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Quick Preview into Union v Fire

Although the Union already have one match and one win under their belt, the Boys in Blue take a quick pause from the CCC matches to kick start their MLS Season. Without further delay, let's get right into this one!

Last Match Recap

Before we start discussing the upcoming match, let's take a very quick look into the Union's first game of the season. On Tuesday night, the Blue and Gold travelled to Costa Rica and snuck away with a 3-2 win against Deportivo Saprissa. The Union's first half was somewhat expected. The first 45 minutes of the season shook off the rust, all while battling the wind and the rain in a hostile environment. We certainly saw some miscues in the first half and throughout portions of the game. Jose Martinez and Jakob Glesnes had performances they would probably like to forget, especially the mind numbing own goal from Jakob to give Saprissa the 1-0 lead.

We had a lot of positives, however, to build off of. Young prospects like Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan had strong performances, and Quinn in particular showed his passing and veteran quality when he contributed to the second and third goals. Of course, let's not forget about Julian Carranza and his second half hat trick that sent the Union home with a emphatic road win.

Pre-Game Presser

As always, Jim Curtin took to the podium during the week to give us some scoop before the Chicago Fire match. Regarding some missing players: Jack Elliott, who did not feature against Saprissa, will be available for selection against Chicago (my thoughts on Jack further below in this piece). Next, Tai Baribo, who was also not seen on Tuesday night, has reportedly missed some preseason and will be working hard to get back into the lineup.

Finally, and probably the most significant news, Andre Blake is a game-time decision on Saturday. If you recall on Tuesday night, Blake was checked out on the pitch by the training staff, and his center backs handled some of his goal kicks. According to Curtin, Andre has an adductor strain, so Oliver Semmle may be making his Union debut on Saturday evening. One of Ernst Tanner's newest additions will be thrown into the spotlight this weekend, and considering Joe Bendik's performances last season, Union fans will be anxiously watching Oliver's every move.

The Match Ahead

This is not the same Chicago Fire squad that we've seen in past years, and they had a busy offseason. Besides bringing on Kellyn Acosta, the Fire signed Hugo Cuypers from Gent. The 26 year old was brought on for a $12 million fee, who will help bring some extra fire power alongside Shaqiri, who has been the main playmaker for Chicago of late.

Despite some excitement for the visitors' lineup, Union fans should feel confident in this year's home opener. Even with some bumps in the road last year during the season, the Chester fortress of Subaru Park has still been a place where Philly feels comfortable leaving with points.

For me, and probably everyone supporting the Blue and Gold, the biggest worry for us is Andre Blake's presence in net. If Andre is unavailable on Saturday, I'd like to see Jack Elliott filling in next to Jakob Glesnes. We know Damion can be a very aggressive center back, and mixing that with Jakob's occasional miscues and offensive attack, it would be good to have a more conservative and stout defender in front of Semmle. Also, we have to take into account the second leg of the CCC next Tuesday. I love Damion's intensity on the field, and I want to have that presence on the pitch to close out this round of the Champions Cup. Next, despite Nathan's strong outing against Saprissa, I expect to see Olivier Mbaizo on the right back spot against Chicago. If Curtin learned anything from last season, the schedule will be a grueling one, and squad rotation and health must be at the forefront. I look forward to seeing how Olivier looks this season with Nathan pushing to take his minutes again.

Finally, with Tuesday's match having the priority, I am curious to see how Jim shakes up the rest of the lineup. Considering Bedoya only played about 30 minutes on Tuesday, I could see Jim starting Alejandro at home, and then bringing him off the bench again against Saprissa. With that said, I'd love to know what more Quinn can do. As I said previously, and several times last year, Sullivan shows a lot of promise in his passing and offensive ability. We've seen Bueno and McGlynn emerge into consistent starters and role players. I believe this is the year Quinn really becomes a staple of the rotation.

Bet the Boys in Blue

I love to shop around for the best lines, as most of you should be, so I use the Action Network app. Points Bet as of 11:35pm on 2/23 has the Union Moneyline at a juicy, but not terrible, -150. The visitors are sitting at +420 on FanDuel. In terms of head-to-head matchups, the Union have held their own of late. They're 2-2-1 (W-D-L) in the last five contests, with the most recent game being a 2-2 draw on April 15, 2023.

As always, the Across the Pitch team of Jose, Dave, and myself like to make some casual predictions before each MLS match. Jose is eyeing a 2-2 draw to open the season, with open play goals from Gazdag and the red hot Julian Carranza. David and I are a bit more optimistic, however, for the home opener. Dave is looking for a 2-1 win with an Anytime Goal from Daniel Gazdag. I agree with the score as well, and I'm going to go with a Glesnes header to help erase the memory of his Tuesday night miscue.

Some of the Union Anytime Goalscorer numbers on FanDuel are:

Carranza: +110

Gazdag: +110

Uhre: +160

Sullivan: +300

Glesnes: +1100

Martinez: +1300

Let's hope the Union can ride their momentum from Tuesday and start their MLS Season with three points. Doop!

Mike Barrera - Mbarrera1323 on Twitter and TikTok

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