After picking up a point on the road in D.C. last week, the Fire are back at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon to face the Philadelphia Union (3:30pm CT My50/TWCSC) looking for the club’s first win of the season and to extend their unbeaten streak to four games.
Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical perspective…
A change on the wing? Going with a veteran over youth
In last week’s match in D.C., youngster Benji Joya again started on the wing for the Fire but again failed to last the full 90 minutes in his third start in a row. Defensively, Joya left his outside back Greg Cochrane exposed on more than one occasion in the first half before Frank Yallop switched Joya to the right wing.
In the attack, Joya also found it difficult to get into the game before he was substituted in place of Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian had an immediate impact; setting up Qunicy Amarikwa for the equalizer after a brilliant nutmeg.
Saturday seems like a perfect game for Nyarko to get his second start in 2014 for a number of reasons. First, his speed in the attack will cause Union left back Fabinho trouble. In the Union’s last two matches, the Brazilian’s lack of pace has been a weak spot.
Nyarko also provides ample cover defensively, something the Fire will need against a Philly team who's tactics emphasize getting as many players forward as possible when they attack.
Bringing the strikers closer together - pushing Magee closer to the goal
In D.C., Mike Magee cut a frustrated figure, trying his best to get into the game but with not a lot of chances to influence it. Magee started in a deeper role behind Quincy Amarikwa and both players were unable to link up on many occasions throughout the match, but not for lack of trying.
Against Philly, I expect Magee to be a lot closer to his striker partner with the Fire playing more of a 4-1-3-2 role instead of a 4-1-4-1. Moving Magee further forward allows Alex to further influence the game from midfield, something he wasn't able to do in D.C.
At this point in the season, coach Yallop favors the Magee/Amarikwa partnership in the attack and in a home game, I expect a formation that fosters as much interplay between the pair as possible.
Stifling the Union attack - limiting opportunities for
In last week’s match away to Montreal, striker
Jack McInerney caused major problems when he was able to get on the end of through balls from the Philly midfield.
In the attack, players like Le Toux and creative mid Vincent Nogueira are always looking to play
McInerney in behind while U.S. international Maurice Edu can also do the same from his deeper midfield role.
While much of the focus will be on
McInerney, Brazilian Leonardo Fernandez has impressed coming off the bench in Philly's last two matches, scoring in one, and it would be no surprise to see him on the pitch from the start on Saturday.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jack McInerney was traded to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Andrew Wenger Friday morning, hence his name being struck through. It is not known at time of edit if Wenger will join the Union in Chicago for Saturday's match.
Prediction: The Fire will finally get a first win of the season - 2-1 with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Harry Shipp.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.