With seven matches left, the Fire’s playoff chances are pretty much shot… but at least they’re more entertaining to watch than the ‘soccer’ that Fire fans have been subjected to in recent months (years?). A win would put them five points out of the last playoff spot - but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
The past month has been a nice mix of players showing off their goods for next season and head Coach Veljko Paunovic trying to save some face after a disappointing first season. Lucky for them, they play tonight against a team that has had its own share of inconsistency and road woes in DC United. The match begins at 7 p.m. CST tonight on UniMas
If it seems like Deja Vu, it’s because we were here less than a month ago. For a quick refresher, I’ll point you to the preview posted three weeks back before the Fire’s 6-2 loss against United. If you don’t have the 5 minutes it will take to read that, here’s the TL;DR version: On the back end, Bill Hamid remains a celestial being who came to Earth to stop balls from going in nets, but the defense in front of him is sketchy at best and at times a total liability. Their quality midfield puts heavy pressure on opponents, and will try to spring the attack off turnovers. They have the speed and possession skills to really torment opponent’s (as Fire fans may recall from their August match in our nation’s capital) and their strikers are capable enough to be a threat.
Since their takedown against the Fire, the United have lost 3-2 against NYCFC and taken a point from the Red Bulls in a 2-2 draw in New Jersey. The same strengths and weakness we saw before were on display there, as Hamid did everything he could to keep his team in the match, and DC doing just enough to be competitive. They are not a terribly pretty team to watch, but they can be efficient.
Efficieny is not the best way to describe their play on the road this season, as they and the Fire share the indignity of only having one road win this season. It is not for a lacking of trying though, as they’ve drawn eight times in 14 road matches across all competition. For whatever reason, United have struggled to put together a complete performance on the road, from blowing late leads to snatch draws from the jaws of victory, to needing late heroics to salvage a point.
Friday’s match is a bout between a middling team just outside the sixth seed in the east (United) and a consistent cellar dweller who are finally giving fans at least some enjoyment with decent play (Fire). At the very least, I’m predicting a fun match as United can jump back into the sixth seed with a win and the Fire look to end their season on a high note. I’ll go 2-1 Fire, with goals from David Accam and Luis Solignac.
What are your thoughts and predictions? Leave a comment below?