Fire v DC United match preview

What Are They All About? DC United

Some people say that one mark of a good team is that they can win even when they aren’t playing well. We’re not sure what it says about Chicago, but this past weekend they found a way to lose a match that they looked sharp in. Toronto left Toyota Park with all three points on Saturday and they may have taken the last bit of Chicago’s playoff hope with them as well. The Fire can’t seem to find any consistency as performances and results vary from week to week in an almost Jekyll and Hyde fashion.

With just seven matches remaining in the MLS regular season, Chicago won’t make Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic’s point total goal even if they win all of their remaining matches. The players and front office staff will have a lot to answer for when their season ends on October 23rd and all of them will hope that the next six weeks bear enough fruit for them to keep their jobs. It starts with DC United on Friday.

This is the same DC side that trounced Chicago 6-2 in their last meeting and this encounter will largely be about revenge. No matter what is said on the surface, the feeling will be clear that this match is a chance at redemption. Seeing a positive reaction to a humbling defeat could go a long way in terms of contract options, but can the Fire get it done?

DC United Form Guide (Last 5 matches): D-L-W-D-D

Previous Match: A 2-2 draw away to New York Red Bull.

Formation: 4-1-4-1: Hamid; Kemp, Boswell, Birnbaum, Franklin; Sarvas; Nyarko, Vincent, DeLeon, Sam; Mullins

Strengths: Given that these two sides met just three short weeks ago, not much has changed. You may revisit that preview if you’d like but the gist of the strengths section revolved around an in form Bill Hamid, tactical flexibility in midfield, and the ability to overload the flanks in transition. Let’s take a look at how those positives were reflected over the last two matches.

By the Sweat of Your Brow: Their most recent match against New York Red Bull featured a shaky start which we will discuss below but a valiant second half effort earned them a point. Right from the restart it was evident that Ben Olsen lit a fire under his players as a high press won the ball back for United and their quick transition almost paid dividends. Patrick Nyarko’s long ball to Lloyd Sam (inverted wingers) saw the former Red Bull go 1 v. 1 with Luis Robles who made a great save. Both keepers were active in this one as Hamid often kept DC in the match. Two crucial saves in the second half kept the contest within touching distance for United. Luis Solignac’s accuracy will need to improve against one of the league’s best shot stoppers.

Their continuous resilience finally resulted in a goal as Steve Birnbaum found himself pushing up the field in the 89th minute to finish off a loose ball in the box. The goal wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be. It was a hallmark of Ben Olsen’s side: a scrappy goal won off of a knock down, a misplaced shot, and the determination needed to follow up. Chicago’s mental lapses will not go unpunished against this mentally tough DC side.

Ben Olsen’s charges would complete their comeback with the last kick of the match at Red Bull Arena as Lamar Neagle bobbled the ball over the line on a 95th minute corner. Once again, the final touch came after a pinball like sequence in the box. While we would never say that a team in MLS lacks talent, DC United is a prime example that grit can sometimes outweigh skill. 13 shots, 64 duels won, and 15 successful tackles provide the stats to reflect that mentality. A win on Friday would put them in the final playoff spot for at least 24 hours. That kind of motivation could be the tipping point in this one.

Tiki Ghana: The match against NYCFC will feature heavily below but there were a few positive take aways as well. The chemistry between Nyarko and Sam was on full display at Yankee stadium as they combined for an early goal. A diagonal daisy cutter from Nyarko saw Sam run into space and calmly slot it into the net. They tried that same connection throughout the match as Sam was through on two more occasions. Nyarko also provided some crisp balls into Patrick Mullins who couldn’t seem to finish. The Ghanaian has really reflected the vision and coolness on the ball that was on display in his time with Chicago.

The other strength to come from the NYCFC loss was the ability to dominate set pieces through force. Whether it was the danger that came from long throw ins, the ability of the center backs to get forward and dominate NYCFC’s box on free kicks, or the Neagle goal from a corner, DC showed that they aren’t afraid to utilize route one tactics from time to time. Paunovic will need to run some marking drills in practice this week.

Continued Midfield Strength: The biggest worry for Chicago will be the fact that D.C has really forged a great dynamic in the midfield. Chicago will know this first hand after their 6-2 loss but DC has reiterated it over the last two weeks as well. The five starting midfielders have combined for a 70% passing completion rate in those two matches and their ability to expand and contract their triangles is not only fun to watch but is dangerous.

