The Chicago Fire visit the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night hoping to turn a dramatic win over the weekend into the kind of momentum their hosts have built during their last three matches.
The Fire (4-6-2) picked up their second away win Saturday night when Alan Gordon’s late, long-range strike decided a 2-1 win over Orlando City SC.
A playoff team last year, the Fire have yet to win consecutive league games since a four-match win streak from June 10 to July 11, 2017. A victory over Philadelphia would not only end that drought but pull Chicago within one road victory of its total in 2017.
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“We were in this situation a couple of weeks ago when we won also on the road, but we weren’t capable to create the momentum,” Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic said. “Yes, this is important, but we don’t want to think about creating the momentum. It’s something that is going to come. Just live this moment and recover and prepare for the next game.”
Paunovic also said he expects leading scorer Nemanja Nikolic to be available for Wednesday. Nikolic exited Saturday for Gordon at halftime, which suggested an injury, but Paunovic said the departure was for other reasons.
Meanwhile, the Union (4-5-3) are mostly healthy and have gone three matches unbeaten, including a 0-0 draw with the streaking New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Philadelphia even had reason to be frustrated with not picking up all three points against the Eastern Conference’s hottest team after CJ Sapong missed wide on a second-half penalty kick.
Even so, the Union played to a near-statistical deadlock against a Red Bulls side that had won its four previous matches.
“I thought today that we, with a lot of young players, stepped up on the field in a big spot and I think created enough chances to win the game,” Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said. “The guys are actually disappointed in the locker room, which is a change and not a usual feeling in this building, because it is a very tough place to play.”
Philadelphia’s recent 2-0-1 stretch comes despite getting only two goals from Sapong this season and zero from offseason signing David Accam.
That duo that combined for 30 MLS goals a season ago, but Accam has already been pushed to the subs’ bench over Philadelphia’s unbeaten run. In the second of three games in eight days, Curtin could also opt to start Cory Burke ahead of Accam on Wednesday. Burke scored in his first MLS start earlier this month at Montreal.