As the offensive struggles of the Union become more pronounced, among the main questions is: What has happened to Sebastien Le Toux?
A Major League Soccer all-star last year, when he had 14 goals and 11 assists, Le Toux has just one goal (on a penalty kick) and one assist for the 4-3-2 Union.
Le Toux suffered an ankle injury late in training camp, but he has been healthy for quite some time.
"I think it's going to come," Le Toux said this week about his scoring touch.
Last season Le Toux was used as a target player up top. With the addition of Carlos Ruiz, who mainly has filled that role, Le Toux has often played like an attacking midfielder.
"I am playing different positions and not always playing up top," he said. "I know I can bring something up top, but I'm also asked to drop back and will do what is best for the team."
Right now, what is best for the team is finding some offensive cohesion. In nine games, the Union have scored a total of six goals.
Le Toux believes that if he gets one non-penalty-kick goal, he could get going.
"I proved last year I could score goals and get assists, and to get one would obviously give me and the team some confidence," he said. "The most important thing is getting the result as a team."
The Union allowed more than one goal for the first time this season in Saturday's 2-0 loss at FC Dallas.
Of course the Union controlled play early, and assistant coach John Hackworth insisted that he wasn't concerned about the lack of offense.
"We created chances early in the game and could have been up, 3-0," he said.
The Union have tried different players, but Hackworth said that the team didn't start Ruiz against Dallas because it was the third game in nine days. The 31-year-old Ruiz did play the entire second half.
The Fire have played ties in their last four games, with the most recent being Saturday's 2-2 draw at Toronto.
Chicago (1-3-5) trailed, 2-0, at halftime before storming back to earn the tie.
"That was impressive, to come from being down, 2-0, on the road," Hackworth said. "When you steal a couple of points on the road, you feel like it's a win."
The Union were happy to have an entire week between games after playing three games in three time zones in nine days. It all began with a 1-0 loss at Portland on May 6, followed by a 1-1 draw with the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy on May 11, and ending with Saturday's loss in Frisco, Texas.
Union defender Danny Califf acknowledged that it was a difficult stretch, but he said that was no excuse.
"It doesn't take away from the fact that you need to mentally prepare and have an attitude that it doesn't matter how many games you have played," he said.
Real match confirmed
The Union will play Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid at 9 p.m. July 23 at Lincoln Financial Field. Tickets will be available beginning 10 a.m. June 1 through PhiladelphiaEagles.com, PhiladelphiaUnion.com, Ticketmaster.com, and by phone at 800-745-3000.
- Marc Narducci