Peter Nowak returns to Chicago at the helm of the expansion Philadelphia Union. Philadelphia has struggled, as most expansion teams do, but they have started to play better of late. The Union has played six of their first eight matches on the road while their new stadium is completed and have compiled a 2-5-1 record while producing an unimpressive 1-5-0 record on the road. Of course, historically bad road performers haven't really seemed to have any problems taking points at Toyota Park over the last few seasons.
Nowak has actually fielded a pretty consistent line up with few changes while staying true to a 4-4-2 formation for the better part of the young season. Chris Seitz has been very shaky in goal but his glaring gaffes occurred earlier in the campaign. The Fire would do well to test Seitz as often as possible.
The backline has remained the same since Christian Arrieta replaced former Fire bench warmer David Myrie at right back after week one. Arrieta is a former two time USL defender of the year and was USL's MVP in 2009 with the Puerto Rico Islanders. Former Rapids reserve Jordan Harvey plays on the left side while Danny Califf and Michael Orozco man central defense. Orozco formerly played for Mexican first division side San Luis.
The central midfield tandem usually consists of Stefani Miglioranzi and 18 year old Columbian playmaker Roger Torres. Rookies Kyle Nakazawa and Jack McInerney have also seen starting minutes. McInerney is one of the top creative prospects in MLS. The flanks are covered by former DC United man Fred and speedster Shea Salinas or a combination of McInerney, Nakazawa, Andrew Jacobson, and another rookie Amobi Okugo.
The forwards are Sebastian LeToux and Alejandro Moreno. LeToux has been a threat in every game, scoring 5 goals this year. Rookie Danny Mwanga has scored two extra time goals to earn points in each of the last two Union MLS matches.
The Fire will likely return to the 4-5-1 formation that worked well for a short time this season before injuries, mediocre play, and formation switches changed the dynamic of the attack ahead of becoming fullly cohesive. Dasan Robinson, Krzyzstof Krol, Wilman Conde, and CJ Brown are healthy and ready to start in defense.
The midfield starters become more of a guess since Justin Mapp is healthy after tweaking a hamstring injury in early May and Marco Pappa's effort and production are under question by De Los Cobos. Mapp started in the central attacking position against AC Milan on Sunday and played well. He also performed reasonably well in the Sister Cities matches. Logan Pause and Baggio Husidic are likely to start in the central support roles although Corben Bone seems ready for an extended look. Carlos De Los Cobos also seems to like Mike Banner's effort despite his results not being particularly good. Patrick Nyarko will surely start on the right while we'll have to wait until game time to find out who gets the nod on the opposite side.
Since De Los Cobos has singled out Brian McBride as the teams only truly productive forward so far this season, I'd expect to see McBride start with Collins John coming in late in the second half.
The Fire absolutely need to cash in with six points in the next two home games after dropping points against FC Dallas again. Playing an expansion team with a terrible road record should be a given despite the effort and hustle that Nowak's side will surely display. My predicition, because at some point this team needs to stand up and make a statement for themselves is 2-1 Fire......if not things will start to get really ugly in Bridgeview.
Toronto 2 Kansas City 0
New York 1 Chivas 0
Real Salt Lake 2 DC 1
Los Angeles 1 Houston 0
Dallas 2 San Jose 1
Columbus 1 Colorado 1
Seattle 2 New England 1
Philadelphia DP Search & Misc Notes
First Robert Pires shunned the City of Brotherly Love, now another target has been missed. Italy's Fabio Cannavaro signed with a team in Dubai earlier in the week.
The referee for the match will be Abbey Okulaja.