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For All The Marbles, Part 2: Union vs. Chicago Fire Preview

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday, both the Chicago Fire and the Philadelphia Union played for all the marbles.

The Union of course got to take the marbles to the tune of a 1-0 victory which propelled them into the Open Cup Final for the second year in a row.

Now? Now they're playing for the possibility of a late season playoff run.

Yes, the playoffs are still technically an attainable goal for both teams. The fact that the Eastern Conference is weak this year (I'll just pause and let you recover your socks that I have blown off) means that both teams still have a shot to sneak in. It's not like New York City FC, Orlando, or the Montreal Impact are insurmountable teams that we can't surpass. The fact of the matter is, if the Union don't collect at least seven out of nine points from the next three matches, the Union probably aren't going to have much of a chance of getting into the playoffs. All three matches are against teams the Union must beat in order to climb past the three above mentioned teams. The three matches are as follows: vs. Chicago Fire, at Montreal Impact, and vs. New England Revolution. Both the Impact and the Revs are above the Union in terms of points (28 and 34 respectively).

However, it all starts with Chicago.

The Fire is currently one of the only teams one could argue are "worse" than the Union. Chicago sit behind the Union by a single point. Both teams need a win from this match in order to have any chance of making the playoffs. A tie pretty much means that both are exactly where they started. Yes, I said that seven out of nine points are virtually a requirement, but Chicago is not the team to get a single point from. This is a team you must beat, doesn't matter if it's a 1-0 or 3-0.

Chicago is virtually in the same place as the Union in terms of what this game means for them. Chicago's remaining schedule is almost entirely against Eastern Conference teams while the Union have 2 games against Western foes, not to mention Chicago has two games in hand on the Union. However, in order to jump-start a playoff run, Chicago needs 3 points from this match.

Players to Watch

Watching the Open Cup match on Wednesday, I was more than a little surprised by the fact that the deadliest player on Chicago's team, David Accam, was subbed off in the 58th minute. I expect him once again to be a dangerous attacking threat to the Union's back line.

As for the Union, they actually were generating some chances against the Fire defense and were a little unlucky to not get two or three goals from the match. C.J. Sapong showed he could beat the Chicago defense with his physicality and speed and I expect to see more of the same from him this match.

Final Prediction

Given the problems both teams have, the Union's defense being porous and Chicago's attack being almost nonexistent, I once again expect to see the Union create scoring chances. Chicago did little if anything to show me that they are the better team and honestly I think they were lucky to not lose by two or three goals in the Open Cup match.

Once again I'm calling a Union win, 2-0 with goals by Sapong and Maidana.