Philly are winless in their last two fixtures after a 1-1 draw with Inter Miami, and the Fire were narrowly beaten 2-1 last Saturday by Toronto.
The Supporters' Shield winners from a year ago have suffered their first real setback of the season and have also lost some ground in the race to retain that title in 2021, as they are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, nine points behind the New England Revolution.
Their recent road trip in the sunshine state was not a very memorable one, as they squandered a chance to move into second in the conference when they dropped a 2-1 decision to Orlando City, and then they followed that up with a draw against the worst team in the league at the moment, Inter Miami.
Going into another game against Chicago, their third meeting against them this year, manager Jim Curtin is pushing the message home that his side cannot overlook a team based on their results alone, something that they might have been guilty of doing in previous games, with a draw and a loss to Inter Miami, while also collecting only one point versus non-playoff teams in one of their games against Chicago and another one versus the New York Red Bulls.
Some of those results could have been a lot worse, as the Union have rescued a lot of points late in their matches, salvaging two draws with five minutes remaining, while their last victory, versus DC United, came thanks to an 83rd-minute strike.
So, even though they have only collected two wins in their previous seven fixtures, there is no reason to panic just yet as only two points currently separate the Union from Nashville in second place.
The other good news for Curtin is that all of his players who were on international duty at the Gold Cup are now available, so he will have almost a full squad to choose from, which he will need given that Philly have five MLS games in August, plus the first-leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final with Club America.
The beginning of this month seemed to bring new hope to the Chicago Fire, scoring three goals in each of their first two games as they climbed their way out of the Eastern Conference basement with consecutive victories.
Unfortunately, the month ended in the same way that much of the regular season has for them so far, playing well but coming away empty-handed as they earned only one point in their final three fixtures in July.
With their manager, Raphael Wicky, away for personal reasons, the Fire were thoroughly dominated by Nashville - losing 5-1 - then they squandered a two-goal lead to draw DC United 2-2 and last week, they failed to capitalise on their opportunities in a 2-1 loss to TFC.
They tied a club record last Saturday, firing 30 shots and forcing Alex Bono into 14 saves, but as has been the case for much of the year, they failed in the most important category, the scoreboard.
If they want to get themselves back into the playoff conversation, they have no time to waste as starting on Sunday, they will play three regular-season fixtures in a week.
The Fire are 10 points behind CF Montreal, who currently hold the last playoff position in the East, but they also have five other teams that they will need to overtake in order to get there.
The Union should have Andre Blake, Cory Burke and Alvas Powell all back for Sunday after Jamaica lost at the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup to the United States, while the club re-signed Blake to a multi-year contract extension.
Midfielders Jack de Vries and Anthony Fontana are still out with concussions, which means that Curtin is likely to be heavily dependent on the versatile Leon Flach, who leads the league in tackles won with 31.
The Fire are still missing Kenneth Kronholm with a right knee problem, Carlos Teran has a right shin issue and Johan Kappelhof was an unused substitute against Toronto after being suspended for their previous match.
Francisco Calvo should be back in the fold after Costa Rica were eliminated from the Gold Cup by Canada, while Frank Klopas went with the same starting 11 last weekend as he had versus DC United, going with a back three consisting of Wyatt Omsberg, Mauricio Pineda and Jonathan Bornstein.
Philadelphia Union possible starting lineup:
Blake; Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Powell; Flach, Martinez, McGlynn; Santos, Przybylko, Burke
Chicago Fire possible starting lineup:
Shuttleworth; Omsberg, Pineda, Calvo, Bornstein; Sekulic, Medran, Gimenez; Aliseda, Frankowski; Beric
We say: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Chicago Fire
The Union should be back to full strength for the most part, and they will get some help in the goalscoring department with the return of Corey Burke, plus they are unbeaten in their last four games at Subaru Park, collecting three successive clean sheets.
Chicago fired everything they could at their opponents last week, and they still struggled offensively against a team in Toronto who have conceded the most goals in the league (32), while they have not gained a single point on the road this season.
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