When: Saturday October 18th at 6PM CST
Where: RFK Stadium, Washington DC
Where to Watch: My50, TWCSC Wisconsin
Hey, What Happened?
For 80 minutes last Friday night I thought to myself "Could this be happening? Could the Fire actually steal all three points from SKC?" For 80 minutes, the Fire were going toe to toe with the defending MLS Cup Champs. On occasion the Men in Red looked like they were going to steal the win - or at least get another tie to add to the record. Then the monster that has plagued the Fire all season long reared its ugly head, and SKC walked away with all 3 points to secure their spot in the postseason. That ugly monster I'm talking about is this: the Fire cannot put together a complete game.
For 80 minutes both sides went end to end and created multiple chances - but it was during the last 10 minutes when SKC took the game over and scored two goals.Graham Zusi was left in space and he eventually placed a shot from about 25 yards out neatly into the upper corner past Sean Johnson. The Fire a had a chance to tie it up, but Matt Fondy's chance from within the 6-yard box was saved by Andy Gruenebaum. The SKC attack answered that threat by netting their second goal when Zusi was able to find the head of Dominic Dwyer. That game was typical of what has happened to the Fire all season long, except for the tie part.
Hey, What's Happening?
Tonight, the Fire travel to our nation's capital to take on the Eastern Conference leaders, DC United. With a win, DC can clinch first place in the Eastern Conference, a guaranteed spot in the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League, and possibly the greatest turnaround in MLS history - this franchise won only three games in the league last year!
The Fire have absolutely nothing to play except for - maybe - 2015 auditions. Their late-season preseason tour has only two games left for players that may be on the bubble to impress Frank Yallop into rewarding them an extension of their stay in the Windy City. Will we see another "Capital Comeback"-type game by the Men in Red, or just another incomplete game that just isn't good enough to get the three points?
Hey, What Should Happen?
DC United keeps getting hit with the injury bug as the season comes to a close. Veteran defender Jeff Parke has missed most of the season; more recently, influential forward Luis Silva has pulled up lame with a hamstring injury. United have a deep enough bench that they can plug in players and not miss a beat. Rookie Steve Birnbaum sat unused on the bench until June, when he broke into the lineup and never looked back - he has started and played the full 90 minutes the past 19 games. To replace Luis Silva, Ben Olsen will look to designated player Eddie Johnson, who is returning from injury himself, up top to partner Fabian Espindola. I would expect Ben Olsen to use the same lineup that he used in the 3-1 win versus Houston last weekend minus Luis Silva up top. The key for DC is to keep the momentum going heading into the playoffs and making sure that morale is high as they look to complete one of the most memorable worst-to-first turnarounds in MLS history.
For the Fire I wouldn't expect any changes to the lineup as the preseason tour continues. The only player not available is Bakary Soumare who is suspended for yellow card accumulation. Look for Patrick Ianni to fill-in in the back line as Yallop will probably not change his lineup at all, as we have seen over the past few games.
The one player that I would like to see step up his game is Quincy Amarikwa. He has shown a fantastic work rate all season long, but he has not scored a goal in the past four matches and he is our starting striker. I believe, like the rest of the team, he is on audition for 2015, even though he is having a career year with eight goals. The simple fact is that a lot of his chances should have been put away and he should know that. A lot of his chances would have been put away by a "Keane-like" striker. If we believe Yallop that the team has money to spend, that may be one area where he is looking to improve. If Yallop does go out and get a new #9 then that would mean bench minutes for "Quincy Time." These last two games are crucial for Amarikwa as he has to show he has the ability to finish and finish consistently. In this game, he has to show he can take advantage of the rookie Steve Birnbaum in DC's backline. I wouldn't be shocked if Quincy stays by that defender for much of the night as he looks to generate offense for the Fire.
Hey What's Going to Happen?
As the 2015 tryouts continue to preoccupy the final two games of the season for Yallop and company, one wonders if this next game will be any different from all the other ones. As we have seen throughout the season, the Fire are just not good enough to win games consistently and seldom put a complete game together. This week is going to be no different as they head to the nation's capital to take on the first-placed team in the Eastern Conference. Ben Olsen has brought in players that bought into his system and they are playing very well this season. Yallop, on the other hand has brought in players that are not quite good enough to win games and seems to have turned his attentions to 2015 after last week's loss. I can see this one actually ending in a 1-1 tie as the Fire continue to add to their record-setting season.