A cold-as-ice playoff contender comes into Philadelphia as the Chicago Fire (6-7-8, 26 points) try to rebuild their playoff chances by winning its first game since August 18th. Since defeating the New England Revolution 2-1 at home, the Fire have gone 0-2-2, taking only two points in its last four games. Sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the Fire are only one point away from tying the Kansas City Wizards for fourth place and a win would give outright control of fourth. To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Fire desparately need to take all three points from the Union at PPL Park.
On the other side of the pitch, the Philadelphia Union (5-11-6, 21 points) are currently on their best form of the season. Unbeaten in their last three MLS games (four games overall), the Union have taken five points in those three matches to put them only six points behind the Wizards and five behind the Fire. Just as vital as this game is for the Fire to continue their playoff push, this game is to the Union for the possibility of starting their very own. Two important points were dropped to the Wizards last week as the Union let in a weak goal that led to a draw with the Wizards, leaving the Union stranded in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Despite another one man show by Sebastian Le Toux, the Union found themselves without a victory. Versus the Fire, a draw will not be enough to salvage the chance to even sniff the playoffs, so the Union will be gunning for a win just as much as the Fire will be.
Prediction: 2-1 Union, as the Danny Mwanga-Sebastian Le Toux combination proves too much for even Fire defender William Conde and the Union defense holds up (for once) under the assault of Fire DPs Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo.
*For Justin Mapp, tonight's game will be a reunion with Chicago. Mapp was traded to the Union from the Fire back on July 26th but played a key role in Chicago's 2-1 victory on April 17th, prior to the trade. Tonight's game will be the first against his former team.
*Shea Salinas was not named as OUT on the injured list for the first time since he fractured his left fibula on July 10th. He is not on the injury list at all for this game.
*Ljungberg returns to Philly for the second time this season, albeit with the Fire instead of the Seattle Sounders this time around.
*This will be Brian McBride's one and only trip to PPL Park as the American soccer league will be taking his final bow at the end of the season. He announced his retirement on September 3rd and there is speculation that McBride made be honored with a testimonial match sometime after the season ends.