Who's excited for this return match-up between the the ninth and tenth place teams in the Eastern Conference?
There are twelve games remaining and they're going to be played so Martin Tomszak is taking a look at the Union again.
What Are They All About? Philadelphia Union Preview
Somewhere in Chicago there is a fat lady singing, but probably not at the Lyric Opera House because that would be too beautiful of a finale for the Fire. In what was pegged as possibly the last meaningful match of Chicago’s season they lost 1-0 against the Philadelphia Union in the Open Cup semi-final at PPL Park this past Wednesday. Not only was it a loss to a fellow bottom dwelling team, but it was the most disheartening performance of the season. After the match the players returned to the team bus looking absolutely dejected while the coaching staff was at a loss for words. Shaun Maloney could barely manage a half smile and a sad wave to the traveling faithful after what might have been one of final games with the team. With playoffs realistically out of reach and the cup run over, there is very little motivation or positivity to be found anywhere around the Chicago organization. Nevertheless, they face the Union again this Sunday in league play and where there’s a match, there’s a preview.
Philly Form Guide (Last Five League Matches): D-L-L-L-W
Previous match: A 1-0 win against the Chicago Fire in Open Cup play.
Formation: 4-2-3-1; McCarthy; Gaddis, Edu, Marquez, Fabinho; Lahoud, Carroll; Le Toux, Maidana, Barnetta; Sapong
Strengths: This is now our third preview of this Philadelphia side and our readers should know them well by now. That and the fact that despite the Open Cup win Philly remains a terrible team means that we will keep this preview brief.
As far as strengths are concerned, it seems that the match on Wednesday solidified the dangers presented by the midfield controlling trio of Sebastien LeToux, Cristian Maidana and recently acquired Tranquillo Barnetta. While the match heavily lacked quality, there were two or three moments that mattered and made the difference for Philly and the aforementioned players played a key role in the all of them. In a sequence that started with a misplaced pass from Joevin Jones and a bad touch from Matt Polster, the Union exhibited the high pressure that Frank Yallop had warned about in his pre-match comments. The midfield quickly collapsed in on the Fire’s back four and a series of passes coupled with a half-hearted tackle from Maloney left LeToux with a clear look on net which turned out to be the difference maker in the match.
With the lead, the Union’s ability to hold up the ball in their opponents final third kept the Fire at bay and unable to muster any meaningful attacks in the final fifteen minutes. CJ Sapong’s knack for making dangerous runs between center backs was visible throughout the match as well and it certainly made the Fire think twice about fully committing their defenders and holding mids to the attack in the dying minutes.
Strong in Defense? After discussing Philly’s inability to defend in our last preview we were made to eat our words. Maurice Edu, who was a game time decision because of his hamstring injury, strung together a solid performance at center back. He was hungry on the day and made a few key interceptions on Chicago’s long ball approach to the match. John McCarthy’s goal keeping skills were also called into question and he replied with vigor, saving the only two shots that Chicago had on target in the match. He will certainly be looking forward to a third clean sheet in a row on Sunday.
Debellatio: Given that both teams’ supporter culture utilizes Latin phrases, it is perhaps fitting to end the strengths section with this ancient word that means conquest through absolute destruction. Whether or not they will admit it, the Fire really put all of their eggs in one basket with the Open Cup match and they failed miserably. Coming off of a performance like that and having to face the same side in the same stadium may serve as an opportunity of redemption for some, but that is not the case for this completely crestfallen Chicago side. The Union will see this as an opportunity to trounce Chicago again and put distance between the two worst sides in the conference as they themselves gasp for air in the playoff race. If we’re being honest, after the Open Cup loss, there is not much alluding to the possibility of Sunday’s match being any different in style or result.
Weaknesses: Perhaps the Union will be hung over? In all seriousness, the only way that the Union will drop a result in this match is if they are still celebrating the win from Wednesday. But with the way that Curtin praised his players in the post-match comments this will be a match that Philly takes seriously.
Nothing to Lose: Other than speculating on a few possible line up choices we don’t often play coach in these previews, but today is different. With such a debilitating loss, perhaps it is time for Yallop to experiment with some of the younger and less utilized squad members. The likes of Ritter, Stephens, Doody, Bryce, and Fernandez could grasp this opportunity to play fearlessly and show that they are MLS caliber players. Heck, give Polster the arm band and cement his heart to Chicago. Some of the starters clearly weren’t up for it on Wednesday so shaking things up can’t hurt.
Prediction: Philadelphia is on cloud nine. They may not ultimately make the playoffs but they will beat the Fire on Sunday. Chicago 0-2 Philadelphia. Although to be honest, winning this match 4-0 would be quite befitting of the Men in Red this season. Pick whichever result suits you; it really makes no difference anymore.