Date: Saturday, April 2nd
Time: 5:00 PM
Venue: Toyota Park
Referees: REF: Silviu Petrescu, AR1: Phil Briere, AR2: Gianni Facchini, 4th: Kevin Terry, Jr.
Television: The Comcast Network
Streaming: MLS Live
All-time Record: The Union (2-1-0) and Chicago (0-1-2) have met 15 times in regular season play, splitting the spoils with five wins apiece and five draws. Their lone US Open Cup encounter occurred during semifinal round of the 2015 edition of the tournament, when a 1-0 result sent the Union through to the championship match.
How Chicago will look: Reports seem to indicate that Sean Johnson's wrist injury will keep him out of the net again this coming Saturday, keeping the door open for Matt Lampson to get the nod. Further reports suggest that David Accam's knee injury could prevent him from factoring in the second straight game. Look for former Union player and current Fire manager Veljko Paunovic to run with a flexible 3-5-2, allowing Brandon Vincent to roam the left flank and challenge fellow 2016 SuperDraft first-rounder Keegan Rosenberry. Midfielder Matt Polster will hope to put Olympic disappointment aside and anchor the midfield behind attacking threats Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike.
How Philadelphia will look: An early bye week gave the Union squad time to heal, with everyone but Maurice Edu available for selection on Saturday. Andre Blake will return from a run of mixed World Cup Qualifier results with the Jamaican National Team, the cast across the back (Keegan Rosenberry, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett, and Fabinho) will probably remain the same, and CJ Sapong is a lock starter up top. The big question marks are in the midfield, where former Fire player and current Union manager Jim Curtin will need to decide how best to utilize real depth without a Scooby Doo-style tall-man act. Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta, Warren Creavalle, Ilsinho, and Roland Alberg would make for an interesting starting combination, with Brian Carroll, Sebastien Le Toux, and Vincent Nogueira (still experiencing ankle discomfort) ready to make an impact from the bench.
What to expect: The Fire will be hungry for their first win of the season, and while two of their stronger pieces (Johnson and Accam) may end up missing the match, there is enough talent in place to ask questions of an inexperienced-but-growing Union back line. CJ Sapong will certainly be licking his lips at a chance to run at Chicago's similarly young crop of defenders. If the Union hope to continue the momentum started a few weeks ago, they will need the right combination of experience, creativity, resolute defending, and poise in the midfield. All careful planning could go out the window, however, with forecasts of tremendously high winds threatening to leave their mark on the stat sheet.