Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union v. Chicago Fire

Photo by Marjorie Elzy

Who: Philadelphia Union (6-4-6, 23 points, 4th place in the East) vs. Chicago Fire (3-9-3, 12 points, 13th place n the East)

What: 2021 MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaro Park, Chester, PA

When: Sunday, 6:00pm

Watch: PHL17, TUDN, UniMas, Twitter

Whistle: Not listed at time of publication

The third match up of the year between the Snakes and the Flames takes place in Chester Sunday evening.

The Coiled Ones will look to get out of their July doldrums by way of the league’s most consistent slump-breaker. Meanwhile, the Windy Wanderers will wonder whether warmer weather would warrant a win.

Scouting Report: Chicago Fire

The Fire have the strange distinction of being one of the most dominant possession teams in MLS while simultaneously being among its worst in pass completion percentage. While the reader strokes his or her respective chin to figure out how that can be true, the Fire are already allowing a goal – they’ve allowed the third most in the conference, and second most if you consider the time Toronto FC quit against them to get Chris Armas fired a non-event.

The two things the Fire have going for them against a predictable Union are:

  • Robert Beric: Though their striker’s numbers are blushingly awful in 2021, he’s always good an unexpected tally, especially in a match like this one
  • 3-4-2-1: Among the Union’s foils in 2021 are teams that play with three in the back, and Chicago has already worked this formation to success during the team’s tsunami match earlier in the year

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

The MLS season is long, and even the best teams have months to forget.

July was like that for the Union, and fans have begun to forage in every corner of the Unionverse in search for a reason “why.” In short, they look like a team that hasn’t found it’s mojo yet – or re-found it perhaps – and one that has all of the LEGO pieces laid out on the table but can’t seem to figure out how to make them look like the picture on the box.

Sunday may just be an opportunity for the Union to do that, getting back to basics, keeping things simple, and drawing from the inspiration of a home crowd that has only seen the Boys twice since Memorial Day.

Injury Report:

OUT: Alvas Powell (injury)

Key Matchup: Mbazio & Wagner v. themselves

There shouldn’t be much Chicago can do to shut down the Union’s outside backs. suggests one of the Fire’s weaknesses is “defending against attacks down the wings.” However, neither Union man has been the best version of himself this year and particularly Mbaizo’s tendency to settle for the less-than-ideal cross has rendered the group ineffective. If they can pounce on counter attacks and get checking midfielders more involved into triangles instead of lines, it will open the Fire up entirely – a weakness in any three-in-the-back formation is the gap between the lone centerback and his outside backs.

Instead of hitting crosses, fill that space first.

Player to Watch: Jamiro Monteiro

When the Union’s highest paid player was subbed off early against Miami, the stunned look on his face said more than any words could. The Cape Verdean wasn’t the worst player on the field, but he needs to be better. Since the Union scored almost immediately after his replacement arrived, he’d better be or his spot might be up for grabs in an increasingly crowded midfield.

How to be better? Simplicity. Faster transitions and less dancing, more tackling and less talking – the Union need everything at a higher level and fast execution from the talisman – as he goes, they go.

Prediction: Philadelphia 3 – 0 Chicago

This game is going to look and feel a lot like the team’s first leg in Atlanta during their early Champions League run: an uneven half without much on the attack. After halftime though, Jim Curtin is going to pull some strings and the floodgates will open. The Union might not be entirely off the schnied when it’s all said and done, but they’ll be working on it – with Union fans singing all the way to the parking lots.


  1. Nice use of alliteration.


    Make Chicago’s keeper regret showing up at Suburu Park.

    The challenge for us fans is that even if we win, at home, against a bad team, we’re no better than 4th place. NYCFC has a game at hand, and Nashville plays in Toronto Sunday.

    We could be in 5th if we do not win.

    The FLA road trip was just terrible. Should have been 4 points.

    Let’s hope the new blood being injected by Herr Tanner gives us better performances… and please dear God, use Bedoya like Ilsinho was used in the past. Substitute at 60 so his fresh legs can set up more goals. WINK

  3. Just saw that Santos got a 1-game suspension for kicking the ball into the stands against Orlando… so I hope Burke is back and ready to contribute.

    • Did anyone see it?

      Just a lame call, considering the previous few seconds. Ref did not see, obviously.

      BUT of course guys like Santos and Martinez are too agressive for MLS?


      Ok…lose to LMX or SA teams always then.

      I would call that ref a feline name, but PETA WOULD ATTACK ME!!!

      Good luck tomorrow night.
      A MUST WIN…. stop mincing words.

      • Chris Gibbons says:

        I saw it, was very surprised he got away with it in real time. A Red Bull player almost killed a lady doing that severa years ago.

    • Stupid and petulant by Santos. It’s easily been a yellow for time and memoriam. I was surprised he didn’t get one when it happened.

  4. not on channel 17

  5. Gruncle Bob says:

    Bummer, no espn + stream this time.

  6. McMohansky says:

    great write up.

    excited for the team to reestablish themselves as a solid, convincing side.

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