The Philadelphia Union (10-6-6, 36 Pts, 1st Place Eastern Conference) return home to erase the failure that was the 4-0 L at Real Salt Lake to host the Chicago Fire (5-9-8, 23 Pts, 10th Place) but just 6 pts below the red line at 7th place, starting with this season.
Union/Chicago Fire Series History:
The two teams have played pretty evenly at 9-8-5 – 35-34 in goals scored, but the U are 6-2-2 – 20-15 GF v GA, at Talen Energy Stadium. The last tilt was a rare 4-3 W in stoppage time at Chicago on 7/11/18.
Last Time Out:
As noted above the Union had it handed to them in Utah. It was after all a Western Conference team w/ the resulting tough road trip, and RSL had more to play for to get back in playoff position, and had won four in a row at home.
The Fire suffered a late 2-2 home draw against Columbus Crew SC. If they had held on it would have been just their second W since 5/11.
Chicago Fire Notes:
Obviously the big story line is the return of F. C. J. Sapong. He leads the Fire with nine goals, two of them game winners, second on shots (45) and shots on goal (20). Their play maker MF Aleksandar Katai (4G) leads by a ton in those last two categories, 80, and 23 respectively. He also has 4 assists, one on a game winner. It will be the first time Big Africa will play against the U. Though some criticized him for not finishing his chances as often as maybe he should have here, he was still a popular player overall in his four seasons, and should get a good ovation when he is introduced.
Chicago has nobody on the injury list
Speaking of 9G, Kacper Przybylko leads the Union with that same number. He also leads in shots (52) and 23 SOG.
There has been a lot of movement on the GK front this week. Fortunately none involve starter Andre Blake. Carlos Miguel Coronel who was on loan from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, returned to his team. To replace him they acquired goalkeeper Joe Bendik from Columbus Crew SC All they lost was a natural 2020 MLS SuperDraft second-round pick. Bendik will be the back-up goalie as Home Grown Matt Freese has a right quad strain. Bendik started six games this season giving up 12G, and making 14 saves, no clean sheets while going 0-5-1. He has played in 176 MLS games, all but three of them starts.
The Union have three other players out D Olivier Mbaizo, MFs Jamiro Monteiro and Sergio Santos. They also still have the three players on yellow card cautions, M Alejandro Bedoya, and Ds Jack Elliott, and Kai Wagner.
Chicago is a team that has only won once in their last 10 games, and are 0-7-3 on the road, so this is a game the Union should win and need to win to hold on to that top spot in the East. There is only a three point difference between the top three teams, with DC United only one point behind on the same number of games.
I predict the hot and steamy home crowd will be woofing it up on what was supposed to be Paws On the Pitch night – postponed because of the heat – for a 2-Nil Union W.
One last note on the expected heat, as well as postponing the dogs night, the U have relaxed their policy to allow reusable water bottles to be brought into the stadium and will provide ice for those that need it. Good move by them, and anyone who follows this scribe knows that I hope they make this a permanent policy, if the phans can be adult about it.
Stay cool and stay classy Union Phans.