Chicago Fire at Houston Dynamo - MLS #31 - 3:00 PM CST - Telefutura

HOUSTON - MARCH 19: Dominic Oduro #23 of the Houston Dynamo reacts after missing a wide open net as goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon of the Philadelphia Union was out of position at Robertson Stadium on March 19, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Dominic Oduro returns to Robertson Stadium this afternoon.  The last time he was here, he missed a wide open opportunity and the Houston Dynamo fans booed him out of town.  Literally.  Dynamo management traded him to Chicago despite signing Oduro to a new contract just three weeks earlier.  That miss might have been the best thing to happen to the Fire all season.  More on the game after the break.

Eastern Conference Standings

Team PTS GP GD
Sporting KC 44 31 7
Philadelphia Union 43 30 7
Houston Dynamo 42 31 0
Columbus Crew 41 31 -4
New York Red Bulls 39 30 5
D.C. United 38 29 1
Chicago Fire 36 30 0
Toronto FC 30 31 -23
New England Revolution 22 29 -15

Wild Card Race

Team PTS GP GD
FC Dallas 46 30 3
Colorado Rapids 42 31 1
Columbus Crew 41 31 -4
New York Red Bulls     39 30 5
D.C. United 38 30 1
Portland Timbers 37 30   -7
Chicago Fire 36 30 0

Teams in bold would qualify for the playoffs if the playoffs began today

 

Key Matches to Watch

October 1st

Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls - 6:30 PM CST - Fox Soccer Channel

Colorado vs. FC Dallas - 8:00 PM CST

San Jose vs. Sporting KC - 9:30 PM CST

October 2nd

Columbus Crew vs. D.C. United - 3:00 PM CST

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers - 3:30 PM CST

Chivas USA vs. Philadelphia Union - 7:00 PM CST

 

The Fire will remain in the playoff hunt as long as the other teams in the Eastern Conference and Wild Card races refuse to take advantage of their positions.  While the Fire have been red hot, other teams have been sputtering, treading water, or in full free falls.  Sporting KC has been playing very well so this is highly unlikely but the math exists for the Fire to claim the Eastern Conference title if everything fell into place.

The Fire can do a lot for their cause by winning or even taking a draw out of Houston.  Dynamo are 9-3-3 at home but 1-6-9 on the road.  Their remaining two games after playing Chicago are Portland on the road and the Los Angeles Galaxy at home. Those are two of the toughest matchups in MLS right now.  It's quite likely Houston finishes the year with 42/43/44 points.  Normally a coach would be fired for not playing a full lineup for this match but Frank Klopas' hands are tied by the U.S. Open Cup Final on Tuesday.  Certainly a 'problem' I would take any Tuesday of the year.  

One of the main Fire weaknesses at this point in the season is depth.  It would be a major blow if Cory Gibbs, Pavel Pardo, or Dominic Oduro got hurt before the big game.  Sebastian Grazzini is still listed as Questionable on the MLS Injury Report.  Don't be surprised to see players like Diego Chaves, Orr Barouch or Baggio Husidic back in starting action.  They will need to pick up their individual play to get a result.  Houston is 9-3-3 at Robertson Stadium this year.  

Houston's goaltender Tally Hall is really blossoming and proving to be a worthy successor to Pat Ondstad.  Brad Davis has a career high in assists (14) and is a fringe MVP candidate.  On an ex-Fire note, Calen Carr has been healthy for about a month now and has 1 goal in 193 minutes.  I expect both Carr and Oduro to at least be used as substitutes.  

Given the playoffs fight, Houston's home advantage and the Fire playing back with Tuesday in mind, I'm predicting a 1-1 draw and that might be generous for Chicago.  It would be quite the achievement to walk out of this game being the 4th team out of 16 to get a win. 

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