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Eastern Conference Championship

Preview: Chicago set to make playoff push vs. Philadelphia

Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images/MLSsoccer.com

TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
9 p.m. ET (My50 Chi.; CSN-Phi)
August 3, 2011 (WEEK 21; MLS Game 202)

The Chicago Fire return to league action after a long layoff when they face Philadelphia Union on Wednesday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire have lost back-to-back games, their last MLS contest a 1-0 home loss to the Portland Timbers nearly three weeks ago. Union hit the road after losing at their PPL Park for the first time this season, a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids last Saturday.

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REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Bill Dittmar; JAR (opposite): Kermit Quisenberry; 4th: Matthew Foerster
MLS Career: 135 games; FC/gm: 28.9; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 24; pens: 47

INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE—OUT: DF Steven Kinney (R Achilles repair); MF Marko Maric (L deltoid sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Gabriel Ferrari (R ankle sprain)...PHILADELPHIA UNION—QUESTIONABLE: FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: PHI: Sheanon Williams (through Aug. 3)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CHI: Diego Chaves, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares...PHI: Sheanon Williams
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Dan Gargan, Cristian Nazarit, Dominic Oduro, Daniel Paladini...PHI: Danny Califf, Brian Carroll, Danny Mwanga, Carlos Valdes

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (3 meetings): Fire 1 win, 3 goals...Union 2 wins, 4 goals...Ties 0
AT CHICAGO (1 meeting): Fire 1 win, 2 goals...Union 0 wins, 1 goal...Ties 0

  • A stunning blast from Carlos Ruiz in the 75th minute gave Union a 2-1 victory in the first meeting between the clubs this season, May 21 at PPL Park.
  • The teams split their meetings in Union's first season, each winning on their home ground. Union won 1-0 at PPL Park on Sept. 11.
  • Coaches record: Frank Klopas vs. PHI: first game...Peter Nowak v CHI: P15 W6 L7 D2

LAST MEETING (MLS)
5/21: PHI 2, CHI 1 (M. Farfan 64; Ruiz 75—Oduro 68)

  • Union took the lead in the 64th minute when Michael Farfan took a pass from Kyle Nakazawa on a free kick from the left flank, and struck a low, driving shot from outside the box that deflected past the Fire's Jon Conway.
  • Just four minutes later, however, Fire winger Dominic Oduro rounded Farfan on the right side of the area and poked a shot past Union 'keeper Faryd MondragÛn from a tight angle.
  • Yet Union regained the lead in the 75th minute. After Carlos Ruiz saw his free kick blocked, he chased down the deflection and looped a high-arching shot from about 40 yards out that sailed over Conway's head, hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced straight down over the goal line.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey (Roger Torres 58) - Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo (Kyle Nakazawa 5), Justin Mapp - Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz (Gabriel Farfan 81).
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-1-4-1): Jon Conway - Bratislav Ristic, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares - Daniel Paladini - Dominic Oduro, Baggio Husidic (Gaston Puerari 60), Corben Bone (Logan Pause 60), Marco Pappa - Diego Chaves (Orr Barouch 46).

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire return to MLS action for the first time in nearly three weeks, their last match a second consecutive loss, falling 1-0 to the Portland Timbers on July 16 at Toyota Park. The Fire have 18 points from 20 matches on the year, sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The game's lone goal came in the 25th minute. Referee Elias Bazakos adjudged Fire left back Gonzalo Segares took down Jorge Perlaza at the top of the box, and Portland midfielder Jack Jewsbury made no mistake with the resulting spot kick, firing his shot low and to the left past the diving Sean Johnson.
  • Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made no changes to the team that fell 2-1 to the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-4-2): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Cory Gibbs, Yamith Cuesta (sent off 63), Gonzalo Segares - Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause (Bratislav Ristic 88), Daniel Paladini (Orr Barouch 46), Marco Pappa - Dominic Oduro, Cristian Nazarit.

