It's too early in the season to call any game a must win but this match is important for both teams. DC United has been racked by injuries and bad play while the Fire has looked like a team trying to find itself. DC has struggled defensively and they will be missing both starting center backs today. New acquisition Juan Miguel Pena is out with an injury and Dejan Jakovic is out with a red card. They will be replaced in the starting eleven by journeyman Carey Talley and Julius James. James is with his third MLS team in three seasons after being drafted in the first round by Toronto in 2008. This should be a huge match up advantage for Collins John and Brian McBride.
DC United's play in the center of the pitch has been worse than the Fire's. Curt Onalfo has tried moving Santino Quaranta into the center mid role but quickly found out that he can't play there. Quaranta has since moved back out right while Onalfo will probably try 17 year old Andy Najar at central mid. United also has an underperforming Salvadoran of their own. Christian Castillo has done nothing through the first three matches and will likely find himself on the bench today. Former Wizard Kurt Morsink and second year man Chris Pontius, who has seen some time at forward but has not been effective will round out the midfield.
Jamie Moreno and Danny Allsopp will start at forward. Allsopp is an Austrialian target man brought in over the off season but given the state of United's midfield it should be difficult to find service against Conde and Brown.
Devon McTavish and Rodney Wallace will likely defend on the right and left respectively while Troy Perkins has returned to DC after playing overseas for two seasons.
Not exactly a line-up that strikes fear in anyone....but then again San Jose's didn't either.
I'm expecting the Fire will stay with the eleven that started against San Jose with the exception of left back. Krzystof Krol should start in that spot. Dasan Robinson saw time at right back with the first team in practice during the week but Tim Ward will probably continue to start for now. Husidic and Lowry will likely start in the middle again. I'd like to see Husidic get more than 45 minutes this week.
The injury reports for both teams:
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: MF Logan Pause (L knee sprain); DF Steven Kinney (L hamstring strain); MF John Thorrington (L quad strain); FW Calen Carr (R quad strain)
D.C. UNITED -- OUT: DF Marc Burch (R foot surgery); DF Bryan Namoff (post-concussion symptoms); DF Juan Manuel Pena (R hamstring); GK Andrew Quinn (R knee surgery); DF Barry Rice (concussion); Clyde Simms (L hamstring); PROBABLE: MF Brandon Barklage (concussion); Devon McTavish (groin); MF Andy Najar (R ankle sprain)
Prediction: DC United is in such disarray at the moment that I have to think the Fire will capitalize on their struggles and pull out a 1-0 road victory that won't be pretty. DC has made Kansas City, New England, and Philadelphia look good so far. A loss here will set off some troubling alarm bells.
The Rest of the Weekend Prognostications
Seattle 2 Kansas City 1
Houston 2 Chivas USA 0
New York 2 FC Dallas 1
San Jose 1 New England 0
Los Angeles 2 Real Salt Lake 1
Colorado 1 Toronto FC 0
Although Andrew Dykstra has looked a bit shaky through the first three matches we should be thankful that the Fire's goalkeeper is not Philadelphia's Chris Seitz. Check out these beauties from the Union's last two matches.