Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire FC

Photo: Howie Pollard

Who: Philadelphia Union (7th in the East, 1-0-0) vs Chicago Fire FC (10th in the East, 0-1-0)

What: MLS Regular Season, Matchday 3

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Saturday, March 11, 7:30 PM

Watch: Apple TV, MLS Season Pass

Whistle: Guido Gonzales Jr; Kathryn Nesbitt, Matthew Nelson; Logan Brown; Kevin Terry Jr, Gjovalin Bori

The Union face a team on Saturday that they have largely dominated, especially at home—Chicago hasn’t won in Chester since 2013. That said, the Fire come in feeling okay, having earned a point in their home opener against NYC FC. (Chicago had a bye on Matchday 1, so have played only one game so far.) Meanwhile, the Union will want to make sure this game looks more like Game 1 and less like Game 2.

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The Union may feel as if the season hasn’t really begun in earnest. After opening day’s blowout of the Columbus Crew, Philly followed it up with two underwhelming results: a limp loss away to Miami, followed by a valuable but low-on-quality draw away to Alianza FC in Concacaf Champions League play using mostly reserves. Expect the first-choice lineup, who didn’t look up for the fight in Florida, to be re-energized playing in front of a home crowd and with something to prove.

Those reserves, meanwhile, got useful game experience on Tuesday and will be raring to contribute off the bench should the need arise. Of them, it will most likely be the usual suspects—Jack McGlynn and new arrival Joaquin Torres—with the first minutes as substitutes. Quinn Sullivan, Jesús Bueno, and Andrés Perea all gave good accountings of themselves in San Salvador, as did Damion Lowe. While rotation in their positions is unlikely, it’s good that they have gotten high-intensity reps and can contribute if called upon.

There’s little mystery to what Philadelphia is capable of. The only question is whether they will bring the appropriate level of intensity and drive to proceedings. With an opponent they should beat in front of them, the fear is they might play below their own level. The good news is that this group has rarely had two bad results in a row and almost always responds well.

Injury report: None

Scouting report: Chicago Fire FC

Philly fans know Chicago as the current home of former dues-paying Union members Fabian Herbers and Kacper Przybyłko. Herbers scored the game-tying goal that earned the Fire their point against New York (via two deflections, it should be noted). Przybyłko, meanwhile, was subbed at halftime for new signing Kei Kamara, now the first MLS player to have played for ten different MLS teams. Things are not looking great for Striker Muffin, as the Fire have also signed 19-year-old Greek striker Georgios Koutsias to a U22 Initiative deal and are actively searching for a DP-level No. 9. However Koutsias will not be available on Saturday.

Against NYC FC, Chicago matched the Pigeons across most statistical categories. NYC isn’t yet the force they were before Taty Castellanos left, and the game was in Chicago, so dropped points is somewhat disappointing for the home team. Nevertheless, coming back from a goal down against a solid team shows that the Fire have some mettle.

The issue for Chicago is their attacking signings haven’t worked out. In Ezra Hendrickson they have a good coach and there are quality players throughout the roster but, without players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Jairo Torres dominating, there isn’t enough oomph to be more than middling. Perhaps Kamara, who, at 38, still has the capacity to be dominant in bursts, will get them going. Relying on him to be the difference-maker is probably not going to get it done, though, so Chicago will have to hope they can grind out a result in Chester while waiting for reinforcements.

Injury report: Jairo Torres (hamstring) OUT, Federico Navarro (hamstring) OUT

Match-up to watch: Chicago’s strikers vs Elliot, Glesnes, and Martínez

Regardless of who starts up front for Chicago, the central defense and No. 6 for Philadelphia will want to reassert their credentials as the top unit in MLS. If they corral what’s in front of them at their appropriate level, the Fire will be in for a long night.

Player to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri

Shaqiri is the only player with the pedigree to really hurt the Union, with all due respect to the damage Kamara has done throughout his career. If Shaqiri is up for it, the dynamic could be more interesting.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2–0 Chicago

Regardless of who lines up in front of them, expect the Union to come out hungry. Chicago doesn’t have the difference-makers to hang with the Union when they get into gear. 2–0 may end up looking conservative by the final whistle.


  1. Kamala always concerns me.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      He got the tying goal for Montreal early last year when The Feet stole a point in Chester.

      • Jeremy Lane says:

        I worry about him, too. He may score a goal. If the Union are undone by a single goal, though, the problem isn’t Kamara per se, it’s that the Union haven’t gotten in gear themselves.

  2. uhoh, I agree with Jeremy’s 2-0 prediction so I hope we both under predict the Union’s scoring prowess. I do think that Curtin will rotate some players to let some recover from Tuesday or prepare them for next Tuesday’s second leg against Alianza.
    I think Elliott and Wagner will get to rest in preparation for Alianza and Lowe and Real will play with Glesnes and MBaizo on Saturday. I think Bueno, Flach, Perea, and Torres will start in midfield while Sullivan and Uhre start up top. This will set up the team to bring on the 11 starters from the Crew game, well rested for the Alianza game and keep them available as subs against Chicago.
    I’d love to see Sullivan and Uhre get goals in this one at home.

  3. The Union Jack says:

    “former dues-paying Union members” – cheeky.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    It would be nice to see the Union start to remember how to finish as they only have 2 non-PK tallies in 3 matches.

    • True. But they only scored goals in one of those three games.
      I am surprised the attackers haven’t been finishing better. Opportunities are there and they need to finish them.

  5. Micah Bertin says:

    OG season ticket holder from day one, section 108. Been to,easily, over 90% of all-time Union home games.
    Seasons past: early season, cold af, meh opponent, there would have been half the crowd, maybe even 1/3. Something has shifted. This crowd was bundled up and fired up- pun intended- and the boys felt it and they wanted it as much as we did and they delivered.

    Life is complicated,full of nuance, but sometimes it just feels good to win. Mic drop…

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