The Chicago Fire’s two-and-a-half week break from league play ends on Wednesday night when the Philadelphia Union come to town for an MLS tilt at Toyota Park (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
The Fire took advantage of their time off from the league, getting a four-day break from training following their July 23 friendly against Manchester United and integrating new signings — and likely starters — Pável Pardo and Sebastián Grazzini into the squad.
“It’s been good,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said of the break. “I think the players are recharged and ready to push in the last 14 games here. The important thing is that we take same attitude we did into the Man. United game into these league games. If we do that, we should start to pick up some points.”
The last-place Fire desperately need three points from their encounter with the Union. Chicago trail the Houston Dynamo by nine points for the 10th and final playoff spot and need a strong push to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight year.
Not that Philadelphia will be an easy team to beat. The Union are in second place in the East and have conceded a Conference low 18 goals so far this season.
“I think they did a good job of mixing it up with young players and experienced players by bringing in older guys like [goalkeeper Faryd] Mondragón and [defender Danny] Califf,” Klopas said. “I think it’s been more of an emphasis on staying compact and not giving much away, and they don’t give a lot away.”
The Fire do think they’ve spotted a place where they can attack Philly, though: on the counter. The Union gave up two counterattacking goals in their 2-1 loss to Colorado on Saturday, giving Chicago hope that they can use their good speed to surprise Philadelphia on the break.
“When they lose the ball in transition I think we will find spaces on the wing, particularly on the weak side,” Klopas said. “We’ll have to look to use our speed to take advantage of that.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.