Photo: Frank Fimmano

Photo: Frank Fimmano

Match Preview: Union at Chicago Fire, Wednesday, July 11th at 8:30 pm

The Philadelphia Union will take on the Chicago Fire for the second time this season Wednesday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.

Back in January, David Accam left the Chicago Fire and joined the Union to much fanfare. Like many, I was excited about the trade, and looked forward to Accam scoring many goals for the Union. I looked forward to the day when Accam would return to Chicago, eager to show his former team and fans what a mistake they made by letting him go.

Yeah, well that’s not gonna happen. He might not even get on the pitch. Accam’s season started poorly and he eventually lost his starting spot as he has yet to score a goal in MLS competitions.

Instead, we will probably have Fafa Picault on the left wing, and Ilsinho on the right, as Accam sits on the bench and watches. And Picault undoubtedly deserves to be in that starting XI, as his pace has created chances all season. But they’re not getting finished very often, and that’s the problem with the Union.

Saturday’s 2-0 loss against Atlanta United FC was another case-in-point. The Union looked strong in the first half, creating chances and dictating the pace of the match. They took 11 shots in the half, but only one was on goal. Once Josef Martinez gave Atlanta the lead in the 57th minute, the game changed and Atlanta took control.

And this is the problem. The Union have yet to score in the first 20 minutes. They need to take advantage of those early-in-the-match chances to reduce that chance that they would be chasing the game in the second half. Much has been said of the ineffectiveness of C.J. Sapong, but head coach Jim Curtin seems to still believe he can play his way out of it. The good news is that the Union will be a full strength, and maybe getting away from a hostile home crowd will help clear his head. It hasn’t worked in the previous road matches, but we need something to hope for.

Of course, most Union fans would rather see Cory Burke start. And it wouldn’t be a bad move, especially considering he scored in the U’s impressive 3-1 home win over the Fire back on May 30th. It was one the Union’s better performances this season. Borek Dockal and Ilsinho also scored in that match, and we should expect them both to be in the lineup.

The Union may have won the first meeting, but this time they will be the visitors, and their road record is a dismal 1-6-1. On top of that, this time they’ll be defending against last year’s Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic, who didn’t play in that match.  The Fire have been mediocre this year, coming into the match just below the playoff red line with 23 points in 19 games played. The Union are right behind the Fire in the standings with 21 points. This is an excellent chance for the Union to position themselves for a push to the playoffs.

However, I have no confidence in the Union getting a result on the road. They seem to be a different team outside of Talen Energy Stadium. The Fire have a top-notch striker, the Union do not, and that will be the difference. Prediction: 1-0 Fire.