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Matchday 3: Union Look for First Win of Season in Chicago

Mar 24, 2012, 6:26 PM EDT

Philadelphia Union Major League Soccer Chicago Fire Toyota Park Preview

The Union look to earn its first points of the season tonight as they travel to Chicago to face the Fire (8:30PM/The Comcast Network). They’ve started a season 0-2 for the first time in the short history of the franchise. They’ll look to pick up a road result without the services of some key contributors.

Freddy Adu, Sheanon Williams, and Amobi Okugo are with the US U23 team as they continue their quest to qualify for the Olympics. Their captain, Danny Califf, did not make the trip to Chicago as he continues to deal with the knee injury that maybe is not a knee injury. Porfirio Lopez, who really hasn’t distinguished himself over the first two games, should be in the lineup after joining the Costa Rican national team for a friendly against Jamaica this past Wednesday.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Chris Albright, who started against Colorado last week, is listed as questionable with a groin strain. If Albright cannot go you may see either rookie Raymon Gaddis or Gabriel Farfan (who is also listed as questionable with a quad strain) fill in along the back line.
Interestingly, last week Nowak played 3-2-3-2 (you could argue it was a 3-5-2, but Gabriel Gomez and Brian Carroll were withdrawn from the midfield and played in front of Albright, Carlos Valdes, and Lopez, so I’ll call it a 3-2-3-2). I actually liked that shape, but considering he’ll be without Williams and potentially without Albright I am not sure he’ll want to take that formation on the road and isolate either Gaddis or Garfan along the flank like that.
Chicago enters the game 0-0-1, having earned a road point last week in Montreal. Fire head coach Frank Klopas looks to continue the momentum his team created towards the end of last season when they made a late push for the playoffs – winning seven and drawing one over their last ten games.
A depleted Union back line will have their work cut out for them as they try to cope with the pace of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko. Oduro scored the Fire’s lone goal last week against Montreal. Meanwhile, Nyarko is an absolute handful when he’s running at people.
Klopas may have a new face in his lineup as recent acquisition Arne Friedrich may make his MLS debut tonight. The German international, who played for Die Mannschaft at two European Championships (2004 and 2008) and two World Cups (2006 and 2010) trained with his new team all week and may feature along the Fire’s back line this evening.
For the second straight week the Union will face a Chestnut Hill Academy grad. Last week it was Jeff Larentowicz. This week it is Dan Gargan. The Union can only hope Gargan meets the same fate as his fellow CHA alum Larentowicz, who was sent off in the 58th minute last week.
Despite dropping the game to the Rapids last week there were some positive developments. Danny Mwanga played well over the first 45 minutes. Lionard Pajoy opened his MLS account with a diving header. The two combined well in the first half. Hopefully Nowak trots out that pairing once again.
Roger Torres made his 2012 debut and immediately changed the complexion of the game. He popped up in space, played dangerous passes, and pretty much orchestrated the Union offense. He served the ball to Pajoy for the Union’s lone goal. He is the¬†creative force for the Union, and should play the full 90 tonight.
Goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who has struggled over the first two games, will need to be sharp tonight. He spilled a ball for a goal against Portland in the opener. Last week he allowed a cross to go right through his hands which led to Colorado’s first goal. I admire his aggressiveness, but he’s got to play a clean game if the Union hope to pick up its first win.
Starting Lineup I’d Like to See: MacMath, G. Farfan, Valdes, Gomez, Lopez, M. Farfan, Carroll, Torres, Keon Daniel, Mwanga, Pajoy
Final Score Prediction: The Union drop to 0-3 as the Fire win it 2-1.