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D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire: A Look Ahead



The Chicago Fire has already had a big day, getting a chance to visit the White House and the Obamas at the White House. Hopefully that sideshow will be far from their mind as they face a difficult challenge against D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday. First place is on the line as the two Eastern Conference rivals clash in what always provides an entertaining and fiery encounter.

Having already visited RFK once this season, the Fire managed to come from behind to salvage a point. Patrick Nyarko found the net that evening, one of two goals he's managed on the year. His side will be hoping to bounce back after suffering back-to-back losses at Toyota Park.

United can't really complain with their solid start to the 2009 season. With 19 points through 13 games this season, there is plenty to be positive about. The acquisition of Dejan Jakovic and the stellar play of veteran Bryan Namoff have helped to steady a defense that struggled mightily last season. Josh Wicks has brought a stabilizing presence to the goalie situation over the last couple of weeks, making a couple of strong saves to preserve a win against New York last week.

Going into Saturday's game, United will be without striker Luciano Emilio, who was sent off after throwing a temper tantrum after being subbed out against New York. While his presence will be missed, the depth Tom Soehn has available will make his loss less significant. Jaime Moreno, Chris Pontius, and Santino Quaranta are all options to step into the lineup as a forward.

Here is a closer look at this weekend's Eastern Conference showdown:

Players to Watch

One of the players who could make the biggest impact for United may not even suit up for the game. Ben Olsen, fighting off a hamstring injury that has bothered him for the past few weeks is nearing recovery. While he is listed as questionable, if he were to suit up for D.C. and make the starting lineup, it'd be a huge boost to their midfield. Without him, Tom Soehn must search for another option in the holding midfielder role, with his options including Andrew Jacobson or Devon McTavish.

Finishing against Houston last week left a lot to be desired in the Fire camp. Patrick Nyarko, looking dangerous in attack, was unable to finish the numerous chances that fell to him. The killer instinct will be necessary from the former first round draft pick. Also looking to play a big role is the notorious Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Coming off international duty, it'll be worth keeping an eye on Blanco to see if the travel has any adverse impact on the Mexican and what sort of role he plays.

Five Keys

1. Closing out — D.C. has scored the games first goal in nine of their 13 games, yet have gone on to win just four of those. That happened during Chicago's last visit to Washington, as Nyarko's equalizer came in the second half. Closing out those three points will be vital as the season progresses. Last week against the Red Bulls, United looked susceptible to leak a late goal.

2. Comfort on the road — Ironically enough, the Fire have found the road to be much more comfortable this season. Prior to their two game mini losing streak, they won three consecutive away games. Overall, they've posted a very solid 4-0-3 record away from Toyota Park in 2009; can they maintain their unblemished road mark this week?

3. Where's Rolfe? — Attacker Chris Rolfe has found himself on the bench more often than not in 2009, having just 5 starts all season. Despite that, his 3 goals are up near the top of the club charts. If he's in the starting lineup or not, he'll most likely leave his mark on the game in one way or the other. During the Fire's last game against United, it took a tremendous Josh Wicks save to prevent Rolfe a game winning goal.

4. Surprising equality — Both sides, according to goals scored, are tied for the league's best offense. Making it more interesting is that neither side has proved to be particularly adept at preventing them, having conceded 17 goals apiece.

5. Avoiding the draw — While a draw isn't necessarily a bad result (especially for the road team), D.C. and Chicago have 13 combined between them. It'll be interesting to see how that affects the game, especially if the Fire can manage to snag the first goal. United will be under more pressure to win in front of a home crowd they've already drawn in front of four times this season.

Odds & Ends

Bakary Soumare will miss out on Saturday's match through suspension due to a red card earned against FC Dallas on May 31.

Brandon Prideaux, who announced his retirement this week, returns to Washington, D.C. for a final time. He made 116 appearances for United from 2002-2006, starting 16 games during the 2004 MLS Cup winning season. He might night make an appearance, however, as he's listed as questionable on the injury report.


Who do you see winning this Eastern Conference battle? Will the Fire continue it's successful form at RFK Stadium or will D.C. keep Chicago's recent slump going?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. If Blanco, Segares and Conde are still out, the Fire will turn in another pathetic performance. United should win 1-0. However if Mapp is not a mope, Pappa plays with his head in the the game, and Prideaux is not Pridon’t, the outcome might be different.

  2. Because he’s not eligible for Rookie of the Year, as he has played professionally elsewhere before. He is eligible for Newcomer of the Year, but that generally doesn’t get as much in-season talk.

  3. Rodney Wallace will do fine in the holding midfielder slot, I think. I liked where that experiment was headed last week.

    Why doesn’t anyone ever mention Dejan Jakovic for rookie of the year? Wallace and Pontius have far exceeded expectations; Dejan is going to get snatched up soon at this rate.

  4. Blanco played 90 minutes for country Wednesday night. Don’t expect to see him start. May be brought in in the 2nd half if needed.


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