The Union are entering their final playoff push needing to revive an offense that has gone dormant.
They have been shut out in their last two Major League Soccer games, playing visiting Houston to a scoreless draw on Sept. 20 and losing on Saturday, 1-0, at Eastern Conference leader D.C. United.
The scoring must happen now or the Union could find themselves out of the playoff race. As it is, the Union (9-10-11, 38 points) are three points out of the Eastern Conference's fifth and final playoff berth with four games left.
The Union will play their next three games at PPL Park, beginning with a match at 8 p.m. Thursday against the Chicago Fire.
Not only are the Union searching for goals, but it's possible they could be without leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux (12 goals, 6 assists). Le Toux left Saturday's loss in the 22d minute with an ankle injury. Union interim manager Jim Curtin would prefer that Le Toux had a little more recovery time.
"This is a week you wish you had until Saturday, to be honest," Curtin said. "It's a quick turnaround for Thursday and we are monitoring and hopefully he will be available for selection."
Defender Ethan White, who missed the United game with a hamstring injury, hasn't been ruled out, but it sounded as if he won't be back. Curtin said he doesn't want White playing until he is 100 percent.
As for the offense, both Curtin and the players haven't shown concern because they feel the chances have been there.
"Coach talked about getting more players in the box and we have been working on that, but we still created chances in the last couple of games," said Andrew Wenger, who has five goals and four assists and is one of the Union players willing to take defenders on one-on-one. "It's about being a little sharper in the box and taking our chances."
Chicago (5-8-16, 31 points) isn't out of the playoff hunt but would have a difficult time getting in even if it won its final five games.
The Fire lead MLS with 16 ties, with two of them against the Union. This is the Union's first home game this year against the Fire.
If Le Toux can't go, Curtin may use Danny Cruz, who replaced Le Toux on Saturday and provided energy. The Union also could lean even more heavily on Conor Casey, who has eight goals and two assists, but hasn't looked the same since scoring goals in wins over Toronto on Sept. 3 and 6.
Fire at Union
What: Major League Soccer,
Chicago Fire (5-8-16, 31 points) at Union (9-10-11, 38).
When: Thursday at 8 p.m. Where: PPL Park.
Union at home: 5-2-7; Fire on the road: 2-6-6.
Goals for: Union, 45; Fire, 37.
Goals against: Union, 44; Fire, 45.
Most recent MLS game: Chicago lost at Houston, 2-0, on Saturday. The Union fell, 1-0, at D.C. United on Saturday.
This season. The teams played two draws at Chicago, 2-2 on April 5 and 1-1 on July 19.
Outlook: Chicago's Mike Magee, who had 21 goals last season and seven this year in 17 games, is out while rehabbing from right-hip surgery. . . . Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis is questionable with a facial laceration. . . . The Fire's leading scorer is Quincy Amarikwa, who has a career-high eight goals. . . . Midfielder Harry Shipp, who led Notre Dame to the NCAA title at PPL Park in December, has five goals and six assists for the Fire, but hasn't scored a goal in 14 MLS games. . . . The Union are 4-0-4 in their eight MLS home games under interim manager Jim Curtin. With four games left the Union are three points out of a fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. . . . Union leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux (12 goals, 6 assists) left Saturday's loss to D.C. United in the 22d minute with an ankle injury but hasn't been ruled out. Ethan White, who missed Saturday's game with a hamstring injury, also hasn't been ruled out, although Curtin said he must be 100 percent to return.
- Marc Narducci