Luciano Acosta has proven to be quite the signing as he’s been the engine for United this season. The Boca youth product may only have three goals, but his 8 assists and creativity on the ball are irreplaceable. His ability to work in small space means that opposing midfields really have to stay compact and close down when he is on the ball; this is partially responsible for Nyarko and Sam’s ability to stretch their legs down the touch line. The marshaling ability of Marcelo Sarvas was highlighted last time around as well and could prove to be a stumbling block.

Weaknesses: Not much has changed in this department either. In the three short weeks since these teams last met DC’s propensity for building from the back at all costs, their slow center backs, and their poor road form have all continued against everyone but the Fire. Let’s take a look at their last two matches to highlight some of their short comings.

On the Road Again: We’ll start with an easy one. DC has still only won one match on their travels this season (we realize the irony in saying that). They may have drawn eight on their travels – a league high – but they can’t seem to push completely over the line. Chicago’s home form saw them on a twelve match unbeaten run until TFC came into town and the narrow margins in that one might suggest that DC is in for a tough match. Given the revenge dynamic, we don’t see DC getting their second road victory of the season here.

We’re Out of Clever Quips that Introduce Atrocious Defending: Heading into this fixture a few weeks ago we were stunned at the level of DC’s defending, especially in their own box. The last few weeks haven’t gotten any better. The Red Bulls went ahead with a goal from Gonzalo Veron. Despite his price tag, he hasn’t been prolific in front of goal so the fact that four defenders were ball watching/hauling down Felipe in the box as Veron strolled in with a late run should be even more worrisome.

The second Red Bull goal was reminiscent of a pickup game more than an MLS fixture as they sprinted down the field to create a 5 v. 3 overload against DC. Bradley Wright-Phillips ended up with the ball at his feet and a rare mistake from Hamid, cheating off his line and an early guess, saw the ball nestle into the roof of the net. That play was particularly characteristic of the DC midfielders and advanced outside backs not helping out in defense. Accam’s return could be the difference in this one, but Solignac’s ability to stretch defenses by pressing off of the shoulder should also be utilized.

Against NYCFC the defenses lapses were even clearer. DC had a 1-0 lead heading into the 80th minute when Luke Mishu played a sloppy back pass into the path of David Villa who didn’t need a second invitation to slot it past Hamid. Mishu became an instant YouTube sensation as DC went on to crumble in that match. A quick interchange sequence between Chanot and Shelton saw NYCFC steam down the touch line before Nick DeLeon was outmuscled for the cross to Villa. Jalen Robinson was treated as if he wasn’t there and Frank Lampard finished the dished-off pass. Shelton was at it again minutes later as he put in a through ball for Lampard who finished again as the DC defenders stood around waiting for his autograph. Twelve minutes cost DC three points and asked serious questions of their defensive capabilities. Whether or not Chicago takes advantage is another matter entirely.                

Prediction: They may not make the post season but Chicago will show some character in this one. Chicago Fire 3-2 D.C United. Meira, Labrocca, and Harrington score for Chicago, Igboananike and Nyarko for D.C.

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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    Good to watch a Fire match on free TV for a change - I have all day to decide whether to use the Unimas SAP function and endure Sandoval's play-by-play, though I think he's finally figured out how to pronounce David Accam's name.

  • In reply to Heroic Oaf:

    Is there anything worse than his hackneyed GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLL call? Brutal.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    It is painful to listen to. It is so clear that they are broadcasting from a basement studio in Los Angeles. I really think MLS needs to require announcers to be in the stadium. BeIn Sports is painful to listen to for the same reasons. The call should be GOOOOOAWAAAAAAY!

  • In reply to Krasov:

    You mean, his mom has a studio in her basement?! Wow, Ramses can work AND live there too !!

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I didnt think there was until he unleashed the, "that wasn't a goal, it was a GOOOOLLLAAZZOOO!!" So hacky and awful.

  • I don't understand what Marty has against $2 hot dogs. They usually work to bring wins in home Open Cup games. I think Olsen and his boys are doomed.

