The Fire are now mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and they can officially eliminate the Kansas City Wizards with a win or tie at Toyota Park. Although Kei Kamara has managed to find the net 10 times this season, the Wizards have struggled to score for most of the season. They've actually scored three less goals on the year than the Fire have. In order to qualify for the playoffs the Wizards need Colorado to lose their remaining two games while KC needs to beat the Fire, Revolution, and Earthquakes.
Jimmy Nielsen has been solid in goal all season, starting every MLS match and playing every minute to date. Defensively, the Fire have had their struggles but Kansas City has allowed only two less goals than Chicago despite Nielsen's efforts. The pairing of Jimmy Conrad and Shavar Thomas in the middle is supported by Michael Harrington and Roger Espinoza on the outside. Conrad was one of the top defenders in MLS at one point but time seems to be catching up to him.
In midfield, the combination of Jack Jewsbury, Craig Rocastle, and Davy Arnaud has produced seven goals and 5 assists. Ryan Smith, a former Arsenal player has provided three goals and seven assists on his own. Not exacly impressive numbers over a thirty game season.
The forwards can be dangerous however. Kamara has the ability to create his own shots and rookie Teal Bunbury has shown some flashes. Another option is former Fire, Josh Wolff.
The Fire continue to struggle with injury issues and line up changes even with three matches left. Sam Stejskal provided this update going into the game.
Andrew Dykstra will start for the second consecutive match as Sean Johnson has not fully recovered from the eye injury suffered last week in practice. The back line looks like it will include Krzyzstof Krol and Bratislav Ristic on the outside and CJ Brown and Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the middle. Wilman Conde is back from yet another yellow card suspension and is available but Steve Kinney is out with an ankle injury and Gonzalo Segares is dealing with a quad injury. Dasan Robinson has been ruled out with a quad strain.
Midfield will see yet a few more changes from the side that defeated Columbus on Friday night. The only sure bet seems to be Logan Pause at the moment. Marco Pappa is with the Guatemalan national team and Patrick Nyarko is questionable with the ankle issue that was brought to light last week. Peter Lowry was effective against the Crew and should see some time as could Baggio Husidic. This game should also provide an opportunity to finally get an extended look at Corben Bone in MLS play. John Thorrington is still out with yet another quad injury.
Carlos De Los Cobos has hinted that Freddie Ljungberg will continue to play the withdrawn forward role behind either Brian McBride or Collins John. It appears that Nery Castillo will start the game on the bench for the second consecutive match and Calen Carr could see some time in midfield due to the injury situation.
The game will be broadcast on CSN Plus and CLTV.
The Wizards and Fire tied in Kansas City on May 15 as the Fire blew a 2-0 lead and allowed an 89th minute equalizer.
Kansas City was beaten by Seattle on Saturday night so both teams are playing on short rest. The absense of Nyarko and Pappa hurts after a fairly cohesive display on Friday night so this one is tough to call.
Fire 1 Wizards 1
OUT: Mike Banner M (bilateral achilles tendinitis), Dasan Robinson D (R quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: Sean Johnson GK (hyphema), John Thorrington M (R quad soreness)
OUT: Zoltan Hercegfavi M (R knee spain/torn ACL); PROBABLE: Teal Bunbury F (foot contusion)