Forget the Brimstone Cup. If the Fire don't come away with all three points in this match they will almost certainly be assured of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. FC Dallas comes into this match riding a 360 minute scoreless run amid a streak of four consectuive losses (1-6-1 in their last 8). To make matters more difficult for Schellas Hyndman midfielder Brek Shea will not be available to start but will instead travel from New York where the USMNT faced Ecuador in order to be available on the Dallas bench.
Kevin Hartman and the back line consisting of Jair Benitez, George John (back from a near signing in England), Ugo Ihemelu, and Zach Loyd haven't played badly during the streak but they have struggled to defend set pieces. FC Dallas will face another problem on top of dealing with Shea's absence in the first eleven. Team captain Daniel Hernandez will also miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.
Filling two midfield spots won't be easy considerting that Andrew Wiedeman is out and Andrew Jacobson is recovering from a concussion. Bobby Warshaw could get the call at Hernandez' holding spot and Fabian Castillo could replace Shea on the left. Ricardo Villar, Eric Avila, and Bruno Guarda have all played centrally but usually in a five man midfield in the absence of playmaker David Ferreira. Marvin Chavez is the right-side midfielder. Jackson has also figured into a central role but got a start as a forward next to Maicon Santos in a 1-0 loss to Colorado in the Hoops last league game on October 1.
The Fire won't be a full strength either with Marco Pappa in Guatemala on international duty. Dominic Oduro has also missed training this week due to illness. His status could depend on his condition right before kick off.
The good news is Sebastian Grazzini is fit and ready to resume his role in the starting eleven. His presence is vitally important to the Fire's offensive capabilities since neither of his central replacements, Baggio Husidic or Daniel Paladini can provide anywhere near the passing ability the Argentine possesses.
The defensive starters should look familiar. Sean Johnson, Dan Gargan, Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba, and Gonzalo Segares are all available. Anibaba did not start in the USOC Final last Tuesday but should be a first choice selection at center back ahead of Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta given the rookie's recent performances at that position.
Without Pappa the Fire will need another player capable of initiating something offensively from the wing. Logan Pause and Pavel Pardo seem to play well together in tandem with Grazzini so Daniel Paladini, Corben Bone, and possibly Orr Barouch are the options. I wouldn't discount Mike Banner either.
Whether or not Oduro is ready to start will determine what happens at the second forward position with Patrick Nyarko. Diego Chaves would seem to be the first choice off the bench since he is more mobile than Barouch and the Fire have re-established themselves of late based on speed and counter attack ability.
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: MF Gabriel Ferrari (L knee ACL reconstruction); DF Steven Kinney (lower abdominal strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Cristian Nazarit (L quad strain)
FC DALLAS -- OUT: DF Edson Edward (R knee ACL tear); MF David Ferreira (R ankle); MF Andrew Wiedeman (groin); GK Josh Lambo (jaw)
The Fire have their playmaker in the line up again with their backs up against the wall. FC Dallas will be without their most important player in Shea and they've struggled of late even with him in the line up.
If the Fire win, their playoff hopes remain alive and Section 8 Chicago probably melts down the Brimstone Cup after reclaiming it (allegedly). If they lose or tie, the last two games of the season are just for fun.
Fire 2 FC Dallas 0
DC United are on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Dwayne DeRosario played the full ninety for Canada on Tuesday night in Toronto. Can the 33 year old DeRosario play on back to back nights?
A Fire win combined with a DC loss or tie will push the Fire past United in the playoff chase.