Philadelphia got off to a hot start on the season with three wins in their first four matches but have since then come back to the pack. The source of their problems lies in the offensive third. The Union have managed to score only six goals on the year and two of those were of the give-away/gift variety. Sebastien LeToux who was an MVP candidate last season has only scored once, and that was from the penalty spot on April 30. The Union's scoring woes are due largely in part to a lack of production from the central midfield. Peter Nowak has yet to find a combination that works effectively with LeToux, Danny Mwanga, and everyone's favorite fish Carlos Ruiz.
Recent midfield incarnations have included Justin Mapp on the left, rookie Amobi Okugo on the right, and Brian Carroll at the holding spot. Nowak has tinkered with the line up trying to find the right combination also using Roger Torres, Kyle Nakazawa, and Keon Daniel as starters throughout the Union's first nine matches. He's even gone as far as starting Letoux, Ruiz, and Mwanga at the same time with little success. Philadelphia lacks a true playmaker or creative midfielder who can initiate the attack making life very difficult for their front runners. Mwanga is also listed as questionable on the injury report further exacerbating Nowak's offensive concerns.
They have been very solid defensively however, allowing only six goals on the season. The back line has been much better than expected with Jordan Harvey, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, and Sheanon Williams from left to right. Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, an established international veteran also deserves some of the credit in turning around a Union side that struggled defensively last season.
The Fire will likely remain true to the line up that's been used over the last two matches. De Los Cobos will stick with the 4-1-4-1 formation and Daniel Paladini and Corben Bone will continue to start even though Logan Pause is nearing full fitness. Marco Pappa, Dominic Oduro, and Gaston Puerari should all start and find a possession advantage once again versus a Philadelphia midfield that is unsettled and inconsistent.
Josip Mikulic did not travel with the team as they look to be cautious with his shoulder injury. Yamith Cuesta has been solid while filling in and will start today with Cory Gibbs at center back. Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba are also set to go. As will Diego Chaves who missed time in practice during the week due to a foot contusion. I'd expect Chaves to give way to Cristian Nazirit some time late in this match as De Los Cobos looks to get the young Colombian on the pitch for his first MLS game action.
CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MF Mike Banner (L Achilles tendinitis); DF Steven Kinney (R Achilles repair); MF Patrick Nyarko (concussion); MF Michael Videira (concussion); DOUBTFUL: MF Marko Maric (L deltoid sprain/talar contusion); QUESTIONABLE: DF Josip Mikulic (L biceps tendon subluxation)
PHILADELPHIA - OUT: GK Thorne Holder (concussion), MF Zach Pfeffer (appendectomy); DOUBTFUL: MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); QUESTIONABLE : FW Danny Mwanga (L hamstring strain)
Philadelphia's favorite score line this year has been 1-0. Six of nine matches have ended in that fashion but they allowed two goals for the first time all season last week in Dallas. They scraped by early before falling to an 0-2-1 record in their last three which could easily be 0-3.
The Fire are on a draw streak and another point here would be helpful.
Fire 1 Union 1
Note : Gonzalo Segares will be suspended for one game upon receipt of his next yellow card.
The Rest of the League
New York 1 Houston 1 - Without Henry, Texas may be a tough place to play although the Red Bulls still have some firepower. Question is, will their defense be good enough?
Los Angeles 2 Chivas USA 1 - The goats are in good form but so is Landon Donovan.
Seattle 2 SKC 1 - The former Wizards continue their long road trip to start the season. Let's see if they can keep Seattle under three.
San Jose 1 New England 0 - Neither team is playing particularly well but San Jose needs to start picking up points at home.
Portland 2 Columbus 0 - Portland is a very difficult place to play as more teams are finding out.
RSL 1 Dallas 1 - Dallas is now rounding into form even without David Ferreira.
Colorado 2 Toronto 0 - Rapids have injury concerns but should win at home against a bad TFC side.