By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
There are no easy games in MLS, but with the Union having won four of their last five games and sitting in third in the Eastern Conference, while the Chicago Fire are on a three-game losing streak and sit rock bottom in the Eastern Conference standings, it’s difficult not to bet on the Union for this one.
To put it simply, this matchup is not even in any sense of the word. In the most glaring discrepancy between the two teams, the Union boast one of the most effective offenses in the league, including Kacper Przybyłko, Jamiro Monteiro, and Alejandro Bedoya, while the Fire have failed to score in six of their nine league games in the 2021 season. The Fire were going to have their work cut out for them breaking through the Union’s back four anyway, but their poor offensive form certainly doesn’t make things easier.
Given that Chicago aren’t exactly a major threat to the Boys In Blue, it’s quite likely that Jim Curtin will rest some of his regular starters and give significant minutes to the younger guys that have been used to fill the bench or make late-game substitute appearances. Curtin started 17-year-old Jack McGlynn against Columbus Crew on June 23, along with substituting Matt Real and Quinn Sullivan on late in the game.
This would be the perfect opportunity for Curtin to make good on his insistence that Homegrown players will continue to play an important role in the Union’s first team, following the astronomical success of Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie last season. The Fire won’t be the biggest challenge for these young men, but it will be an excellent way for them to show off their individual skills, along with getting a better look at how they fit into the team as a whole.
Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake; Kai Wagner; Jakob Glesnes; Jack Elliott; Olivier Mbaizo; Leon Flach; Paxten Aaronson; Jack McGlynn; Jamiro Monteiro; Sergio Santos; Kacper Przybyłko
- Jose Martinez is still away on international duty, while Anthony Fontana is unavailable for selection after suffering a concussion in the Union’s June 20 match against Atlanta United. This could be Aaronson’s chance to step up and show what he’s made of in the midfield. A linkup with McGlynn (who impressed against Columbus) could fortify the Union’s famous diamond formation even further, as the two have history playing together.
Score Prediction: Again, it would be unwise to label this game as an easy win, seeing as anything could happen after kickoff, but the Fire are in consistently poor form, while the Union have well and truly hit their stride. A youthful presence in the starting 11, the back line that only seems to get more invincible with every game, and the tried-and-true striker pairing of Przybylko and Santos will see the Union cruising out of Soldier Field with a 3-0 win.