Preview after the break
The Philadelphia Union are a team that has been thriving while living on the edge. They sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with 14 points and a 4-3-2 record. However, all four wins have been of the 1-0 variety. In the team's two draws, the score has been 1-1. In the team's loses, Philadelphia has been shutout all three times. You are reading this correctly too, Philadelphia has only scored 6 goals in 9 games for a league low 0.66 goals scored per game average. The once promising offensive duo of Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux has gone flat. Winter signing splash Carlos Ruiz leads the team in goals with just two to his credit.
On the other side of the coin though, Philadelphia's defense has stepped it up saving the offense's backside. The Union were second to last in goals against in 2010 (49 in 30 games for a 1.63 against average) but have turned it around to be second to best in 2011. Only Real Salt Lake is better giving up just 2 goals in 7 games. CB Danny Califf and LB Jordan Harvey have returned as starters while returning Right back Sheanon Williams has been promoted to a starting role at RB. The biggest additions to the defense were the acquisitions of Colombians GK Faryd Mondrago and CB Carlos Valdes in the off-season. The Fire offense will have fits trying to score a goal although FC Dallas became the first team to score 2 goals against Philadelphia this season in last week's FC Dallas 2-0 victory. The loss means Philadelphia is in a 3 game winless streak. After some early tight rope walking, Philadelphia just might be falling from the balancing act.
Chicago enters the game with some funambulism of their own tying their opponents in the last four games. Josip Mikulic played 40 minutes in this week's Reserves League match but is being held out by Carlos de los Cobos. Cory Gibbs and Yamith Cuesta will be the CB combo just like last week. Cuesta has quietly started in the last four games. Logan Pause is no longer out but CDLC said he is sticking with the Daniel Paladini/Corben Bone midfield setup. Cristian Nazarit will travel with the team and it sounds like he will make the bench. Long story short, despite some injury status changes, expect the same lineup that has played since the Colorado Rapids game on April 30th.
Chicago: Jon Conway; Jalil Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares; Dominic Oduro, Corben Bone, Gaston Puerari, Marco Pappa; Diego Chaves
Philadelphia: Fayrd Mondragon; Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey; Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Justin Mapp; Danny Mwanga, Carlos Ruiz
Gonzalo Segares is one yellow card away from having to sit out a game due to yellow card accumulation. Oddly enough, Daniel Paladini is two yellow cards away and he has only played in three games this year. I'd say he is trying to live up to the mantle of Dema Kovalenko but I don't think Paladini has been playing all that dirty.
Saturday's game will have a Colombian flair as Chicago's Yamith Cuesta looks to start at CB and newly acquired Colombian forward Cristian Nazarit is at least traveling to Philadelphia. An interesting side note is Cuesta and Valdes were teammates at Colombian club team Santa Fe Corporación Deportiva. Nazarit's last team was Santa Fe Corporación Deportiva and Mondrago played for Santa Fe Corporación Deportiva for brief spells in the 90's.
Overall and Prediction
Both teams are searching to get back in the win the column after multi-game droughts. The goals Chicago gave up in Toronto were due to mental mistakes and those have been on decline thanks to the backline and Jon Conway continually getting to work together and get into a comfortable pattern. I think Philadelphia's offensive woes will continue. If the Union go down a goal, Chicago will at least come away with a point. The battle should be in Philadelphia's box. Their defense vs. Chicago's offense. Something's gotta give. FINAL: Chicago 1 - Philadelphia 0.