Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union
Venue: Toyota Park – Saturday, April 2 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST)
Match Odds: Chicago Fire 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – Philadelphia Union 12/5
Life under new coach Veljko Paunovic has started slowly but he has installed a new system, and with it, a stronger defensive work ethic which should start to yield results sooner rather than later.
Paunovic also trusts his younger players, proven by the fact rookie Brandon Vincent has played every minute so far in a wing back role and seems to be settling in well.Embed from Getty Images
Only time will tell how well the Fire adapt under their new boss but three points will be expected on Saturday.
Philadelphia Union have started 2016 with two impressive wins after an opening day defeat at the hands of FC Dallas. Since then they have managed to defeat Columbus Crew 2-1 away from home, before blowing away New England Revolution 3-0 before the international break.
Much of their early success is down to the consistency of new recruits Chris Pontius and Keegan Rosenberry who have fit in well thus far. CJ Sapong is providing a good platform for the team to build on in attack and Jim Curtin will be delighted with what he has seen to this point.Embed from Getty Images
Things are looking up for the Union who still have Maurice Edu to come back into the fold later in the season, and who knows, they could be pushing for the playoffs come September.
These two sides met three times last year, with each winning once. The most recent meeting saw the pair play out an exhilarating 3-3 draw in Philadelphia, though Chicago won the lone meeting at Toyota Park 1-0.
Chicago Fire will be without Patrick McLain, while Sean Johnson and David Accam are both doubts but should be fit enough to make the squad come kickoff.
Philadelphia Union are still without Maurice Edu for the foreseeable future. Tranquillo Barnetta, Vincent Nogueira and Cole Missimo are all doubts but will hope to recover in time to feature.
Chicago Fire’s form: L/D/D
Philadelphia Union’s form: L/W/W
Key Stat: Chicago are unbeaten in six-straight MLS meetings with the Union. A run that stretches back to August 2013.
Key Player: CJ Sapong – The Union striker has been in excellent form early on this term and has played a crucial part in recent wins, scoring twice last time out against New England. We expect this form to continue in what is certainly a winnable game for Philadelphia.Embed from Getty Images
Chicago Fire 1-2 Philadelphia Union – Chicago are yet to register a win this term, while Philadelphia have won two on the bounce. We’re expecting the Union to edge this one, but a very open and exciting match could be played out at Toyota Park on Saturday evening.