Here's a weird number: DC United, the leaders of the Eastern Conference, have lost more matches (9) than the Fire (7); despite this, the Men in Red are ninth, 17 points back of last year's cellar-dwellars. What's it mean? Just about nothing. United have also won 14 games this season, nine more than our indefatigable draw-masters. We've figured out how not to lose while they've gotten busy learning how to win.
Tonight, the Fire have an opportunity to blunt United's charge to the Eastern Conference crown - even, some would say, put themselves in position for a late playoff push. But another draw won't do it. Anything less than three points this evening means we're still marking time on the 2015 preseason, still treading water down at the foot of the table, still waiting for some better approach to recommend itself.
Like the teams' previous matchup - in March - this game could be contested in difficult conditions. Not only is the Toyota Park pitch suffering through yet another emergency re-sod, but the forecast includes a substantial chance of rainfall. Expect this to be more blood-and-thunder than a triumphal testament to the game's evanescent beauty.
The starters are essentially as we predicted - Shipp plays behind Amarikwa, with the rest of the XI unchanged:
DC favors youth, going with Michael Seaton up top instead of Eddie Johnson:
Kickoff is shortly after 7:30 p.m. COME ON, YOU MEN IN RED!