When: Thursday Otober 2nd at 7PM CST
Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pennsylvania
Where to Watch: ESPN2
Hey, What Happened?
Sometimes we get a great idea in our head and say to ourselves, "Hey, let's try something new that we haven't tried before." That's what happened on Sunday when Frank Yallop decided to stray from his normal 4-5-1 formation and try a 4-3-3 in order to generate some offense. Guess what? Like so often happens with these type of experiments, it didn't work. Houston wasn't fooled, as they easily beat the Fire 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium - a result which all but eliminated the Fire from the post-season dance. Goals from Omar Cummings and Oscar Boniek Garcia sealed the Fire's fate as the only meaningful chance that the Men in Red had was a Quincy Amarikwa header in the first half that was palmed away by Tyler Deric. Other than that the Fire had no real chances to get back into the game.
Hey, What's Happening?
Thursday night the Fire make a quick trip out to Philadelphia to take on a resurgent Union who desperately need the full three points to keep up with the other playoff contenders. Since the appointment of former Fire defender Jim Curtin as head coach, the Union have won 6, drawn 5 and lost only 3. This has put them back in the playoff race following a poor start under former coach John Hackworth.
The last time these teams met, they played to a 1-1 draw in a game where a controversial hand-ball call led to a stoppage-time PK, which Sebastian Le Toux buried to split the points. What's going to happen this time? Another tie like the previous two meetings? Will the Fire be auditioning players for roster spots in 2015? Will the Union go all out for the 3 points in order to stay with the rest of the playoff contenders?
Hey, What Should Happen?
With the possibility of Razvan Cocis being out with a concussion, will we get to see Chris Ritter or Benji Joya in the lineup? Like last week when Frank Yallop tried a different lineup to try to get something going, why not try Ritter or Joya in lineup if you want to try something new?
After the loss to Houston it has now become audition time for every single player on the roster. There is no doubt that the brain trust of Yallop and Brian Bliss are going to develop the 2015 roster the way that they want it to be. The question is, how many of those that are on the current roster going to be included?
I, for one, would like to see what can happen when Yallop plays those players that have barely seen the field. Play the likes of Benji Joya, Chris Ritter, and Greg Cochrane and see what they can do. There is really nothing to play for anymore, so why not play them? If you don't give them playing time now, then what was the point of signing them? If a player like Chris Ritter is not in your plans, then why sign him to a homegrown contract? Play them! - because what Yallop has been doing for most of the season is just not good enough.
On the other side of the ball, the Union have everything to play for. Look for the Union to take the game to the Fire early on and press hard to get the first goal of the game. This is where the Fire can take advantage of the Union and actually try to play a counter attack if they can get numbers forward in support. Numerous times over the last few weeks, we have seen the back four of the Fire boot the ball over the top for Quincy Amarikwa to run onto, only for Amarikwa to find no support crashing the box to help.
Yallop has to figure out something in order to play spoiler and ruin Philly's post season hopes. Maybe having more of a youthful lineup with Joya, Ward, Shipp, and Nyassi in the midfield might help this cause to make the midfield quicker than what we have seen the past couple weeks.
Hey What's Going to Happen?
One team desperately needs the full three points to stay in the playoff hunt, and the other just wants to finish the season on good form while looking ahead to 2015. As long as the Fire are not mathematically eliminated from the post season Yallop will say all the right things like "we still have a chance" and "nothing is out of reach". That is why I'm actually going to go with a 2-0 Union win. The thing that stood out to me last weekend in Houston is that it seemed as though with their playoff lives on the line, the Dynamo wanted the win more and they got it. I can see a repeat this week as the Union will probably want the win more and they will get it. Plus I still want to see the Fire break the tie record at home.