The Fire resume their quest for a fifth US Open Cup title against DC United and it probably won't be as easy as last month's 4-1 victory over their old rivals from the early days of MLS. In that match a second minute strike from Chris Rolfe and another from Joel Lindpere nine minutes later buried the visitors early. Ben Olsen didn't have Dwayne De Rosario or Chris Pontius for that game but at least one of those two key players is available now. De Rosario was back in the line-up this past Saturday in a 3-1 win over Montreal in Washington.
Teaming De Rosario with Luis Silva presents a much different challenge than the Fire faced the first time around with Carlos Ruiz as the lone front runner. Silva scored DC's only goal in the July 20 loss at Toyota Park and has continued to score since then with tallies in each of DC's following two matches. Olsen has also recently changed from the dual holding formation featuring Perry Kitchen and John Thorrington to a flatter look using newcomer Jared Jeffrey and either Thorrington or Kitchen in the middle. Thorrington missed the Montreal match with yet another injury which may have precipitated the change but Jeffrey started alongside Kitchen against the Impact.
He also had some success with second half substitutions Connor Doyle, Collin Martin, and Sainey Nyassi in place of De Rosario, Nick Deleon, and Luis Silva. The moves seemed to be strategically made while looking ahead to this game in hopes of giving his best attackers some rest before the semi-final in Chicago. The changes worked against Montreal but one thing that hasn't changed much is DC's backline. Any combination Olsen uses against Chicago appears to present a bad match-up with DC's slower, less mobile players going head to head with Chicago's quicker attackers. Daniel Woolard had a nightmare in the first match and Dejan Jakovic isn't a huge leap from Ethan White. The Fire should continue to enjoy the advantage there no matter how much tinkering Olsen does.
Olsen has already named Joe Willis as the starting goalkeeper for this match in lieu of Bill Hamid since their USOC run has come with Willis in front of the net. This may help Chicago, as Willis had a bit of a howler in the 4-1 loss a few weeks ago.
Frank Klopas' eleven has remained pretty constant and the importance of this match probably won't lead to many changes. Joel Lindpere got the start at left midfield against Philadelphia even though Dilly Duka was fully fit and the Estonian's big performance against DC in the last run could land him in the line-up again. Otherwise, Logan Pause or Daniel Paladini are the options in the middle if a more defensive look is desired against DC with De Rosario back in action.
Projected line ups
GK Sean Johnson
D Gonzalo Segares, Austin Berry, Bakary Soumare, Jalil Anibaba
M Joel Lindpere, Alex, Jeff Larentowicz, Patrick Nyarko
F Chris Rolfe, Mike Magee
GK Joe Willis
D James Riley, Daniel Woolard, Dejan Jakovic, Chris Korb
M Nick Deleon, Jared Jeffrey, Perry Kichen, Kyle Porter
F Luis Silva, Dwayne De Rosario
Both clubs are back at it this coming weekend but this is DC's season. They're too far back to make a serious run at playoff contention so the Fire should expect a desperate effort. Doyle, Jeffrey, Silva, and homegrown player Martin all had good efforts against Montreal (although they boast a somewhat suspect defensive unit) so the Fire can't afford an early slip as they have been prone to do. The match-ups here still favor the Fire.
Chicago 2 DC United 1
- Pontius was listed as questionable on Saturday but he's expected to travel for this match. He's been a key figure in the past but he's also struggled this year even when fit.
- Thorrington should be available for this match.
- Juan Luis Anangonó is expected to be available for selection for the Fire.
- If Chicago wins they will play the winner of tonight's Real Salt Lake v Portland semi-final at Rio Tinto. If RSL wins they will host the final on October 1 in Utah. If the Timbers win, the final will be played September 24 in Portland.
- The Fire's next opponent, the Montreal Impact start CONCACAF Champion's League group play tonight against San Jose.
- DC United is 0-7-3 this season on the road against MLS clubs with 3 goals for and 16 allowed. Their only road win came in the first round of the US Open Cup when they defeated Richmond in penalty kicks after playing to a 0-0 draw.