    And if the $2 hot dogs don't work, maybe Pauno can make sure that Mullins is properly marked. I just have to believe that we can put some goals up on DC with the recent offensive improvements. I mean, we still got 2 goals against them in RFK.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Who doesn't love $2 wieners?, which inspired me to write lyrics to the MLS anthem - AHEM!...
    They|can't hold a candle, to you, MLS/Of|all the leagues of football, you the best/The|world's greatest players, are all coming here (as-we-enjoy)/TWO DOLLAR HOTDOGS AND TWO DOLLAR BEER! (Hail MLS, can't fail MLS)
    verse two upon request. . .

  • In reply to Heroic Oaf:

    Ugh! Spellcheck! 'you ARE the best'. . .

  • Weekend picks:

    Chicago over DC
    Seattle over Vancouver
    Portland over Philadelphia
    New York City over FC Dallas
    Orlando City over Columbus
    Montreal and New England draw
    Colorado over San Jose
    Real Salt Lake over Houston
    Sporting KC and Los Angeles draw
    Toronto FC and New York RB draw


  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Hey Guillermo I'm serious right now but do you if there actually will be a big European signing (or 2) or is the Fire just making us happy for now. The only big names I heard so far is Bastian, Guardado (I think Guardado might end up in Atlanta most likely) I would love if the Fire would get Guardado and another rm to replace Alvarez like maybe someone young and pacy from the Liga Mx that actually has experience and will fit our system.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    I got a chance to ask N rod about what the fire have done to improve their scouting. His answer was basically we have player profiles (which I'm sure they had before) and that there are 6 players that they have selected to go after during the transfer window. Not sure who any of those players are. He really didn't want to give more than a politicians answer to the question. A long response with no real answer.

    Unfortunately there is the expansion draft coming up and if we needed 3 new players this off season without it, we probably need 4 or 5 new players afterm the expanion draft. 6 prospective new players seems like it's not enough to be going after to me. But hey, I don't see any of the interworkings or training sessions, I could be completely off base.

  • In reply to edubs:

    As I understand it, existing teams can only lose a single player in the expansion draft, and ATL and MIN only get to choose 5 players each. So half the existing teams may not lose any of their 10-11 unprotected players. Hard to imagine that any unprotected player on this roster will be critical to the team's success in 2017...

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Did not know that they could only lose 1 player. That's new from when they've done this previously. That's good though. The expansion draft was necessary in the beginning of the league with limited talent available. I think that's less of an issue these days.

  • In reply to edubs:

    That's good to hear. Hopefully they are game changers and some of them have experience. While we do that, we should get rid of players like thiam,stephens etc. that will just not fit here. We should also try and hold Johnson.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    They say they are....proof will come in January.

  • Article on new wireless access at TP. Now we can share pictures faster than the team can miss the playoffs.

  • GR, have you heard the Bedoya story going around yesterday? Are the Fire that broke that they backed out of the Bedoya contract because they couldn't afford the 2nd year? What the hell is going on at Andell anyway? Seen the Andell website lately? Is the FO being honest with us?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    I heard an interview with Bedoya - maybe it was on Extra Time Radio - where he said he thought for a while during negotiations with MLS that he was sure to go to the Fire. So it sounds like they were in the running (having the first spot in the allocation order helps), and then things changed for whatever reason...

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Yeah I remember that interview. He said he thought he was all set for playing in Chicago and then he said things got "shady". I just want N-Rod to be honest with us and I have a feeling he is not and has not been very honest with the fan base.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Bedoya signed a contract with the league. It's my understanding that the Fire were ready to, or did accept the player since they had the first allocation spot but decided against it when they discovered that the salary would increase over the course of the contract. I'm not sure that the decision was based on not wanting to spend or not having the money however. It could have well been based on the thought that they didn't think Bedoya was going to make enough of an impact to justify the bigger salary.
    Bedoya has subsequently alluded to the situation when he said he was sure he was going to the Fire and then something "shady" went down.

  • (Late game-related comment)
    I'd really like to see the team move up the table before the season ends. I'm glad we're seeing entertaining soccer and further solidification of identity, but this continual bumping the ceiling thing is getting old fast, and winning back-to-back wooden spoons holds no appeal.
    And yes, January could prove to be REALLY intetesting.

  • I think if the Fire finish last place in the league again this year, they may be the first team to ever finish last in back to back years. Trust the process.

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