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Matchday 21: Shorthanded Union Host Chicago Fire

Aug 12, 2012, 5:42 PM EDT

Philadelphia Union host the Chicago Fire in MLS action at PPL Park in Chester. Game time is 7:00 PM
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The Union look to continue their recent good form at home as they welcome the Chicago Fire to PPL Park (7PM/Comcast SportsNet). The U, who have won four consecutive games at home, need to start stringing some wins together if they hope to make a second-half playoff push.

John Hackworth’s team will be without the services of a few key players. Captain Carlos Valdes was called in by the Colombian National Team for training in advance of World Cup Qualifying. Similarly, Gabriel Gomez (Panama) and Keon Daniel (Trinidad & Tobago) were called into their respective national team camps for midweek friendlies (UPDATE: Daniel apparently has not yet left for T&T’s camp as he is in the starting lineup).

Jack McInereny will be out as he serves a red card suspension for his retaliatory push of Montreal Impact player Nelson Rivas after Rivas headbutted Antoine Hoppenot. Hoppenot suffered a broken nasal bone, but should be available to play tonight. What do all of these absences mean?

Well, we will likely see the Union debut of Bakary Soumare, who should slide into Carlos Valdes’ spot next to Amobi Okugo in the center of the Union backline. With Gomez unavailable you’d imagine that Michael Lahoud would get the starting nod in the midfield. Finally, without McInereny available I am guessing Hackworth will start Lionard Pajoy at one forward spot. He’ll then likely choose between Josue Martinez and the now fully fit Chandler Hoffman, who has recovered from a broken toe, to play with Pajoy.

These two teams last met on March 24th at Toyota Park where the Fire walked away 1-0 winners. The Union team who lost to the Fire that day is a vastly different one than will take the field today. Peter Nowak’s starting XI included Chris Albright, Porfirio Lopez, Roger Torres and Danny Mwanga, Neither Albright, Lopez or Torres has seen many minutes since then – and Mwanga was jettisoned to Portland.

Fire manager Frank Klopas has his team in fifth place in the MLS Eastern Conference – five points ahead of Montreal. Chicago is 3-5-3 away from Toyota Park with a -4 road goal differential.

Philadelphia native Dan Gargan, who played his high school ball at Chestnut Hill Academy, returns to his hometown as a regular contributor for the Fire. He’s appeared in 19 games this season, starting 17 of them. He was replaced in the starting lineup last week by Gonzalo Segares, but I’d imagine Klopas would give him the nod in his return to his hometown.

Offensively Chicago is paced by Marco Pappa (6 goals) and Dominic Oduro (5 goals). Chris Rolfe, who returned to Chicago after playing in Denmark for a few years, has scored 2 goals in just 10 appearances since returning to MLS. Pavel Pardo and Logan Pause control things in the midfield for Chicago. Sean Johnson, who was just named to Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT roster for the friendly against Mexico on Wednesday, should be between the sticks before leaving for Mexico City.

Pajoy, who has had chances to finish recently, will need to convert opportunities with McInereny out serving his suspension. The Union played well enough against Montreal last week, but just could not finish in the final third. Someone will need to shoulder the goal scoring load. If nothing else their depth will be tested tonight.