Fresh off of their first home win of the season against Minnesota United last week, the Chicago Fire will host a struggling Philadelphia Union team at Soldier Field. The Fire will be looking to avenge a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at the Union earlier in the year, while the visitors are hoping to get their season back on track in the midst of a winless run in the league. We spoke with Joe Lister of Philadelphia Soccer Now ahead of the match to get some insight from the Union’s perspective.
The Chicago Fire have already met the Philadelphia Union this season, a late 1-0 loss at Subaru Park. Has Philly looked over the last few weeks since that match?
Frankly, rough. The Union hasn’t won a game since they beat Chicago (take that as you will) outside of their home win over Atlas in CCL. The Union has struggled. CONCACAF Champions League takes its toll on plenty of teams, but the Union is really feeling it this year. However, the Union’s performance on the road to advance against Atlas on Wednesday night may be a rallying point. All the same, MLS struggles are always justified by international success.
Incredibly, the Union currently sit outside of the playoff places. What’s gone wrong this season in MLS?
That’s the question that everyone’s been asking. I blame CCL for weighing on the team too much, others say that the mojo is just gone right now. The team is really just searching for answers. Certain players will look good on certain days, but the team doesn’t often look good as a whole. In theory, this will all come to a close when the Union’s CCL run ends.
The Union have had to battle with added fixtures on their schedule thanks to the CONCACAF Champions League and enter this weekend’s match coming off of a CCL game midweek in Guadalajara against Atlas. How will this heavy workload impact Jim Curtin’s selection and approach on Saturday?
It’s tough to say. Curtin appeared to put his first team lineup on the pitch against Atlas, so there should be some rotation. That being said, Curtin pulled some players off the pitch early, so rotation may not be much of an issue. Fullback Kai Wagner may have picked up an injury in Guadalajara, but that should be the only big absence on the night. I’d expect seven or eight of the team’s best players to start with a few reserves out there on the attack.
Last time these two teams met at Soldier Field, it was the Fire who came out on top, 1-0. Who will be the key players for the Union if they are to end their own difficult streak this weekend and avenge last year’s defeat?
Forward Julián Carranza will be massive. He’s coming off of a brace against Atlas, which may have triggered a hot streak in the next few games. Carranza could be the man of the night. Goalkeeper Andre Blake, as always, will be important. Midfielders Jack McGlynn/Leon Flach both looked great on Wednesday; they could both be critical. Realistically though, it’s past due for the whole team to look good; that’s the only way for this the Union to start winning MLS games.