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The Calm Before The Storm: Chicago Fire @ Houston Dynamo, MLS Week 34 Preview

The Fire look for a chance at a first round bye, but they have to go through a tough Houston team on the road to even have a chance at doing it

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire
Last week Niko was in the thick of the Golden Boot race. Now he has a shot at history.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

A first it looked exactly like another trap. We were falling apart. Then Niko put on a miracle and suddenly we’re back in the hunt for a first round bye. It’s weird to say that about a team who last year was just hoping to go out with dignity. Now we’re in the playoffs wondering if a World Cup winner is going to re-sign. Now’s the time that we as fans take a step back and realize how lucky we are right now with how well we’re playing. You never know what the good times are until they pass and let’s just say our future past this season is a bit murky. (Not as murky as Columbus.)

Onto injuries, it looks like DJ and Juninho will be ready pretty soon, if not for a play-in game, maybe even this upcoming game (for Juninho at least). Expect to at least see one of them on the bench, maybe even a start for Juninho. Now let’s look south to our opponents.

Fun playoff fact about the Houston Dynamo: they were the last team we played against in the postseason. Now, they’re in another conference, but they are still in the playoffs same as us. In fact, it’s so similar to us that there is an off chance that they could also make a massive jump and take third place with a win here, but I don’t expect it to happen even if they win.

Their main strength is the chemistry between their top 4, which rotates from time to time, but usually includes Alberth Elis and former Fire midfielder Alex. They usually choose to cross the ball early from just off the corner of the box, which forces defenders to quickly decide between pulling an offside trap or keep their mark. It seems to be a major part of how they run their offense and it really helps make it work; but their defense, on the other hand, is not as fortunate. The defense just looks static and easily breakable. Expect them to rely on Tyler Deric, who made a couple of amazing saves in KC last week.

Speaking of which, here’s their last few games:

Vs Minnesota 9/30

Vs SKC 10/11

Vs SKC 10/15

Three Keys

Super Sub or Should-Be Starter?

Last week David Accam didn’t start. Instead he sat on the bench for the first half, apparently for a nagging injury. It’s smart to want to keep him fresh, yet leave him readily available in case he’s needed. It just so happened that we did need him, coming on at halftime. While many would say that Niko stepped up his game that half for another two goals, I heard a lot of praise for Accam who opened the game up. The question now is whether or not we should risk it again. Should we risk him possibly injuring himself even worse before the playoffs or will we keep on the bench until we need him?

Going For Two

For the Fire, the path to securing the #2 spot in the East would be to win this game and for NYCFC to drop points on Sunday. For the Dynamo, they’re looking to win against us and for Seattle to lose to Colorado, and for SKC to also lose to RSL. At least our scenario is realistic, but home field advantage for both teams is very important. Both sides have taken long winning and unbeaten streaks at home. Fortunately for us, they might just be thinking that they don’t really have anything to play for as the odds are so extremely against them for the other scores and they can’t drop any lower than where they are.

Niko Goes For History

After breaking the club record for goals in a season, Nemanja Nikolic just scored a hat trick against Philly to pull away from the competition in the Golden Boot race. While that’s impressive on its own, he’s got another accolade he could pick up. Roy Lassiter’s 1996 scoring record has stood throughout the entire existence of the league. His 27 goals have only been matched by Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Niko is now another hat trick away from matching that record and joining them at the top of the books. This guy is a natural born competitor and while it may seem like more than a stretch, I think he can do it.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

Houston Dynamo

How To Watch

Kickoff: Sunday October 22nd, 3:00pm CDT, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX

TV/Streaming: CSN Plus, MLS Live

So this is a three horned question. Will the Fire win this game? Will the Fire actually get that first round bye? And can Niko get that hat trick (and maybe more) to hit that 21 year old record? Tell us what you think in the comments.