The latest Chicago Fire road trip from hell concludes tonight, as the team takes on the kings of the east in the Philadelphia Union in Chester, Penn. If you’re sick of hearing about the 31 match road winless streak, no worries, I try to mention that as little as possible here. The match begins at 6 p.m. central time and airs on CSN Chicago Plus.
Play it Again, Pauno?
Wednesday will be the second time the Fire has faced the Union this season and Chicago is hoping that it can find a way to replicate the 1-0 victory it claimed over Philadelphia April 2 at Toyota Park. Fans probably won’t forget the match, as it was one of a grand total of two victories the Fire have had this season in 13 matches. What they may not recall is that the Fire needed some fortunate breaks to go their way, including a man advantage from the 47 minute onward after Warren Creavalle took down Razvan Cocis from behind. The man of the match for the Fire may have been the post, as the Union bounced three shots off of it.
You Come at the King, Best Not Miss?
Hard to believe, but the Philadelphia Union have found themselves top of the Eastern Conference with 23 points in 15 matches. The perennial also-ran vaulted themselves to the top with a recent eight-game undefeated streak, which came to an end last weekend with a 3-2 loss at New York City FC. On the other side of the standings, the Fire find themselves once again meandering at the bottom of the conference with 11 points in 13 matches. They’re coming off a weekend loss in Denver that saw the club pulls defeat from the jaws of a draw.
Can the Road Minnows Swim Upstream?
Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you of a time that the Fire weren’t a walking embarrassment on the road. You probably don’t remember it, but there was a time when fans actually held out hope for the team to win on the road. Sadly, that was before the Fire went 31 straight league matches without a road win. Can they break the streak tonight? The Union have yet to lose at home, so it’s probably safe not to expect it.
Philadelphia is a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. There are no real superstars on the Union squad, but instead a collection of MLS veterans, journeymen and youngsters whose form and organization can fluster opponents. Their success this season has come on tight defensive form and absorbing pressure while looking to break out on the wings and overwhelm opponents on the counter. That shows in their their 48.3 percent possession, fourth-lowest in the league and ahead of the Fire’s league-worst 44.9 percent possession.
As mentioned above, the Union have turned Talen Energy Stadium into a house of horrors for the opposition, going 5-0-2 in seven league matches. That stat could cause a feeling of inevitable heartbreak for Fire fans, but the good news is the club has actually had recent success in Philly as the Fire have drawn their last two matches in the city of Brotherly Love.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Fire, as the Union continue to be without lone Designated Player Maurice Edu after an early season leg fracture, while head Coach Jim Curtin has said midfielder Warren Creavalle and top scorer CJ Sapong are doubtful for tonight’s match.
In addition to the roster admissions, the Union’s 19 goals allowed puts them in the bottom half of teams in the league. Though ineffective through much of the season, the Fire could find an offensive spark against the Union.
Of course, that last sentence expresses way more optimism than should be allowed from anyone who has watched the Fire this season. Though it was two months ago that the Fire defeated this same Union team, that match seems like much further distant memory with former’s ugly run of play. And of course the (say it with me now) 31 straight road winless streak still hangs around the team’s neck like the stone of shame. It’s tough to say that the stone of shame will be replaced with the stone of triumph any time soon. That goes for tonight, and I’ll regrettably predict a 2-0 Union victory.
What are your thoughts and predictions? Leave a comment below?