Despite last weekend’s Double Whammy of Alejandro Bedoya and the USMNT not qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the New York Red Bulls win to officially eliminate the Philadelphia Union (10-13-9, 39 points, Tie for 7th Place Eastern Conference) from the 2017 MLS Playoffs, the season rolls on. They travel to the windy city for their penultimate game of the season to face the Chicago Fire (15-10-7, 52 points, 4th Place)
Union/Fire Series History:
The series is knotted at seven wins a piece and five draws. The last match was a 3-1 Union victory at home back on 9/23. Chicago has a 5-2 edge at home with 3 draws.
LAST TIME OUT:
The Union are coming off a 2-0 win over the defending MLS Champs Seattle Sounders FC on Oct. 1. At the time it kept their playoff hopes alive and kept Seattle from clinching the West division.
Chicago drew their last match at home against NYCFC 1-1.
WHAT’S AT STAKE:
For the Union, pride and ending the season on a high note are about all they have left to play for.
The Fire on the other hand could still earn a playoff home game, as early as this weekend, as well as keeping a first round bye in play. To do so they need to win against the U, coupled with a draw or loss by Columbus in Orlando.
Chicago’s man to watch is leading scorer, F Nemanja Nikolić who has 21 goals, MLS best, four of which are GWG, on 107 shots, 3rd in MLS, 54 on goal. He has scored in four of his last five games, the only blanking being the match against the Union.
While the Union will want to win the last two matches to feel better about themselves, at the same time with little to really play for, they need to assess the talent they have, young and old, to see what changes to make in the off-season. For that reason it is tough to single out any one player or players, or even predict who will start or be in the reserves.
As much as I would like to pick the upset here, Chicago just has too much to play for and the home team has been very good in this series, so I will say Chicago 2-1, scoring late to win it.
Local Playoffs Secured:
The Union’s USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC made history on October 12th, as they clinched their first ever playoff appearance. They could finish anywhere from 6th to 8th seed. They have one more match against St. Louis FC Sunday afternoon.