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Union, Fire press for success after cooling off
The Chicago Fire will try to get back to their winning ways when they host the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
Chicago (6-8-5) had won or tied seven matches in a row in MLS and U.S. Open Cup action before falling short 3-2 on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps in its most recent game Saturday.
The loss stifled the momentum for the Fire, who climbed within range of the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
In fact, before the hot streak, the Fire had not lost since May 30 to Philadelphia (6-9-3).
Yes, the same team that comes to the Fire's venue in suburban Chicago desperate for a win to improve its playoff chances. The Union are coming off back-to-back losses to Los Angeles FC and Atlanta United, putting the team in eighth place and two points behind the Fire.
"It's up to us to find ways to get goals," Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said to the team's official website. "We struggled to score (against Atlanta). It's not for lack of chances. We're a team. We win as a team, we lose as a team. We're a little over the halfway point now, so we have to find a way to stick together."
Union midfielder Borek Dockal dominated the Fire in the team's first meeting about six weeks ago. Dockal finished with a goal and two assists, and he will look to build on that success in the rematch.
To prevent an outburst from Dockal or anyone else, Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said he and his teammates need to be more consistent, especially on defense.
"We need to improve our game, to improve the level, and then we will win or we will be more consistent," Schweinsteiger said to the team's official site. "That's all. We have too many up and downs, and then you struggle to make points, and you are exactly where we are. That's the reason."
Fire midfielder Nemanja Nikolic, who is tied for the team lead with eight goals, has scored in each of his past two games. He has 32 career goals, which ties him with Josh Wolff for fourth place in franchise history. He has achieved the feat in only 52 games.
Chicago midfielder Aleksandar Katai also has scored eight goals to share the team lead with Nikolic.
Dockal leads Philadelphia with five goals this season. Talented midfielders Ilsinho (four goals) and Fafa Picault (three goals) are next on the team in scoring.
Dockal also has been the Union's top playmaker with a team-high six assists. Team captain and reliable midfielder Alejandro Bedoya ranks second on the club with four assists.
Chicago defender Kevin Ellis will look to stay hot after contributing two primary assists against the Whitecaps for the first multi-assist game of his career. He has four assists this season.
Chicago is 4-4-2 at home. Philadelphia is 1-6-1 on the road.
Updated July 9, 2018