Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire FC

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Saturday, February 24, 7:30 p.m. Eastern

Watch: Apple TV – MLS Season Pass

Whistle: Not available at time of publication

The Philadelphia Union begin their 2024 MLS Regular Season campaign at home against the Chicago Fire, who have not won a match at Subaru Park since 2016. This match will mark the 21st meeting between the teams, with the Union leading the series 11-5-4.

Scouting Report: Chicago Fire

Last season, the Chicago Fire finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, spurring yet another off-season overhaul. The club spent a reported $12 million to bring in DP striker Hugo Cuypers from Belgian side Gent, won the race for free-agent midfielder Kellyn Acosta, brought left back Andrew Gutman back home to his boyhood team, and found a new partner for Rafael Czichos in Danish center-back Tobias Salquist.

On top of their new additions, the Fire managed to offload DP Jairo Torres after a disappointing 2 seasons, transfer striker Kacper Przybylko to Swiss sister-club FC Lugano, and part ways with Miguel Navarro, Kei Kamara, and Ousmane Doumbia.

Sounds like a pretty busy offseason, no?

After clearing out underperforming players and bringing in key additions from both overseas and the MLS, the Fire look better than they did last year, when they finished 13th in the Eastern Conference at 10-14-10 and nearly made it to the Wild Card Round.

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

While the Union looked shaky at times during their match versus Deportivo Saprissa, they’ve brought back everyone from the team that’s been so close to multiple titles over the past few years. That continuity, coupled with internal growth by young players (like Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan) and those in their prime (Julian Carranza and Olivier Mbaizo) will decide whether or not this is the year the Union finally has enough firepower to win a trophy.

Substitutions will be an important balancing act for Curtin, especially as the team tries to find its stride after multiple starters missed parts of preseason. 3 games in 8 days requires some ingenuity when it comes to resting starters, including Andre Blake, who seemed to pick up a non contact injury and abstain from goal kicks during the second half in Costa Rica.

Supported by an adoring home crowd, look for Daniel Gazdag to continue creating opportunities for the likes of Carranza and a reset on what has been a frustrating stretch for Mikael Uhre…(it’s called manifesting and I’m trying it out).

Player Availability: Andre Blake (Questionable)

Key Matchup: Kellyn Acosta vs Philadelphia’s midfield

Acosta is no stranger to the Union, as he enters Chicago after a strong 2 seasons with LAFC. As a box-t0-box player who excels at positioning, it’ll be interesting to see not only how he transforms Chicago’s midfield, but what the Union do to thwart his attempts at connecting with Xherdan Shaqiri and Cuypers.

Player to Watch: Jakob Glesnes

After an uncharacteristic performance in Costa Rica, it will be interesting to see how Glesnes plays at Subaru Park. It’s worth remembering that Glesnes underwent surgery in late October, and so it may take him some time to feel comfortable on the pitch again.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 2 – 1 Chicago Fire FC

It will be interesting to see what all these changes do for the Chicago Fire. Ultimately, the Union have the upper hand by being at home. Look for Carranza to come out guns blazing after his spectacular performance in Costa Rica.


  1. If Blake is healthy, I think the Union are favorites for a big win given that they are at home and have played already this season. Without Blake, it could be more of a crapshoot.
    The bad news is that it looks like another frigid weather game against Chicago similar to last year when they barely scraped by with a win. That being said, I’m hoping that the second half on Tuesday was more of a prelude of things to come and they put forth a performance like they did in 2022 when the 4-1 win looked subpar in comparison with some of the other games in July and August.

  2. Jacob Glesnes played the whole game in Costa Rica so he should pair with Elliott and the back four Lowe and Wagner will keep the Fire under check…….I like your gutsy prediction.

    • If Glesnes and Elliott play as center backs, it won’t be Lowe and Wagner on the wings; it will be Wagner and Mbaizo/Harriel.
      Only way Lowe starts along with both Glesnes and Elliott is if the Union play 3 center backs and 2 wing backs (Harriel or Mbaizo and Wagner).

      • glesnes-elliott-lowe-wagner



      • @Santo,

        That’s not how they line up. You can call it a 4-3-3 all you want, but that is either a back 3 with 2 wingers (Wagner and either Harriel or Mbaizo) or call it a back 5.
        Wagner and Mbaizo/Harriel are playing the same position – full back – on opposite sides. One is not in the midfield and the other a defender.
        Curtin stated Sullivan played on the left of the diamond – i.e. the midfield.
        This is the likely lineup:
        Harriel/Mbaizo – Elliott – Glesnes – Wagner.
        —————- Martinez ———————
        Sullivan ———————- McGlynn
        —————— Gazdag ————————
        Carranza —————— Uhre

        If Lowe starts, it is instead of Elliott or Glesnes.

      • that is a good alignment ,,,,i would start mbaizo

  3. well you can certainly have a glesnes-elliott-wagner-mbaizo
    midfield, mcglynn, martinez gazdaz
    up front a combo of sullivan carranza uhre the alignment is very important this lends to pressing, this is my take i dont insist on this i hope the u wins big with this tactic.

    • I don’t understand why you insist on saying it is a 4-3-3 when Curtin himself says it is a 4–4-2.
      Martinez is the base of the diamond. Sullivan and McGlynn are the sides of the diamond. Gazdag is the 10. Uhre and Carranza are the 2 forwards. Perhaps Sullivan pushes up more than McGlynn, but the fact remains that it is a 4-4-2. In his press conference, Curtin referred to Sullivan and McGlynn playing opposite sides of the diamond.
      The fact is that Sullivan can still press in a 4-4-2. But he is not playing on the front line in front of Gazdag. He is playing the right of the diamond.
      I’m more than willing to eat my words and apologize if Curtin comes out post-game and calls it a 4-3-3.

      • all well and good and i like your reasoning, the team needs to have discipline in its compactness and a classic alignment of 4-3-3 lends to this.
        i also think the u can win either way.

      • Santo – it’s not my reasoning. It is what the coach says….
        ‘Nuff said, beginning to think Rick is correct and that you are a Bot.

  4. I’m guessing “santo bevacqua” is an AI bot and not a good one at that. Interesting that his very name is a link to a Verizon sales page.
    In a more related note, I’m hoping that Curtin’s more liberal and timely use of subs in the Saprissa match continues. There’s a bit more depth in the squad this year and he needs to use it.

  5. Whoo Hoo C’mon the U !
    A new season, full of promise !
    Get in there boys in blue !

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