We really mean it this time.
This one IS a "must win" game.
Failing to walk away with all three points in this match will likely mean that the Fire will need a miracle to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. As is stands now they'll need to win the next three against DC, FC Dallas, and Toronto FC just to stay in the race going into the final weekend. The days of catching breaks and hoping for favorable results are long gone as a consequence of failing to capitalize on numerous occasions throughout the last several weeks. Now they just need to win and nothing else really matters.
Projected line ups
Johnson; Anibaba, Soumare, Berry, Segares; Nyarko, Rios, Larentowicz, Duka; Magee, Anangono
Hamid; Korb, White, Woolard, Iapachino; Porter, Jeffrey, Kitchen, De Leon; Silva, Doyle
What Ben Olsen's line-up will look like is anyone's guess. They've been dreadful this season during MLS play with every combination possible. Dwayne De Rosario, John Thorrington, Chris Pontius, and Dejan Jakovic all started in Tuesday's USOC Final win over Real Salt Lake but were rested last weekend in a 4-1 trouncing at Toronto. My guess is we'll see some combination of the first choice eleven that we saw on Tuesday and the "B" squad from the TFC match. Who starts may depend on each individual's ability to recover from playing a full match on Tuesday night.
The Fire should have no reason to come out as defensively as they did against Montreal last weekend now that Jeff Larentowicz can move back into his usual central midfield spot. Frank Klopas went with experience over attacking ability by choosing to go with Logan Pause and Egidio Arevalo Rios in the middle and corrected the move in the second half. The question will be whether or not Alex and Chris Rolfe, two players that spearheaded the offensive turnaround last weekend against the Impact can be worked into the starting line-up for this one. I wouldn't be shocked to see Alex or Rolfe start ahead of Duka, who wasn't as sharp in the first 45 on Saturday.
Bakary Soumare is back from a one game red card suspension and appears to be a lock to return as a starter. Larentowicz and Rios have shown some promise as a combination but we really haven't seen enough to judge whether the duo provides enough going forward to be effective in the long term. We'll see even less of Rios next week as both he and Joel Lindpere have been called by their respective nations for World Cup Qualifiers and will miss the FC Dallas match.
The Fire have defeated DC United by scores of 2-0 and 4-1 this season in MLS play. DC has been historically bad this year at 3-21-6 but all three wins have come at home. Of course, the loss at Toyota Park in the USOC semi-final stings the most but dropping more results to the worst team in the league at this point in the season will bite just as hard. DC United played on Tuesday night, traveled on Wednesday, and had one training session on Thursday before this match tonight. There should be no excuses for this one.
Fire 3 DC 1
The rest of the league
After a brutal last weekend of picks I'll keep throwing stuff on the wall....
Houston 2 Montreal 1
New York 1 New England 0
Columbus 1 Sporting KC 1
Philadelphia 1 Toronto FC 0
Real Salt Lake 2 FC Dallas 1
Colorado 1 Seattle 1
Los Angeles 2 Chivas USA 0
Vancouver 1 Portland 1
season record 134/287