgoing nature resonated with Philadelphia natives who rejoiced when the Union made the playoffs for the first time in 2011. His public image quickly turned that off-season, after the club was bounced from the playoffs as a result of his strange tactical shift. That off-season, Nowak forced Sebastien Le Toux to trial with Bolton, in England. Le Toux reportedly protested, claiming that he was injured. Two weeks after the trial, Le Toux was traded to Vancouver. Later that year, Danny Califf was traded to Chivas USA. Public outrage was at an all-time high after Nowak shipped two fan favorites across the country. When he traded Danny Mwanga to Portland in June, Nowak's position became untenable.

Nowak was fired in disgrace, but, according to him, not justly so. He sued the team for wrongful termination and claimed that they refused to pay him severance. In the court battle that followed, it was revealed that Nowak "may have improperly profited from player transactions" and "[made] players run 10 miles without water during a hot and 'humid' day." Great guy.

Advantage: Fire


Fire: In September of 2007, Andrew Hauptman of Andell Holdings bought the Chicago Fire from AEG. Despite initial "success" (two conference finals appearances in '08 and '09), the Fire haven't been to the playoffs since 2010. For the last five years, the Fire have not only been bad; they have been one of the league's running jokes. The turnover in Chicago has been so radical that only three (3) players from the 2013 Chicago Fire are still with the club. Their managerial record is not much better, as both of MLS's Franks (Klopas, then Yallop) have taken turns at the club's helm since 2011.

In 2013, Hauptman and another member of the Fire Front Office approved an editorial from Dan Lobring, the club's communications director. The editorial, which--sometimes fairly, sometimes not--criticized the fans' behavior and support of the team. Of course, this totally blew up in the face of all involved. Even though Lobring made some good points, calling out your team's fans on the official team website is like #1 on the list of "Things not to do when you're a sports team's communications director." Lobring took his share of heat for this, but The Editorial ignited the coals of hate toward Hauptman

With the team playing like 11 garbage bags with legs, anti-Hauptman sentiments are more prevalent than they've ever been.

Union: Jay Sugarman, the Union's owner, and Nick Sakiewicz, CEO and operating partner, are the faces associated with Union ownership. Sugarman, a New York real estate mogul, has been the subject of questions regarding the Union's financial health. It's long been rumored that his personal wealth was hit hard by the market crash of 2008, and that is the root of the Union's problems.

Sugarman rarely speaks or even appears in the public realm, effectively deputizing Sakiewicz as the front office's voice. Sakiewicz, a self-obsessed executive who has (allegedly) had his hand in more than his fair share of personnel decisions in the club's history, has not endeared himself to Union supporters in his time in charge. His smug, smarter-than-you demeanor has alienated fans who feel as if they aren't respected by the club's CEO and thus aren't valued by the owner who allows his subordinate to run rampant.

Advantage: Fire

It came down to the wire, but we have scientifically determined that the Union are worse than the Fire. Let's see if that's how the next two results play out.