After a most difficult week in American soccer the Chicago Fire conclude their 2017 home schedule Sunday evening against the Philadelphia Union. All of the playoff positions have been claimed in the MLS Eastern Conference but there is still plenty to play for. The Men In Red are still battling for the all important second seed and first round bye and a home game in the playoffs. Sunday’s opponents are out of playoff contention but will still pose a threat to the Fire’s ambitions. The Union’s road record is woeful this year but most of their players will be stumping for their professional survival. The Union defeated the Fire 3-1 just a few weeks ago at Talen Energy Stadium where the Fire struggled severely. The Fire will be depending on their young full backs to move the ball and to supply the golden boot race leader Nemanja Nikolic.
Injured Chicago Fire Host Philadelphia Union
The Fire have a litany of injured players and a number of them include important members of the squad. Key workhorse Micheal de Leeuw is out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured ACL suffered during the game against NYCFC. Reports from local media are saying that Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely out for at least this week after not training Thursday. David Accam is not up to full speed after acknowledging he has been saddled with a hip injury that will eventually need surgery. Juninho has been absent from training and is labelled as out with a knee problem. With all of these players out, climbing above Atlanta and NYCFC for the second seed looks to be a tough task.
Fullbacks are Key for Fire
Fire fullbacks Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster have been a big part of the Fire 2017 success. The Fire’s results have been night and day when they have been healthy. Their injuries played a large part in the Fire’s big second half slide. These two young Americans provide a lot of quality and cover at both ends of the field. Both Polster and Vincent help protect Chicago’s center backs and provide excellent recovery runs. Poster is especially important moving the ball up the field as well. The former central midfielder finds space well, is comfortable on the ball and has provided excellent service to his team goal scorers. The Las Vegas native should also receive high praise for his excellent transition to his new role as right back.
Armchair Analyst: Matt Polster's having a great season as an overlapping fullback because he does the simple stuff consistently well pic.twitter.com/brTgCID5wh
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) September 28, 2017
Dax McCarty’s Return to league play
As with all of the United States Men’s National Team players, it will be worth watching how Dax McCarty recovers from the events of this week. As a pragmatic professional he may just return to business as usual and be a solid piece to Chicago’s midfield. However from a human vantage point, he could return as either a man on a mission or an emotionally drained figure still in shock from the week’s horror show. The Florida native has had a roller coaster year even before the national team debacle. At what point does an individual run out of emotion and energy? The Fire’s playoff performances may well hinge on the state of McCarty as he returns to MLS play.