Date: Saturday, September 3rd
Time: 8:30pm ET
Venue: Toyota Park
Referees: REF: Baldomero Toledo, AR1: Eric Boria, AR2: Logan Brown, 4th: Marcos DeOliveira
Television: The Comcast Network
Streaming: MLS Live
All-Time Record: The Union (11-9-7) and the Fire (5-12-8) have historically split the results right down the middle through 17 league meetings, with 6 wins each and 5 draws to round out the rest. In a snowy early-season encounter, Chicago managed to claim all three points at home with a 1-0 win before the Union struck back in a 4-3 early-summer frenzy at Talen Energy Stadium. The only match to separate the two came in the form of a Sebastien LeToux winner in the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal round.
How Chicago will look: The Fire's lineup will be markedly different from their first encounter, when Gilberto (contract terminated), Kennedy Igboananike (traded), David Accam (international duty), and Matt Lampson (back to the bench now that Sean Johnson is healthy) factored into the game. At the bottom of the table, with their strong US Open Cup run behind them, further changes would be understandable in response to last Saturday's 6-2 drubbing at the hands of D.C. United. That loss, however, came at the end of a successful string of positive results and hectic travel schedule, so former Union player and current Fire manager Veljko Paunovic may try to keep things consistent. In front of Sean Johnson's goal should be Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Jonathan Campbell, and Brandon Vincent. Matt Polster, John Goossens, Razvan Cocis, and possibly Arturo Alvarez (in for suspended Khaly Thiam) will run the midfield, with Michael de Leeuw sitting behind striker Luis Solignac (formerly of the Colorado Rapids).
How Philadelphia will look: Coming off of an impressive home win against Sporting Kansas City, Jim Curtin would probably prefer to trot out the same lineup in Chicago, though Alejandro Bedoya and Andre Blake will both miss the game for international duty. Matt Jones has come along in his recovery (knee sprain), but we will see John McCarthy suit up for his first start of the 2016 season. Josh Yaro made fantastic use of his two most recent starts to make a strong case for maintaining a spot along the back with Fabinho, Richie Marquez, and Keegan Rosenberry. Chris Pontius is a lock to start on the left wing when healthy, and Fabian Herbers has made himself pesky along the right wing while Ilsinho has been on the mend. Maurice Edu still seems to be a week or two away, and while Brian Carroll has returned to full training, it seems likely that Warren Creavalle will slot in in front of the back four. In Bedoya's absence (and knowing Tranquillo Barnetta and CJ Sapong are certain to be in the starting lineup whenever healthy), the most logical move would be to plug the red-hot Roland Alberg into the mix. Alberg will have been eyeing this fixture in since June, when he lit the Chicago defense (largely the same one that will line up on Saturday) for a hat-trick and a forced own goal.
What to expect: The Philadelphia Union have only just recently begun collecting points on the road, while Chicago has managed just four wins out of a dozen games at Toyota Park this year. Look for the Union to continue their steady pressure, and for the hungry offensive to pin the Fire defense back for significant stretches of the game. The real problem for Chicago continues to be in their attack, which has mustered a league-low 29 goals (11 scored by players who will not be on the field on Saturday). The scales seem to be tipping in Philadelphia's favor, but both sides have been trading blows evenly for the past seven years no matter where they've been in the standings.