The Fire look to break a prolonged winless streak in Philadelphia.
Chicago Fire: When tough times are calling, Marco Pappa has consistently been playing the role of a hero for the Men in Red. His beauty of a free kick at BMO Field was his third goal of 2011, earning him serious recognition thus far in the season. Midfielder Corben Bone has also begun to solidify his spot in the starting lineup. The 2010 draftee was making only his third career start, assisting on Chicago’s 74th minute equalizer and nearly setting up another goal in the 83rd.
Philadelphia Union: The back line for the Union has been like a brick wall so far this season, letting up only six goals. The stingy defense has been rock solid, allowing only 24 shots on goal from their opposition. The only spot on the club brighter than the back line is their captain, veteran Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. The former FC Koln standout has posted four shutouts in nine matches so far.
Chicago: Conceding goals has been a constant issue for Chicago in 2011. Thirteen goals against in nine games has been a real barrier from collecting full points. The last four consecutive ties are very much due to allowing too many early, unnecessary goals. The uncertainty between the posts for the Fire is also a concern. With Sean Johnson slowly recovering, and Jon Conway under-performing, the fight for spot number one will resume once again.
Philadelphia: It's safe to say that everyone has heard the old saying, "the best defense is a good offense". Well, everyone except for the Union, that is. Although the Union has let up only six goals, they also have only scored six goals. Of those six, many haven't been a result of offensive prowess but rather good timing. Striker Danny Mwanga's goal against the Galaxy two weeks ago was merely a result of intercepting a poorly timed backpass. The same could be said for the goal scored by midfielder Roger Torres against the Red Bulls earlier this season. The fact is, the offense has been nearly nonexistent from the team that stands, to the surprise and chagrin of many, at second place in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago: The biggest adjustment to take note of is the restitution of captain Logan Pause back into the starting XI. The team inevitably lacked leadership and experience on the pitch and will certainly ameliorate themselves with their captain. We could see another 4-1-4-1 with Conway in goal, Anibaba-Gibbs-Mikulic-Segares in the back, Pappa, Bone, Pause, Paladini, and Ristic all in the midfield, and Diego Chaves featuring as the lone striker up top.
Philadelphia: For Philadelphia to get the result here, they'll need to generate offense, and it starts with star striker Sebastien Le Toux. The Frenchman had a league-best 48 shots on goal last season, and was ranked fourth in goals and fourth in assists. In addition to getting their lead scorer back on track, the Union will need their defense to remain strong. They had an uncharacteristically weak showing against FC Dallas last weekend, letting up two goals in one half.
Chicago: For the very first time, Fire fans were able to see Cristian Nazarit in a Fire uniform in a reserve match against Sporting KC. The striker tallied a goal and showed great speed and vision throughout the match. He was compared to a faster Collins John who parted ways with the Fire this past season. If anything, de los Cobos could pair him up alongside with Chaves, or use him as a lifeline in the second half of the match.
Philadelphia: Playing at home in front of the energetic Philadelphia fans, the Union will certainly have a lot to play for. They'll be looking to get back in the win column and have a chance at taking first place in the Eastern Conference. This Saturday, the fans will surely have memories of September 11, 2010 when the Chicago Fire last came to town. That day, the Union earned their first shutout victory of the franchise's history. Philly will definitely be hoping for a similar performance.
David Gubala: The Men in Red will finally break their prolonged seven game winless streak and overcome the Union 2-1. Goals to come from Diego Chaves and Marco Pappa.
Aamer Bajwa: The Union's defense will carry them to another victory, led by another stellar performance from Mondragon in front of the net. One goal from Philly's struggling offense will be enough to earn the 1-0 victory.
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