The Philadelphia Union pushed the Chicago Fire out of the U.S. Open Cup. Now they’ll get a chance shove them further into the MLS basement.
The Union handled the Fire 1-0 in Wednesday’s Open Cup semifinal win at PPL Park, and they jump back into MLS play by welcoming Chicago back to town Sunday night.
The two sides enjoyed success in the nation’s oldest soccer tournament, with Chicago finishing 3-1 and Philadelphia at 4-0 entering the Sept. 30 championship game against Sporting Kansas City.
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The same can’t be said for MLS play.
The Union (6-13-5) are winless in their last four league games and have 23 points, one better than Chicago (6-12-4) for fewest in the league and last place in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia, though, ended a three-game losing streak in MLS play with a scoreless draw in Orlando last Saturday.
"The clean sheet is good – everybody gets credit for that," coach Jim Curtin told the club’s official website. "A zero on the road is a positive – it’s something to build on."
The Union carried that momentum into the Open Cup semifinal and held advantages of 11-6 in shots and 10-8 in corners over Chicago. Sebastien Le Toux’s 74th-minute goal supplied Philadelphia with the win and a chance to have its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy next month.
The Fire were left with a sour taste and will resort back to a disappointing MLS season.
"Our guys are devastated with the result, but we need to get ourselves ready for Sunday," coach Frank Yallop told the Fire’s official website. "Sunday’s going to come quickly so we need to get ready for that and pick the bones out of this one, because it wasn’t good."
A 1-0 victory over Philadelphia on March 29 was Chicago’s first of the season and started a three-match win streak, but the Fire have since won just three times in 16 games.
They haven’t won once in their last 20 road games across all competitions, going 0-15-5 since winning in New England on July 12, 2014. Philadelphia is 4-1-1 in its last six home games, including Open Cup play, but is 0-2-3 in the last five MLS matchups with Chicago.
The Union have the East’s worst goal differential at minus-11, having been the first team to allow 40 goals. The Fire are at minus-7 and their 24 goals scored are five fewer than any other team in the conference.
Chicago has played just five games with midfielder Mike Magee, who has been a shadow of what he was as the 2013 MLS MVP after missing time earlier this season following hip and knee operations. Magee did make two substitute appearances in the Open Cup, his first action since July 15.
Designated player Gilberto is questionable after suffering a thigh contusion in his Fire debut Wednesday.
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson will play his 149th regular-season match, moving within two of Curtin for 12th on the club’s all-time list. Curtin manned the goal for Chicago from 2001-07.