East rivals Fire, Union square off at PPL Park
Chester, PA (Sports Network) - In a meeting with sizable playoff implications, the Philadelphia Union welcome the Chicago Fire to PPL Park on Sunday with both sides looking to improve their places in the Eastern Conference table.
The Fire enter the match occupying the final postseason berth, sitting fifth in the East on 35 points.
The Union, meanwhile, are well off the pace with just 23 points, but have enjoyed something of a renaissance under interim head coach John Hackworth.
Since Hackworth's first game in charge of the club, a 1-0 loss to D.C. United on June 16, Philadelphia has not lost at home, winning its last four games at PPL Park.
The Union are coming off a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Impact at the Stade Saputo, and under Hackworth, have not lost back-to-back games.
While all of that certainly bodes well for Philadelphia, the team will be without one of its stars as Jack McInerney is set to miss the match after picking up a red card in the loss to Montreal.
Chicago, meanwhile, has found consistency hard to come by this season.
The Fire's three-game winning streak from June 17-29 is the only time this season that the club has won consecutive games.
With Chicago taking three points last time out by earning a 2-1 defeat of lowly Toronto FC, it is hard to envision the Fire winning a second straight match at a venue in which the Union have been quite formidable.
But this is a slightly different Fire team. Two Designated Players who were acquired last month found playing time against TFC as Sherjill MacDonald made his second appearance off the substitute's bench while Alvaro Fernandez, who joined the team from Seattle Sounders FC, started the match but came off after 50 minutes.
"For us, we have some good depth out wide," Fire head coach Frank Klopas said. "[Fernandez is] very composed on a ball. Now, he's coming inside a lot more and freeing up the width of the field for [right backs] Jalil [Anibaba] or [Dan] Gargan. He's another guy who�s very good in tight spaces who wants the ball."
Fernandez spoke highly of his debut, saying he relishes the opportunity to get forward and attack.
"I feel more freedom on the field," he said. "Because when you have two holding midfielders, when you're going offensive, you can take more chances and you can play more freely."