TEAM NEWS

  • The Fire headed into their long break league play with a second consecutive loss, extending their winless streak at Toyota Park to eight games in regular season contests.
  • "It's never good when you lose, especially at home. I felt at the start of the game we did not come out with enough urgency. We went down 1-0 early then we had to play shorthanded," said Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas. "After, I felt the guys put a lot into the game. We pushed it and took a lot of risks. We always need to have a better start because we need to make things happen by having that sense of urgency. Playing with 10 guys made it tough."
  • In between, the Fire did take on Manchester United FC at a sold-out Soldier Field. Cory Gibbs gave the Fire the lead after just 13 minutes, but goals from Wayne Rooney (66), Rafael (75) and Nani (82) over the final quarter of the match gave United the victory.
  • Here's the Fire team: Sean Johnson (Jon Conway 46), Gonzalo Segares (Paraskevas Pantazopoulos 88),Cory Gibbs (Dasan Robinson 88), Yamith Cuesta (Josip Mikulic 46), Jalil Anibaba (Michael Videira 88), Dan Paladini (Corben Bone 88), Patrick Nyarko (Diego Chaves 79), Logan Pause (Baggio Husidic 46), Marco Pappa (Sebastián Grazzini 62), Cristian Nazarit (Orr Barouch 46), Dominic Oduro (Bratislav Ristic 72)
  • The Fire announced the acquisition of Mexican international midfielder Pavel Pardo during their break. Acquired from Club América, Pardo, 35, is the second-most capped player in Mexican national team history, with 148 appearances for el Tricolor. The central midfielder appeared in seven matches for his country during the 1998 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.
  • Pardo is not likely to start against Philadelphia at midweek. "I'm not ready yet," Pardo said. "I think maybe next week or maybe in two weeks, it depends on practice and how I feel and my body. But we have to very quickly have results. We have to think of it [one step at a time]...and the first is on Wednesday against Philadelphia and then playing Vancouver next Sunday."
  • With the acquisition of Pardo, a change could be coming to the Fire. During training sessions, Klopas tinkered with a five-man midfield, with Pardo alongside central midfield stalwart Logan Pause.
  • "In that system, it allows guys like Marco and Patrick to have more freedom," Pause said. "I wouldn't say that it's putting more responsibility on Pável or myself to create, I would just say it's putting less responsibility on Marco and Patrick to defend. It's just give and take."
  • But Pause could also move to right back, a position he's played a number of times over the past few seasons and where he would be seen to go if Klopas remains with a back four.
  • "Listen, I'll move wherever it takes," Pause said. "I want to win, I want the best for this group and if that's right back, if it's on the bench or whatever, my role is just to help this team and I've got no problem to do that."
  • The Fire also made a trade of central defenders, receiving Dan Gargan from Toronto FC in exchange for Dasan Robinson. Gargan had made 16 appearances, 12 as a starter, for TFC this season.

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union went down to defeat at home for the first time in 2011, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Colorado Rapids on Friday evening at PPL Park. Union have 31 points from 20 matches on the year, in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Rapids took the lead on 35 minutes. A throw-in from winger Brian Mullan found Pablo Mastroeni, and he made a neat cutback move to shed a defender before smashing a strike into the upper left corner.
  • Then, right before the halftime whistle, Colorado doubled its lead. Omar Cummings dribbled up the center of the field on a counterattack and made a sharp through pass to fellow speedster Sanna Nyassi, who zipped past the Union defense and lashed home a low shot inside the area.
  • Union's comeback hopes took a turn for the worse in the 64th minute when Sheanon Williams received two yellow cards in short order after disputing a call.
  • But in stoppage time, the hosts pulled a goal back when Roger Torres took a long ball at the edge of the area and skipped his way through three defenders before hooking a shot high into the right corner of the goal.
  • Union manager Peter Nowak made one change to the team that took a 3-0 victory against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Danny Mwanga came into the team in place of Carlos Ruiz.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION--Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams (sent off 65), Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Justin Mapp (Veljko Paunovic 73), Keon Daniel (Michael Farfan 46), Kyle Nakazawa (Roger Torres 46), Brian Carroll, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga.

TEAM NEWS

  • Union had started the season 5-0-4 in league matches at PPL Park. Only the LA Galaxy (6-0-5) and Sporting Kansas City (3-0-4) are still unbeaten at home this season.
  • "The second half was much better, that's the team that wants to get forward and score goals. But, if you are not going to compete from the minute the game starts, you are going to fall into a place you don't want to be in," said Union manager Peter Nowak. "It is disappointing that we started the game slow. There was no movement and there were big holes in the middle and that's how the goals happened. You can't just turn the switch on and off."
  • Roger Torres scored his first league goal since April 9, when he scored the only goal of the game in a home win against the New York Red Bulls.
  • "The two goals that we gave up in the first half, I think that hurt us but we still had the chance to come back and tie the game," Nowak said. "So we started again in the second half and made those changes but it is what it is."
  • Nowak brought on Torres along with Michael Farfan as part of a double switch to start the second half. Torres came on for Kyle Nakazawa in the center of the park, while Michael Farfan moved into Keon Daniel's place on the right flank.
  • Veljko Paunonic also made his first appearance after missing two games to injury, coming on for the final quarter-hour in place of Justin Mapp.
  • "We changed our system. We changed some players. The team responded very good to that. Many chances but we missed them, that's the only point," Paunovic said. "... We can now stop and think about it. We just have to take the conclusions, what was good and what was wrong in this game and try not to do anything in the future. So as I said before we have to turn to the next game."
  • Carlos Ruiz, who had netted three goals in the previous four games to give him six on the season, was not in the 18-man available squad, watching the game from a suite. After the match, Nowak said the Guatemalan international will be leaving the club.
  • "It's a tough business and part of the game, and we as players know that," Sebastien Le Toux told philadelphiaunion.com. "Of course, we're disappointed with the loss and with losing Carlos. He's a great player and will be missed. We wish nothing but the best for him and we hope he does his best to help his new club. It's tough, though."