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Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire

Photo: Ben Ross

Who: Philadelphia Union (45 pts, 12-3-9, 1st in Eastern Conference) vs Chicago Fire (30 pts, 8-10-6, 7th in Eastern Conference)

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Saturday, August 13th, 7:30 p.m.

Watch: PHL17, MLS LIVE on ESPN+

Whistle: Not available at publication

The Philadelphia Union return to Subaru Park on Saturday evening as they look to avoid losing consecutive matches for the first time this season.

Their opponent, the Chicago Fire, are one of only three teams to have a dealt the Union a loss thus far in 2022 (a 1-0 loss at Soldier Field on June 29).

The Union are coming off just their third loss of the season, a 3-1 road loss against FC Cincinnati. It was a match in which the Union struggled to generate much offense and never looked poised to come away with any points.

The Fire are riding high after two consecutive road wins, the most recent of which being a 3-2 win at Charlotte on Saturday.  The Fire last posted three straight road wins in May 2009.  Fun fact: the Fire’s third victory in that streak was against Chivas USA in a match where current Union head coach Jim Curtin entered as a substitute in the 89th minute for Chivas.

It will be a tough task for the Fire to match that streak, however, as the team has not won in Philadelphia since 2013, having gone 0-5-3 in their last 8 visits.

Scouting Report: Chicago Fire

The Fire are 6-3-1 in their past ten matches, and 4-0-1 in their past five.  Suffice to say that this team has finally woken up after their drowsy start to the 2022 campaign.

Head coach Ezra Hendrickson spoke about the team’s progression after their match on Saturday:

“Well, the thing with us, all year, I thought we were playing really, really good football, but there’s a bit of naivety in some of the games where we didn’t close some games out, some games we were getting opportunities but we just weren’t taking them, so we are a lot more effective, a lot more efficient in the final third.”

A large factor in their efficiency has been the recent play of high-profile newcomer DP Xherdan Shaqiri.  It took some time for Shaqiri to adjust to his position and the league (as it does most for international transfers) but he has settled in most nicely for the Fire as the team’s center-attacking midfielder. Shaqiri has logged four goals and 10 assists so far this year, including two assists last week in the Fire’s 3-2 victory against Charlotte.

The personnel around Shaqiri have also improved noticeably since the beginning of the year, including their trio of wingers: Chris Mueller, Jairo Torres and Brian Gutierrez.

Up top, ex-Union man Kacper Przybylko has found a bit of form in recent weeks, including a brace last week in the team’s victory against Charlotte, which helped earn him MLS Team of the Week honors. (Shaqiri was also named to the Team of the Week)

Defensively, the back four in the Fire’s 4-2-3-1, which includes a rotation of center-backs Carlos Teran, Rafael Czichos and Jonathan Bornstein, and outside backs Miquel Navarro and Boris Sekulic, have helped contribute to 10 clean sheets thus far this season.

Of course, the primary factor in keeping those clean sheets has been the play of standout goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. Slonina, 18, recently completed a transfer to English Premier League side Chelsea, though he will spend the remainder of the 2022 MLS season on loan with the Fire before joining Chelsea at the start of the 2023 calendar year.

The Fire currently sit just above the playoff line in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.

Injury Report: Carlos Teran (Questionable; Thigh), Stanislav Ivanov (Questionable; Thight), Wyatt Omsberg (Questionable; Foot) Jhon Espinoza (Questionable; Knee)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

After one of, if not the most successful months in the club’s history, the Union stumbled against FC Cincinnati, who found the net three times in the second half on their way to a 3-1 victory against the Eastern Conference leaders.

It was the first time the Union have given up 3 goals in a game this season, dealing a blow to their chances of setting the MLS record for fewest goals allowed in a 34 game regular season.

Despite the slip-up, the Union still boast the best defense in the league.

Goalkeeper Andre Blake (on display during Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game) is the best goalkeeper in MLS, and is tied for second (with Gaga Slonina) with 10 clean sheets.

Also at the All-Star Game Wednesday were center back Jakob Glesnes, who’s played every minute this season, and left back Kai Wagner, whose 11 assists are the most by a defender (and third most among all players).

Offensively, the team started clicking in July.  They found the back of the net an impressive 18 times.  More impressively is that seven different players contributed: Mikael Uhre (5), Julian Carranza (4),  Daniel Gazdag  (4), Alejandro Bedoya (2), Corey Burke, Jack McGlynn, and Quinn Sullivan.

It was a dominant month in which the entire team played positive, cohesive soccer and showed the rest of the league that they are for real.

The Union currently sit first in the Eastern Conference.

Injury Report: None

Matchup to Watch: Xherdan Shaqiri vs Jose Martinez

It should be a great battle between an in-form Shaqiri and one of MLS’ best No. 6’s.

Player to Watch: Kai Wagner

Expect the all-star to get forward frequently in this match and have opportunities to add to his impressive assist tally.

Score Prediction: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Chicago Fire

The Union continue their dominance at home and get back on track defensively with a clean-sheet.

4 Comments

  1. Here is the update on the officials.
    .
    REF: Ismail Elfath
    AR1: Corey Parker
    AR2: Brian Dunn
    4TH: Jeremy Scheer
    VAR: Edvin Jurisevic
    AVAR: Corey Rockwell

  2. Murphthesurf says:

    Keep Subaru a Fortress ! DOOP ⚽️ !

  3. Can we please win this. It would go a long way to proven we learned from the recent game against them we should not have lost.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Union started the season with a draw followed by 5 wins and a loss. Then they went unbeaten in 9 including 7 draws before the loss in Chicago. That was followed by a draw, 5 wins, and a loss. So it seems like they are due for another draw as part of a 2-0-7 run before losing the season finale.
    .
    So 1-1 tonight with another blown lead.

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