Chicago Fire boss Ezra Hendrickson knows his side will be underdogs in their MLS trip to face Philadelphia Union, but he remains hopeful his visitors from Illinois can pull off an impressive raid.
The Fire head to Pennsylvania to take on Jim Curtin’s side, who are looking to be among the frontrunners for glory once again this season.
Hendrickson is adamant that, even with their pedigree, the Union have plenty more to offer, and says his side will be fully prepared for a tussle where they will be the lesser half of the equation.
“They’ve done really well at home the past few years,” he said. “We expect nothing less than what they’ve been about these past few years. We’re not going to go in there taking them lightly. We are going to go out there with our strongest squad and try to bring home some points.
“Philly, they are a very good team A lot of the experts are picking them to be MLS Cup champions this year, if not up there. It’s not a team to be taken lightly.
“They have been very good at home over the past few years. It’s going to be a big task for us but we are prepared and we are going to be ready.”
Hendrickson added that the Fire still hope to add additional recruits too, stating: “It’s an ongoing process for us. We had a couple of guys who were really, really close, almost over the line but it fell through. Which happens in this business. But we’re still trying to add.”
Curtin meanwhile brings his side back to domestic competition after a 0-0 draw in the CONCACAF Champions League, where the highlight of his side’s away trip to Alianza was a dog attempting to steal the ball during the match.
The Union boss had no concerns his team would be laggy however after swapping out several of his more regular faces, stating: “If we didn’t rotate now, you know, the question would be when we would.”
The two teams split the difference in their head-to-head encounters last season, with the Fire claiming a 1-0 win on home soil before the Union thrashed them 4-1 in the return fixture.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Philadelphia – Daniel Gazdag
The Hungary international was involved in all four Union goals in their first home match of the season against the Crew (2 goals, 2 assists).
Over his last 11 appearances at Subaru Park, including playoffs, Gazdag has been involved in 21 goals (14 goals, 7 assists), contributing to at least one in 10 of those 11 matches.
Chicago – Xherdan Shaqiri
The European veteran remains one of the most commanding players the Fire have in their arsenal, despite his advancing years.
He played the full 90 minutes in their season opener and will be expected to feature heavily once again versus the Union.
MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA WIN
The Union are unbeaten in their last 11 home matches against the Fire in all competitions (W8 D3) with Chicago’s last win in Chester coming in August 2013. Philadelphia have won seven of their eight home matches against the Fire since 2016, with a 1-1 draw in 2021 as Chicago’s only point in that time.
Including playoffs, the Union have won 12 consecutive home matches dating back to June, the second longest streak in MLS history. The only team with a longer home winning streak in MLS history (including playoffs) was the Earthquakes, who won 14 straight home games from August 2001 to July 2002.
The Fire opened their season with a 1-1 draw against New York City FC, the MLS-record 14th straight year Chicago failed to win a season opener (D6 L8). Chicago have won one of their first two matches only once since 2013, picking up a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake in their second match in 2017.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Philadelphia: 61.5 percent
Chicago: 15.0 percent
Draw: 23.5 percent