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Philadelphia Union looking to bounce back at home



Photo by Matthew Ralph

During a midweek press conference Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin offered his thoughts on his group’s last two matches as they prep for a home match against Chicago Fire tonight.

“I think our guys will be humble about that result and then we’ll have a good response against Chicago in the league,” said Curtin, reflecting back on the road loss at Miami and a lack-luster outing in El Salvador – mostly due to shoddy field conditions.

The team made 8 changes in El Salvador after making no changes in Miami a few nights prior. Tonight, Curtin may decide to rotate the squad once more. The group needs a bounce-back performance, and a home match is the perfect opportunity to do so. Curtin seems to think his guys will respond.

“We’re going to go fully after Chicago and then we have a must win game on Tuesday. That’s the simplest way to put it,” said Curtin on the plan for another quick turnaround in their schedule with the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League match-up against Alianza.

In terms of the mood within the locker room after the difficult road battle in El Salvador, Curtin mentioned the group is fresh and they took a lot of positives away from the 0-0 tie. “For the majority of the guys, everybody will go in fresh to the next two games. I think more importantly, team-wise, the reserves going out and performing the way they did makes everyone feel part of it,” said Curtin. “They’re all looking to contribute.”

However, this match-up against Chicago will not be an easy one. Last June, Chicago bossed Philadelphia in a 1-0 loss. Philadelphia would get their revenge though winning easily in mid-August 4-1. Tonight, they will hope to extend their dominate home winning streak.

The key will be in the midfield and Curtin has already pointed out the player to watch on Chicago, Xherdan Shaqiri. Shaqiri will need to be contained. If he runs free at Philadelphia’s backline, the Union could be in trouble early and often.

They have fallen behind in both of their MLS games to start the 2023 slate, so grabbing the first goal could be a pivotal moment for Curtin’s group. Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre need to be on the field tonight to apply early offensive pressure. Uhre’s speed and Philly’s direct play could apply just the right amount of pressure on Chicago’s younger backline to make life difficult for veteran keeper Spencer Richey. The front 3 for Philadelphia should be able to combine well enough to force some miscommunication and confusion.

The key will be just how clinical Philadelphia can be when those chances come. They failed to convert on the few chances they created the last two matches. An early goal could shake off that rust and get them back on the right footing.

If Philadelphia can limit Shaqiri’s impact and contain the play in wider areas, they should survive. Chicago have some larger forwards in Kacper Przybylko and Kei Kamara, so cutting off service to them will be another huge factor defensively.

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