Game: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union
Date: Sunday, October 15th
Time: 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Central, 2:00 p.m. Pacific, 9:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.)
Referees: REF: ALLEN CHAPMAN, AR1: Peter Balciunas, AR2: Nick Uranga, 4TH: Marcos DeOliveira, VAR: Luis Guardia
Television: 6ABC, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Streaming: MLS Live
The Philadelphia Union have won seven, lost seven, and drawn five against the Chicago Fire in MLS play. The Union also beat Chicago in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup semifinal, and won their match earlier this year by a score of 3-1 in Chester on September 23rd.
What Chicago will look like
The Fire are within striking distance of New York City FC for the second spot in the East, which would mean a bye during the first round of the playoffs. They’re also capable of slipping to sixth, although the New York Red Bulls will need to make up an 11 goal difference in the two remaining games. They’ll look to utilize home field advantage to help them grab three critical points against the Union.
If the Fire have a weakness, it’s the amount of players they currently have out injured. John Goossens, Michael de Leeuw, and Juninho are out, and Bastian Schweinsteiger is listed as questionable. It will be interesting to see if manager Veljko Paunović elects to play him or rest him for the season finale against the Houston Dynamo.
Even without these players, Chicago is still a very dangerous team. Nemanja Nikolić currently leads the MLS Golden Boot race with 21 goals. Luis Solignac sits behind Nikolić in the attacking midfield and in the absence of de Leeuw and Schweinsteiger will be responsible for pulling most of the offensive strings for the Fire along with the deeper-lying Dax McCarty.
What Philadelphia will look like
At this point in the season, guys are playing for next year. Some like Roland Alberg and a host of other fringe players need to impress in their last two opportunities or else they could be looking for work elsewhere. Others like Ilsinho merely need to get a certain number of appearances before triggering clauses that could renew their contracts. While the motivations are all different, these last two matches should see what the players are truly made of.
The Union have Ken Tribbett, Maurice Edu, and Fabian Herbers listed as out injured, with Warren Creavalle and Josh Yaro questionable. Edu was listed as questionable the last time out, so it remains to be seen what the latest injury is.
Look for the Union to give a good look to their defenders. Fabinho, Ray Gaddis, and Richie Marquez all may get playing time to help evaluate where they stand for next year. The Union will have some hard choices regarding who should be retained and who will be left to pursue other opportunities, so Jim Curtin may let these guys go out and sink or swim against a pretty powerful Chicago offense.
What to expect
The Union have won exactly one game on the road this season, back in May against D.C. United. While Chicago won one out of their last five at home (against D.C. United), they’ve also only lost one of their last six overall. They’re a quality side top to bottom and it’ll take the Union playing a perfect game in order to beat them.