Game: Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire
Date: Wednesday, June 22nd
Time: 7:00 PM
Venue: Talen Energy Stadium
Television: The Comcast Network
Streaming: MLS Live
All-time Record: Despite sitting at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference table at the moment, the Philadelphia Union (6-4-5) and Chicago Fire (2-6-5) have been evenly matched in their history together. The Fire earned a slight edge with their 1-0 snow squall victory in early April (despite being out-shot 13-2), leaving the Union with five wins, six losses, and five draws through 16 meetings in regular season play. Their lone US Open Cup encounter occurred during the 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: Former Union player and cult hero Veljko Paunovic will make his return to Talen Energy Stadium - this time as a manager - with a Chicago Fire squad desperate to earn their first road win and climb out of the league basement. They will have to do so without defender Matt Polster, who recently suffered a concussion, and hope for more offensive production from their top scorers in David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike (7 goals combined) as their DP striker Gilberto (zero goals on 23 shots) reportedly seeks his exit from the Windy City club. Chicago has been working with a 4-2-3-1 formation that has proved fairly stingy in terms of goals allowed, and despite scoring a league-low 11 goals through 13 games, has managed to keep their opposition within a single goal in every game but one.
How Philadelphia will look: Unbeaten at home, the Philadelphia Union could still be without top scorer CJ Sapong (ankle) and now possibly Warren Creavalle (abdomen/groin), while Joshua Yaro (shoulder) should be available for selection. Following a poor first-half performance against New York City FC, it is likely that Yaro will return to his spot alongside Richie Marquez ahead of Andre Blake, with Keegan Rosenberry having securely locked down the right back role. The only real question should be whether it will be Fabinho or Ray Gaddis on the left flank, and in his weekly press conference, Jim Curtin tipped his hand slightly pointing out that Fabinho gets more starts at home (where the team more regularly maintains possession). In the midfield, there can be little doubt that Brian Carroll and Tranquillo Barnetta will set the tone, with a gradually-coming-into-form Roland Alberg making a case to be included in the attack with regulars Sebastien Le Toux and Chris Pontius. Fabian Herbers' role will largely depend on Sapong's availability, and there is always the chance for an Ilsinho sighting.
What to expect: The Philadelphia Union will want to bounce back in a big way, after two disheartening recent losses - the 3-2 defeat to NYCFC and the termination of Vincent Nogueira's contract. Look for the Union to make a big statement and remain unbeaten on their home turf against a Fire team they dominated but ultimately could not finish off the first time, and for Chicago to continue their current run of form: 1-5-3 since the teams last met. Perhaps most interesting to watch will be if Brandon Vincent (over whom the Union selected early Rookie of the Year favorite Keegan Rosenberry in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft) makes any contribution to the game.