The Chicago Fire aren’t terrible.

We know this much. After five straight unbeaten, with four wins including two away from home, we know the Fire aren’t the Wooden Spoon contenders we thought they were earlier this season. But is this team actually good? Can this team sneak into the playoffs, and make some noise?

We’ll gain a very clear idea over these next few weeks. It’s the toughest run of the season for Chicago, beginning Saturday night in Chester, PA against the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union.

“They are at the top of the East for a reason,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “They are a very good team. Yes, we did beat them at home earlier this year, which you know, gives us some confidence there. The way we’ve been playing lately also gives us some confidence. But we know that historically they are a hard team to play against at home at their place.”

In June, the Fire were able to take all three points off the Union in a midweek match, where Hendrickson’s side did a good job exploiting the gaps in Jim Curtin’s 4-4-2 diamond. But that Philly team was tired and a bit shorthanded, and Federico Navarro’s 68th minute goal was good enough to take the win. The Fire are flying high, taking 13 points since that match, but Philadelphia has 16 points since then. They were winners of five straight before a 3-1 loss to FC Cincinnati last time out.

For the Fire, this positive form is a pleasant surprise. For Philadelphia, it’s expected.

“We know it’s going to be a hard game,” midfielder Gastón Giménez said. “It’s going to be a good game, very complicated, but you have to fight and I think in this league, you’ve seen that every game is an opportunity to win. It’s a very equal, even league in which any team can win on a given day, and so we are going to be in the fight.”

It doesn’t get much easier after this one. Next week the Fire host NYCFC at SeatGeek Stadium, then it’s back to Soldier Field for a match against Djordje Mihailovic’s CF Montreal, before closing the month at Gillette Stadium against the New England Revolution (we know it pains Wyatt Omsberg to be hurt for that one). The Fire are sitting on 30 points, tied with several other teams. If they can somehow hang onto a playoff spot through the end of this month, they may actually live up to their preseason hype, and could not only make the playoffs, but actually win a game or two. If they fall on their faces, it’ll be a different story entirely.

Shaq’s surging

Xherdan Shaqiri registered two assists against Charlotte in the Fire’s 3-2 win. He’s now 4th in MLS in “chances created from open play” (40) per Opta, and is tied for 4th in assists, with 10. After a slow start, he’s finally starting to become the player Fire fans expected to see when he signed before the 2022 season.

How to Watch

Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire

MLS Match Day #25 | Saturday, August 13 | Subaru Park, Chester, PA

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT

TV: WGN-TV

Streaming: CF97 Live (available for free at ChicagoFire.com or the Chicago Fire mobile app for fans watching within 75 miles of Soldier Field)

Out of Market Streaming: ESPN+

Talent: Tyler Terens (back with a vengeance on the play-by-play mic), Tony Meola (color commentator)

Follow Us! @CHGO_Fire

Injury Report

Chicago

  • OUT: Jhon Espinoza (right knee)
  • OUT: Wyatt Omsberg (left foot)
  • OUT: Stanislav Ivanov (right thigh)
  • OUT: Carlos Teran (right thigh)

Philadelphia

  • OUT: None
  • QUESTIONABLE: None

Next Up for Chicago

Sunday, August 21 | vs. New York City FC | SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, IL | 5:00 p.m. CT, WGN, CF97 Live

Saturday, August 27 | vs. CF Montreal | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7 p.m. CT, WGN

Wednesday, August 31 | at New England Revolution | Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA | 6:30 p.m. CT, WGN

Saturday, September 3 | at Columbus Crew | Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH | 6:30 PM WGN

Saturday, September 10 | vs Inter Miami | SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, IL |  7:00 PM WGN

Tuesday, September 13 | at CF Montreal | Stade Saputo, Montreal, QC, Canada | 6:30 PM WGN

Saturday, September 17 vs Charlotte FC | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7:00 PM WGN

Prediction

Our friends at PointsBet have Philly as heavy favorites (-130 vs. +340). While the Fire are red hot, we don’t see a win coming in Chester. But, we’ll say Chicago grabs a point, and they keep the unbeaten streak rolling. 1-1.

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Author

Chicago Fire beat writer and podcast host for CHGO. Youth soccer coach. Exhausted dad. Former TV news reporter. Taco enthusiast. Follow me on Twitter @patrickmccraney.

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