The Fire controlled most of the play during a 1-1 draw against DC United at Toyota Park on August 18. That match will be one of many that the organization looks back on this season as a "what if" or "if only" game when the team is eventually eliminated from playoff contention this year.
This one will be tougher to control without Pavel Pardo, Cory Gibbs, and Dan Gargan. The trio will be sitting out this match due to red and yellow cards accumulated in the 2-1 loss to FC Dallas on Wednesday night. DC United, however is a team on their last legs as well. After not taking advantage of games in hand against playoff competitors United is in danger of missing the post-season for a fourth consecutive year.
The Fire will get another look at Bill Hamid in goal and perhaps give Sean Johnson an opportunity to show USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann that he should rethink the back-up GK spot on the national team roster. On defense, Ben Olsen has moved a few pieces around since August. Perry Kitchen started their last match in Vancouver in his natural midfield spot after playing in back all season. Brandon McDonald and former Fire Daniel Woolard seem to be Olsen's recent central pairing of choice. Marc Burch and Chris Korb started on the left and right side respectively in Vancouver but Ethan White could be back from an MCL sprain to regain a starting spot.
With Kitchen in the holding role, United has another familiar face in the central mid spot. Former Fire Stephen King is joined by Andy Najar and Austin Da Luz on the wings. Dwayne DeRosario is back from international duty and Olsen has used him in midfield as well as up top. Santino Quaranta is another option.
DC has some talent at the forward position to pair with DeRosario. Charlie Davies is dangerous although he has cooled off considerably since his hot start to the season. Rookie Blake Brettschneider and yet another ex-Fire player Josh Wolff have both seen considerable minutes this season.
Frank Klopas has some juggling to do himself with three starters unavailable. Filling the right back spot is a question mark. Jalil Anibaba can always be moved back outside in place of Dan Gargan but that leaves Josip Mikulic and possibly Yamith Cuesta in the middle. Gonzalo Segares is a sure bet on the left.
In midfield, Logan Pause will probably be slotted back into the holding spot without Pardo on the pitch. Marco Pappa is back from Guatemala but the other wing is open to players like Daniel Paladini or Corben Bone. Thankfully for the Fire Sebastian Grazzini is fit and ready after playing the full ninety minutes against Dallas and scoring the Fire's only goal.
The Fire's most successful combination up top will likely be paired together again. Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko should find some space against DC's suspect back line.
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: MF Gabriel Ferrari (L knee ACL reconstruction); DF Steven Kinney (lower abdominal strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Cristian Nazarit (L quad strain)
D.C. UNITED -- OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); MF Chris Pontius (R tibia fracture); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain)
The Fire are coming off an unimpressive home effort in a must win situation and DC United is in the midst of a three game losing streak in important matches. Neither one is particularly deserving of a playoff berth.
Fire 1 DC United 1