The Philadelphia Union beat the Chicago Fire twice in an eight-day span in May, but the final 2013 matchup figures to look different.
Saturday night's contest at PPL Park is the first between these teams since the Union traded disgruntled veteran defender Bakary Soumare to the Fire and since Chicago picked up the high-scoring Mike Magee.
Jack McInerney scored in 1-0 victories for Philadelphia (9-6-7) over Chicago (7-9-4) on May 11 on the road and May 18 at home.
The Union dealt Soumare to the Fire on May 23. Two days later, Chicago picked up Magee from Los Angeles.
Chicago is 5-2-2 since Magee played his first MLS contest for the Fire on June 2. He is tied with Vancouver's Camilo for the league lead with 13 goals, including seven in his first nine games with the Fire to move into MVP consideration.
"I think they were a little unlucky earlier in the year but to have those guys come in and have the impact that they've had is really important, it's put them back in the playoff race," Philadelphia coach John Hackworth said. "So this game is really a big game for them."
The Union are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 34 points. New England and Houston are tied for the fifth and final playoff spot with 30 points and Chicago is seventh with 25.
"It's an Eastern Conference opponent and it literally could potentially be a six-point swing here," Hackworth said. "So Chicago's huge."
Magee's surge has moved him past McInerney, who is fourth with 10 goals. McInerney has gone five straight games without scoring although Philadelphia has three wins and two draws in those contests.
Union forward Conor Casey has come on with five goals in his last seven matches. He was suspended for last Saturday's 1-0 victory at Vancouver due to yellow card accumulation, with substitute Antoine Hoppenot scoring the winner.
"We always thought that when that lull comes with Jack, somebody else is going to have to step up," Hackworth said. "Conor certainly did that, Antoine did it on Saturday, we expect to have other guys do that continually throughout the year."
Chicago could have a healthy midfield this weekend since Alex and Dilly Duka returned to practice this week. Duka missed last Saturday's 1-1 draw against Houston with a groin injury and Alex left with an ankle problem.
New designated player Juan Luis Anangono could make his MLS debut, although it seems unlikely the forward will start.
"There's not any one savior," coach Frank Klopas told the Fire's official website. "It's about the team. He gives us some depth in that spot, and he's got to work hard to get in his fitness."
The Union are 4-0-2 in their last six at home while the Fire have lost three of four all-time visits and will have to avoid looking ahead to Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinal against D.C. United.
Philadelphia will be without midfielder Keon Daniel, suspended for "an act of violent conduct" against Vancouver.
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