The Chicago Fire will continue their quest to try to shatter the record for MLS draws in a season under the bright lights of prime time on ESPN2 tonight. Having just tied the MLS record of 14 ties, set just last year by FC Dallas, it's a good bet to assume the Fire will surpass that mark by a sizable margin. DC United, on the other hand, is pushing for a playoff spot and this game will be a big one for them. While the Fire unfortunately occupy the cellar in the East, DC United sits at 5th place with 30 points and would leapfrog Houston and New York with a win. The Fire, meanwhile, would slide into a tie with Toronto FC for 7th if the Men in Red can notch all 3 points.
DC United comes into the game riding a nice little streak. They are unbeaten in 4 of their last 5 games, with a recent form of T-L-W-T-W. Chris Pontius has been hot of late, as he recently scored a brace in a 4-0 drubbing of Vancouver. Charlie Davies has been relatively quiet the last month but he is always a danger the Fire need to pay close attention to. I might point out the quality of the competition that Pontius recently torched, but I can't really say much as a Fire fan. Chicago were recently handed an embarrassing 4-2 loss to said Vancouver Whitecaps team. Just last week, the Fire looked decent in New York vs. the Red Bulls. At one point, the Fire even had the lead and controlled the game. As fate would have it in most every game this season, the Fire would concede late in the game for yet another draw. The Fire's last five of L-L-T-L-T has not exactly been conducive to a strong playoff push. Follow me after the break for some more match preview information and make sure you join us for the game thread Thursday night.
While it is still possible for the Fire to make the playoffs, I think reality shows that won't happen this year. Despite the additions of Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini, the Fire just don't have the offensive weapons to make a late push. The Men in Red would need to pull 3 points out of a majority of the remaining matches to have a chance at the playoffs. Considering that Chicago still lacks a true striker, especially now that the Eddie Johnson MLS move seems to be breaking apart. Although Fire fans held out the hope that he could end up in Chicago, Guillermo Rivera mentioned on Twitter that the Fire would have passed on Eddie Johnson even if he had fallen to the Fire at the #4 spot in the allocation order. While this certainly made me scratch my head, one would have to think he simply wanted too much money to make the deal worthwhile. To me, that is the only likely explanation for the Fire passing up the chance to patch up the gaping hole they have at the striker position.
The game vs. DC United should be interesting for for a few reasons. First of all, many Chicago fans are hoping to see a start from Orr Barouch. He has looked excellent of late, coming into the game as a sub and creating chances, playing hard, and trying to win a spot. Most Fire fans seem to agree that he has earned the chance to start, since he is a bit more of a true striker type than Dominic Oduro, who has been handed the reigns the past couple of games. The progression of Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini will also be another good reason to tune in. They have played well so far considering the circumstances. If that combo can continue to mesh with the team and round into form, it will certainly be a bright spot for next season as long as they stay with the team.
Yet another point of interest will be the Fire's form as a team in general. They did play well for stretches against the Red Bulls. With the Open Cup matchup vs. Richmond coming up on August 30th for a spot in the U.S. Open Cup Final, the Fire need to be in fine form to continue their march through the tournament as Kings of the Cup. A win vs. DC United would be a nice primer, a tie would be expected and a loss would be very hard to swallow as usual. But, if the Fire can play a good match and carry their form into the Open Cup semifinal, it will be a bit of a bright spot in what has otherwise been a very dismal season.
The Fire should treat the U.S. Open Cup as their MLS Cup this year, with that being the only realistic chance they have at hardware. It would certainly be a lift for the team and give fans a little something to celebrate. Let's hope it starts with 3 points vs. DC and ends with the Boys from Bridgeview hoisting hardware in October.
One other interesting development of late has been the rumors swirling of Marco Pappa heading abroad, specifically to FC Twente. Although the rumors hinge on other players moving to and from their respective clubs, it will be an interesting couple of weeks until the close of the European window on August 31st.
Some Fire fans are also wondering if some of the younger players will begin seeing some playing time with the season slipping away. Although the recent signing of flashy, highly skilled Kellen Gulley is quite exciting, he obviously won't see the pitch with the senior team this year. I know a lot of Chicago Fire fans are hopeful of seeing the Fire's first home grown player Victor Pineda get some minutes. While Victor is only 18, now would be the time to get him a bit of senior playing time if it's going to happen this year. It's easy to forget that Orr Barouch is only fourteen months older than Pineda. Andy Najar is a day younger than Pineda.
Join us here at HTIOT during the game and share your thoughts in the game thread. We have been getting regular visitors to the game threads recently, and it has been fun to share views and thoughts during the game with other Fire fans. The more the merrier, especially if the final whistle sounds with the Fire taking 3 points away from an old foe.