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Dropping The Pretense: Chicago Fire vs Philadelphia Fire, MLS Week 24 Preview

It’s a make-or-break game for the Fire. Except, not really.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

At some point the Fire are going to have to stop pretending that the season is salvageable.

It was over months ago. We all know it. Everything is turning toward the offseason now— roster turnover, the move to Soldier Field, the rebrand. 2019 is already over in every way that matters.

But we’re all still pretending there’s still something to play for. That’s how we end up in a situation where tomorrow’s game, against the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, is sounded out as being both winnable and crucial to keep the season alive.

I don’t know if this will make it hurt more or less if and when the result tomorrow goes against us.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Philadelphia Union: 8W-5D-9L, 34 GF / 35 GA, 29 pts out of 66

Chicago Fire home MLS record vs Philadelphia Union: 6W-3D-3L, 19 GF / 15 GA, 21 pts out of 36

Previously on…

Two good wins, including a high-scoring beatdown of DC United. But they also got thrashed 4-0 by Montreal, so they’re definitely vulnerable.

Suggested Lineup

Ousted; Bornstein, Calvo, Schweinsteiger, Kappelhof; Bronico, McCarty (c); Frankowski, Gaitán, Sapong; Nikolic

I don’t know if Wednesday’s loss doomed Ousted forever, but I’m putting him in the suggested lineup anyway. Katai’s red card obviously makes things complicated, but he does have cover out on the wings and... well, what else are we supposed to do.

Keys To The Match

More Like MOREnstein, Amirite: We have fun here at Hot Time Upon The Old Town, but in all seriousness the defense does look better with Jonathan Bornstein in it. Combined with Johan Kappelhof on the opposite end of the backline, and we might have something resembling a functional backline tandem again. That will be a useful asset to deploy against Philly’s wingers— including a certain Ghanaian former player.

Keep The Party Going: Nemanja Nikolic is scoring goals again— and not a moment too effing soon. Even with an improved defense, we’re still letting in more goals than we produce. Since we can only do so much to keep from conceding, we need to outscore Philly tomorrow. Niko is going to be key to that.

Last Roll Of The Dice: If you’re the Fire, you probably do actually believe you’re still in the playoff race. I don’t think the evidence supports that hypothesis, but I respect that athletes need to cultivate a particular mindset in order to do their jobs. As such, Saturday probably does feel like a make-or-break game for them. Use that. Play like your lives are on the line. It may or may not help toward the final standings, but a win at home over the conference leaders will give us all some measure of comfort and solace.

How To Watch

Television: N/A

Streaming: ESPN+

Final Thoughts

I just can’t muster any optimism here. 4-1 Philadelphia.

How do you think tomorrow night is going to go? Let us know in the comments below!