Don't we do this every week? Talk about how the Fire 'must win this game' to stay in the playoff race? Well, this week it actually may be true - Philadelphia's upset road win over Kansas City last evening certainly increased the pressure on the Fire to get all three points tonight. Anything other than a win could find Chicago in eighth place Sunday morning, needing to climb over three other teams in the final four games just to get a sniff of the playoff play-in game.
That said, there's reason for optimism as we head toward kickoff. Two of the three starters in l'Impact's central defensive triangle - centerback Nelson Rivas and defensive midfielder Hernán Bernardella - will watch this one from the sidelines. The remaining starter, Alessandro Nesta, is a living legend who unfortunately moves a bit like he's already been bronzed. It's plausible to guess that, if Chicago can rediscover the fluid, clever attacking play that characterized their summer uprising, the goals will flow for the Fire.
Defensively it's a different story. Who will start at centerback? Vice-captain Jeff Larentowicz has been mentioned as a possibility, moving back from his normal place in the center of midfield; the only other option is second-year man Hunter Jumper, who could face another opportunity to stare down the doubters and win a more prominent role going into 2014.
As always, starters an hour out from kickoff, and snark, sentence fragments and onomatopoeia during the game.
PREDICTION: Boy, I'm super awful at this. It says here the Fire seldom turn in two stinkers in a row, and last week at Columbus was certainly a stinker. I'm going 2-1, Fire, with our Men in Red dominating for stretches in the early going, then holding on for dear life down the stretch.