After having another bye week to think about what might have been against the Impact, the Fire welcome the Philadelphia Union to Toyota Park in a lunch time matinee. The Fire are looking to right the ship after another disappointing road loss back in April when they traveled to Montreal, losing by a score line of 2-0. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is playing better than people had expected them to play. Compiling a 3-3-3 record, John Hackworth's men sit 6th in the Eastern Conference which is 5 points ahead of the Fire.
I don't think the Fire looked that bad against Montreal. The team looked pretty good in the first half as they had a few decent attempts on goal and were able to keep the Impact from creating chances of their own. It almost looked as though they were going to steal some points away, then the 2nd half happened. Giving up the majority of the possession early on in the 2nd half led to a Romero goal in the 57th minute. This was followed by a straight red by Larentowicz in the 63rd and that eventually led to a Di Vaio goal in the 76th. After the red card the Fire were not able to maintain any possession or create any chances in order to try to get back in the game. It reminded me of the Houston game where we played great in the 1st half but then something happened at halftime and just couldn't do anything in the 2nd half.
The Union come into the match after tying Seattle at home, with 2-2 the final score. It was a heated contest as Philadelphia and Seattle both combined for 3 red cards and 3 yellows. The player that stood out for the Union in that match was Danny Cruz, who scored both goals for Philadelphia. Despite the tie, the Union so far this season have been inconsistent in 2013. The past 3 games have been a 2-2 tie versus Seattle, 2-0 loss versus New England, and a 3-2 win versus DC United. What kind of Union team will we see Saturday? I'm not sure as it is hard to tell based on their results.
Philadelphia has used the same starting lineup for the past 3 games. This week they will be without Sheanon Williams (suspension) and possibly Jeff Parke (injured) so this is how I would see them lining up:
Frank will more than likely move Pause back to the center after filling in for the suspended Thompson and also due to Larentowicz being suspended this week. Like always Friedrich and Kinney are listed out and Santos and Jumper are questionable. He may go with his regulars but why not change it up this week? This is how I would like to see Frank start the game, if Santos is healthy:
- Fire outside backs vs. McInerney- McInerney is going to give our outside backs some trouble because he is given the freedom to roam from side to side. He likes to float out wide and work in from the wings and he has a scoring touch. The 4th year forward has already scored 6 times in the first 9 games. Look for him to be testing the right side of our defense as we will more than likely be playing Wells Thompson in that spot. If our wing backs can help control him it will make keeping Philadelphia off the board that much easier.
- Paladini vs. Carroll- Paladini has got to assert himself against Carroll. With Pause more than likely moving back into midfield due to the suspension of Larentowicz, Paladini (if starting) will be the one in the center of the park behind the forwards. It is key that he does not let Carroll get the best of him. He has to attack him and not stop all game long. If not than the Fire will lose the center of the field and only be able to attack on the outside.
The one player for the Union when healthy that can make an impact on any game is Le Toux. Since being reacquired by Philadelphia after a year splitting time with Vancouver and New York, the fan favorite has been relegated to more of a bench role recently due to the good form of Casey and McInerney. The 29 year old has only registered 1 goal and 2 assists so far this season. He does have the ability to change the game when coming off the bench and I'm sure that he will be one of the first players to enter the game on Saturday if he does not start.
This week I have a gut feeling that Rolfe is going to bag a goal or two. I have been wrong before but I think that if he can get a different partner up front besides MacDonald he can be a different player then we have seen. Maybe if Santos is not healthy enough to go on Saturday then Frank could try putting Alex up top with Rolfe. This would be a combination that would give the opposing defense some problems. So far this season Rolfe has not been that player that we all expect him to be, so I hope he proves me right this week and bags a brace like he did in Philadelphia last August.
The Fire have to start playing more consistent and have to get their offense going, otherwise the fan base here in Chicago will grow more and more impatient with the team (more so than they already are). If the Fire can replicate their 1st half performance that they had versus Montreal 2 weeks ago and keep it going for 90 minutes, there is no doubt in my mind that Frank and company will secure the full 3 points. If they can't and they let Philadelphia dictate the game, then it will be a long afternoon for the Men in Red. So this week I'm going to say that the Fire will pull off a 3-1 win with Rolfe getting a brace and Paladini adding another. The defense will have their hands full, but I think that having Pause back in the defensive midfield spot will help to limit the number of offensive chances for the Union.