Nowak DL

Preview: Fire vs. Union

The basics

Chicago Fire (2-3-4, 5th place in Eastern Conference) vs. Philadelphia Union (2-5-1, 7th place in East) at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

All-time record: This is the first meeting between the clubs.

TV info

8:30 p.m. ET, My50 Chicago, 6abc Philadelphia, MLS Direct Kick

What’s at stake?

Both teams are sitting at the wrong end of the Eastern Conference table and need a result. The Fire want to get six points from their final two matches before the World Cup break begins, starting against Philadelphia. Problem is, Chicago come into the match reeling, winless in their last seven games. The Union are looking to string together their first-ever win streak after beating Houston 3-2 at Robertson Stadium last week.

Heroes and villains

Peter Nowak vs. Carlos de los Cobos: The managerial matchup could make all the difference in Saturday’s game. Nowak, who starred for the Fire from 1998 through 2002, will have his side playing in the usual Nowak fashion – hard and fast. De los Cobos likes to play more methodically, slowly advancing the ball up the field from the back to the front through a five-man midfield. Whether the Fire’s midfield can stand up to the Union’s physical play and control the game should be a key indicator of how this match turns out.

Brian McBride vs. Philly's center backs: McBride has been on a hot streak of sorts lately, scoring two of the Fire’s last three goals. Danny Califf and Michael Orozco will be charged with marking the Fire’s 37-year-old striker. They’ll need to play him tightly whenever he’s in the box and try to limit the number of 50-50 balls he wins in the midfield. As he showed against Dallas, if McBride slips free, regardless of where the ball is on the pitch, he can punish you.

Stat that makes you go, “Hmm”

The Fire have just one win in seven home games in all competitions this season.

He said it

“Hopefully we can take the three points and finally get the season started because that’s what we want. We have two wins against Houston and D.C., but that’s just not enough. The team that we have, we should be up there.” – Fire forward Collins John