With only three games remaining it's time for yet another "must win" situation for the Fire. A reduced MLS schedule because of international competition leaves a good portion of the league idle this weekend but Chicago and their most likely challengers for the final spot are in action. The Union are in DC, New England and Montreal face each other but the Columbus Crew are on break. Philadelphia's last minute victory over Toronto FC may have helped them secure a spot, or at least avoid losing it depending on how you look at it but the Fire are still alive. The victory last weekend in the nation's capital bumped their chances up slightly and the unpredictability of MLS parity should provide for an exciting close to the season.
Projected line ups
Johnson; Segares, Berry, Soumare, Anibaba; Duka, Larentowicz, Alex, Nyarko; Magee, Anangono
Fernandez; Benitez, Hedges, John, Acosta; Jacobson, Michel; Castillo, Diaz, Jackson; Cooper
Without Egidio Arevalo Rios in the lineup, Frank Klopas will have an opportunity to reunite Jeff Larentowicz and Alex in central midfield. The pairing enjoyed some success together before Rios arrived and that would seem to be the logical choice if the Fire are to looking to generate anything offensively from the middle to start the match. Teaming Logan Pause and Larentowicz wouldn't provide much going forward and may result in the same stale display evident in the first half against Montreal two weeks ago. FC Dallas' defense can be exploited and coming out conservatively may not be enough to pressure them into mistakes.
It seems David Ferreira has lost his starting spot to Mauro Diaz. The former MVP didn't even get off the bench last week against RSL. Kenny Cooper has a history of scoring against the Fire so he will be one to watch. Blas Perez is unavailable due to international duty with Panama. Goalkeeper Raul Fernandez did not accept a call from Peru and should be back in the line-up after missing the last game with an injury. Jackson did provide some spark against RSL last week and could provide a challenge with pace on the outside.
OUT: Brendan King (L hamstring strain), Mike Videira (concussion symptoms)
OUT: Eric Hassli (lower back sprain), Ugo Ihemilu (concussion), London Woodberry (R knee injury); QUESTIONABLE: Peter Luccin (stained L hamstring)
Both teams are shaky defensively so there should be no shortage of opportunities for either side. However, the Fire can't allow Dallas to control the ball as much as DC did last week. There are indications that Schellas Hyndman will be out as coach once the season concludes and FCD is virtually out of the playoff race in the West sitting 7 points behind Colorado with only three games remaining.
It would appear that the "Hoops" have called it a season already. They are 1-3-1 in their last five matches and have won a paltry two games in their last eighteen (2-8-8) contests. A Fire win or draw would reclaim the Brimstone Cup (yes - it's still a thing) and this appears to be a winnable match despite Chicago's struggles on the road.
The Fire will likely need to win this match in order to keep pace with Philadelphia. The Union face DC United in Washington.
Fire 2 FC Dallas 1
The rest of the league
Montreal 1 New England 1
DC United 1 Philadelphia 2
Portland 3 Seattle 2
Season record 140/299
Don't forget USA v Jamaica in World Cup Qualifying this afternoon at 5:30.