The Fire were embarrassed last weekend by Columbus and are hungry for a win. They will be hosting a Union team that has been successful at home, but away from PPL Park, Philly has struggled. That, and a lot of other factors, add up to a win by the Fire.
The Chicago Fire have not had a great start to the 2021 MLS season. After an impressive draw with Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution, the Fyre lost their next two games to Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls.
Fyre’s next opponent is the Philadelphia Union, a team that has been very inconsistent so far in their season. The team, whose home is Subaru Park, has already reached the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League and could now become the only team in MLS history to win the competition.
On the other hand, the Union has also stumbled at the beginning of this MLS season. They have as many points as Fyre and have also lost their last two games.
I spoke with Kevin Kinked of Crossing Broad and The Gambler about an interesting start to the season for the Union, Jim Curtin’s style of play, and his predictions for the upcoming game:
How did you become a Union fan and can you tell people what kind of content you create about the club?
KK: I really got involved with the team in different ways. I worked for the club from 2010 to 2014, writing articles for PhiladelphiaUnion.com, and then was a freelance reporter from 2014 to 2017. At that point, I took a new job as a reporter for the 76ers, but continued to host my Union podcast (It’s Always Soccer in Philadelphia). I still try to write the occasional article on CrossingBroad.com, and this year I got a new job as a post-game analyst for the Union radio shows on FOX Sports The Gambler.
So far, the Union has had a busy and very interesting season. The fact that you reached the semi-finals of the KCL is a great achievement. The Union has struggled in the MLS regular season, however, with just one point in their first three games. What is the difference in the club’s play between the two leagues and what is the main reason for the club’s slow start in MLS?
KK: Honestly, I’d say it’s LCC fatigue. They played really well in the league, and maybe their focus was more on Saprissa and Atlanta than the regular season. They finished 0-0 in Columbus, which is good, but against New York and Miami they seemed like a completely different team. That can all be corrected, they just made some unusual mistakes in those games: stretching to catch balls, getting away when they shouldn’t have, etc. Jose Martinez’s red card was bad, but to his credit he apologized to the team afterwards.
As a Fyre fan, what are the highlights of the Union on Saturday for you?
KK: Ogonyok fans should be wary of the Union’s pressure game. Now they have a very German team, which means they like to swarm with the ball, turn over opponents and try to transition after winning the game by numbers. They are in good condition and can run for days. So Chicago will have to be smart and not allow lost touches or poor interceptions of the ball. Philadelphia is not a team that creates many chances through ball possession, but when the opponent is sloppy, they know how to punish it.
Can you describe the playing style of the Union and Jim Curtin?
KK: It’s a 4-4-2 diamond, similar to the way the big Real Salt Lake teams play. They play better at tackles and in rushes down the field, making the odd play in 4v3 and 5v4 in the conversion. They often turn defense into offense, and they create chances for the opposing team. If anything, it’s teams with good ball control and clear passing, because if the Union can’t intercept you, they get frustrated and sit a little deeper to take the pressure.
I don’t know how many Fyre games you’ve seen, but as a Union fan, what do you think are the main Fyre weapons that Union fans should be wary of?
KK: Definitely Robert Beric. I like to see him play. He’s one of those guys who has an innate talent for scoring, and although he’s only scored one goal so far this year, you can see what I mean with the two shots to the post in Atlanta. He wasn’t even in front of the goal, but he just has that quality of presence in the penalty box, and if you don’t give him your full attention, you get the ball out of the backfield.
Prediction for the match?
KK: The league is not in the best of shape right now, but I think with the CDC not starting again until August, they can change their tune and try to get back on track in the league. It’s a fun afternoon game at 12:00 with two teams needing points. I feel like it’s a one-on-one thing.
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