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Union aim to dampen surging Chicago Fire at PPL Park on Saturday

Union players are not downplaying the significance of Saturday's game against Chicago. Sure, there are still three months left in the MLS season and many more games to play. But as midfielder Amobi Okugo said, the team made it a point before the season to win each series against a fellow Eastern Conference team.

The Union's Roger Torres. (Andrew Renneisen/Staff Photographer)
The Union's Roger Torres. (Andrew Renneisen/Staff Photographer)Read more

Union players are not downplaying the significance of Saturday's game against Chicago.

Sure, there are still three months left in the MLS season and many more games to play. But as midfielder Amobi Okugo said, the team made it a point before the season to win each series against a fellow Eastern Conference team.

Having beaten Chicago (7-9-4, 25 points) twice already this year, the Union (9-6-7, 34 points) will be looking to widen the gap between themselves and the Fire when the clubs kick off at 8 p.m. at PPL Park for the final time in the regular season.

"[A sweep] will be big for us, because they're trying to creep down our necks," Okugo said.

The Fire, however, look a little different since those losses.

Chicago acquired forward Mike Magee in a trade from Los Angeles in late May. Magee leads the club with seven goals in nine starts. The same week, the Union dealt defender and former MLS all-star Bakary Soumare to the Fire.

"This will be the hardest game that we've played them in," said Union defender Sheanon Williams. "They'll be completely different with the new people that they have on their team. They're hungry."

Soumare, who spent his first three years in the league with Chicago, had requested a trade from the Union after appearing in just four games over two seasons. A torn meniscus in his right knee suffered while Soumare was on loan to a Bundesliga second division club, Karlsruher SC, in 2012 hampered him when he joined the Union.

The 27-year-old Soumare was acquired by the Union in June 2012, shortly after manager John Hackworth took over for former coach Peter Nowak. Soumare said he still keeps in touch with a handful of his former Union teammates but never clicked with the team's new coaching staff.

"There was a lack of trust, respect," Soumare said. "I lost that for the coaching staff. Once that part is broken with the guys above you, there's no reason to stay."

Soumare has since started in 10 games on Chicago's back line and said he's thrilled to be back where his professional career began. He looks forward to reconnecting with old friends on Saturday, but it will be "all business" once he takes the field.

The Union feel the same.

"We're excited to welcome him back," forward Antoine Hoppenot said. "And hopefully we'll welcome him back with a loss."

River Cup. The Union announced Thursday the date of the third annual River Cup at PPL Park, pitting members of the Union front office against the team's supporters' group, Sons of Ben, in a charity match. The game is set for Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. during a Fall Festival event from noon to 6 p.m. at PPL Park's Toyota Plaza.

Tickets for the festival, which will offer games and activities for fans, are available online at www.philadelphiaunion.com, by phone through ComcastTIX (1-800-298-4200), or at the PPL Park box office. Prices start at $10 for children under 12 years old and $14 for adults.