In a battle of two teams that seem to be travelling in opposite directions late in the 2011 season the Fire are hoping to keep their faint playoff hopes on life support by winning at home for only the second time this year in regular season play. It won't be easy given the incredible roll Dwayne DeRosario has been on since joining DC United in a trade from New York. DeRosario has helped propel DC into the thick of the playoff race with 6 goals and 3 assists in only 7 matches. The Fire backline will have their work cut out for them with a fully fit Charlie Davies joining DeRosario up front.
In midfield Chris Pontius seems to be finding the form that earned him rookie of the year consideration in 2009 and second year man Andy Najar will challenge Gonzalo Segares on the right side. Clyde Simms, Santino Quaranta, and former Fire Stephen King are the options at center mid. King scored his first MLS goal last weekend against the Vancouver Whitecaps. DeRosario can also drop into center mid or a withdrawn role if another former Fire player, Josh Wolff gets the call at forward.
DC United seems to be settling in defensively in front of Bill Hamid, who is back after serving a one game red card suspension. Ben Olsen's first choice defenders for the last three matches have been Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald in the middle with rookie Perry Kitchen on the right and yet another former Chicago player, Daniel Woolard on the left side. Woolard has started sixteen games for DC.
Frank Klopas found some success last weekend with both Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro as front runners so it will be interesting to see if he returns to that combination. Nyarko left the New York match early in the second half after feeling ill and his departure changed the Fire's attack considerably. Nyarko is fit and ready to go against DC.
The midfield decisions will likely bring about some discussion. Sebastian Grazzini has left both MLS matches he has appeared in after roughly 66 minutes of play with Klopas citing that he felt the Argentine was "tired" on both occasions. The remainder of the midfield will likely consist of the same three that began the match in New York. Marco Pappa, Pavel Pardo, and Logan Pause. How they line up will be the question. DC United has some weapons up front but the Fire have nothing to gain from playing conservatively and must try to push the game against their defense.
On a side note, Pappa says he has not been approached by FC Twente and Frank Klopas denied any contact from the Dutch first division team as well.
The back line ahead of Sean Johnson could also change with the return to fitness of Cory Gibbs. The center back pairing will also be an interesting topic of even more conversation. Jalil Anibaba has looked good at the position, Yamith Cuesta has struggled in the last two matches, and Josip Mikulic is healthy. Dan Gargan has earned another look at right back opposite of Gonzalo Segares.
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: DF Mike Banner (R knee arthroscopy); DF Steven Kinney (L groin strain); MF Marko Maric (L ankle posterior capsulitis)
D.C. UNITED -- OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); GK Joe Willis (back spasms); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain)
In all likelihood the Fire will need to win all of their remaining home games to even have a prayer of making the postseason. Even if the team were to run off three consecutive victories against DC, Toronto, and Colorado this would still put them behind the pack in the chase for the 10th and final playoff spot. DC United is in the hunt and needs to pick up road points to keep pace with the competition. DC hammered the same Whitecaps side that defeated the Fire the week previous in Vancouver.
What else?...............Fire 1 Dc 1