Playoff positions up for grabs in final weekend

The Western Conference playoff match-ups are all lined up but the East is still unsettled.  While all five participants have been determined going into the final weekend of the regular season, the who's/where's/and when's have yet to be aligned.  The Fire can finish the campaign as high as second and as low as fifth depending on the outcome of this weekend's events.  Needless to say, a win against DC United is critical to avoiding a one game knock-out that would be played on either October 31 or November 1.

Need a reason for optimism? Despite the loss to non-contender New England this past weekend the Fire have fared reasonably well against the other four Eastern Conference playoff participants this year. A 5-3-2 record against Sporting Kansas City, New York, DC, and Houston actually stands as the best combined mark among the five competitors in head to head play.  Here's where each team would stand based solely on head to head competition amongst themselves:

Chicago 5-3-2, 17 pts, 12 GF, 13 GA

Sporting 4-3-4, 16 pts, 11 GF, 8 GA

Houston 4-4-4, 16 pts, 14 GF, 12 GA

New York 3-5-3, 12 pts, 10 GA, 18 GA

DC United 3-5-1, 10 pts, 16 GF, 18 GA

Success against the East's top clubs, particularly Sporting and New York has helped catapult the Fire back into the postseason for the first time since 2009 but the disturbing knack for playing uninspired ball against the lower level squads has placed them in  the tenous position of having to win a final home game in order to avoid a possible one game elimination on the road.  The Fire's opponent this weekend, DC United has risen to the second spot in the table by doing exactly what the Fire has failed to do in the last several weeks of the season.  Defeat the teams below them.  United is a combined 5-1-1 against the likes of New England and Philadelphia.  The Fire have managed an unimpressive 3-3-0 against those same two clubs with a pair of horrific losses coming within the last few weeks.

The Fire dropped their only match against DC this season 4-2 at RFK Stadium on August 22.  Judging by the approach that Ben Olsen employed in that game and the success that New England had crowding Chris Rolfe this past weekend, expect to see more of the high pressure, physical play in midfield that the Fire seem to struggle with.  Frank Klopas and the coaching staff must rely on Alvaro Fernandez and Patrick Nyarko to step up their play several notches in order to avoid being shutdown by simply shadowing and tightly marking Rolfe out of the game.  Frank Klopas has done an excellent job of adjusting tactically for the last season and a half depending on the talent he has on the pitch.  Late last season the Fire found success with direct play utilizing the pace of Dominic Oduro and Nyarko.  This season he incorporated new personnel and a different style of attack to find success with the additions of Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald.

It will obviously help to be as close to full strength as possible heading into this match and the eventual playofs.  The Fire are hoping to have Pavel Pardo back for this game and Guillermo Franco is available after serving a two game suspension.  DC United still has offensive weapons despite the loss of Dwayne DeRosario but they are questionable defensively.  Pardo, whose absense has certainly been felt although Daniel Paladini has done a creditable job at times, should be able to help exploit United's backline by finding Nyarko and Fernandez in dangerous positions if DC focuses too much attention on Rolfe.

A second place finish is there for the taking but it may require another adjustment to avoid a short lived return to playoff action.

The Final Week

Philadelphia @ Sporting Kansas City (Wednesday 7:30)

New York @ Philadelphia (Saturday 12:30)

DC @ Chicago (Saturday 3:00)

Houston @ Colorado (Saturday 8:00)

 

 

 

Filed under: 2012 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

Comments

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  • i almost forgot that franco is on the fire, thanks for reminding me.

  • What's really going on with Pardo? This "tightness in the calf" has lasted a long time - is there something more serious going on? Has he been practicing on the field with the team this week?

  • In reply to Modibo:

    They were being cautious with him but he has resumed full training this week.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I just saw Jeff's article on the Fire website about Pardo returning to training. I would really like to see him on the field against DC. I think they're going to come out guns blazing. They have been literally unbeatable since De Ro went down and we've had this strangely erratic end to the season.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Pardo is an important piece of the puzzle but the losses to Philly and NE are confounding. Alex Uribe called the Fire "bi-polar" during our weekly segment on ESPN1220 this morning. There's really no good reason why they should play better against Sporting and New York than they do against non-playoff teams.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    If the Fire end up in 5th, they'll deserve it. If they end up in 2nd, they'll deserve it. Their success and failure are and have been in their own hands...it'll be interesting to see which Fire squad shows up on Saturday.

  • In reply to Drew:

    Truth.

  • Looks like Jair Marrufo has been assigned to the Fire/DCU match this weekend.

  • The Fire sure is Bi-Polar especially during this critical final stretch of the season! They had a lack of energy and urgency in the NE game!

    Is that good or bad having Jair Marrufo as the head ref? LOL

    DC really has come on strong especially since Dero has been out when many thought they were going to miss the playoffs all together they are now in 2nd place going into the final week...who would have thought?!
    NY with such a strong and pricey roster sure isn't scaring anyone!

    Well at least we are in the playoffs after missing it the past 2 years but like you say we need to win at home to avoid Houston which is always tough at their home in a single game elimination game!

    Come on Fire kick DC back to the capital with their tail between their legs! :-)

  • In reply to smiley:

    The Fire haven't beaten DC United at Toyota Park since 2006. Odd.

  • according to MLSsoccer.com, Berry is in the lead for rookie of the year, with the final match vs DC possibly having a big impact on the winner of that award

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2012/10/24/rookie-rankings-two-left-standing-dust-clears-2012

  • In reply to CountChocula:

    Kind of silly to infer that this match will determine who the rookie of the year will be. I'm sure voters have their minds made up already regardless of Saturday's outcome.

    It should be Berry.

  • The Fire decided to sit Arne Friedrich on Saturday against New England but said he was fully fit. They held him out because of the turf field.
    Friedrich shed a little more light on that decision today saying he felt some tightness in his back after practicing on Toyota Parks turf field, so they decided to be safe and keep him out of the match. Friedrich had a back injury last year before coming to MLS.

    This move makes much more sense now.

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2012/10/24/fires-friedrich-expected-back-after-missing-match-gillette

  • This is pretty big news. Copa America 2016 will be held in the US....

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/blog/post/2012/10/24/details-released-2016-copa-america-be-held-usa

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Very cool. I can't wait to watch that. I wonder how spread out it's going to be. I hope Soldier Field is included.

  • On the one hand I'm really happy to have Pardo and Friedrich back. On the other hand, both of them played in the 4-2 DC win back in August. But there are other personnel differences from that game: DeRo played for DC. For the Fire, Paladini played in place of the injured Pause that day. Pappa played the first 74 minutes before being substituted for Oduro. El Flaco came on for Anibaba for the final 27 minutes. Finally, Alex came on for Paladini for the final five. Let´s hope we finally beat DC at home again.

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