Look at how far we’ve fallen from October 25, 1998.
23 years ago, this game would have been a game among titans worthy of broadcast on national network television. This is a game whose past is filled with historic names in American Soccer: Nowak, Podbrozny, Moreno, and Etcheverry (just to name 4) are all names synonymous with pro soccer in the 90s and are entrenched in the American soccer consciousness. Early on, not a game between these two teams went without some sort of fanfare from the national soccer media. This was a match full of importance and meaning.
Now though, this game is important for entirely different reasons. Both teams have fallen on hard times— the start to the 2021 season has not been kind to either team. Combined, the Fire and DCU have a total of 4 points, a -11 goal differential, and a whopping 17 players on the injury report. This is the perfect opportunity for either team to right the ship at the expense of an old hated rival, but that’s all this tie has become. This game used to be a red circle on the calendar, but now it’s just a throwaway Thursday nighter in May, and it’s sad.
We’ll always have the history, and maybe, this can serve as a turning point to get this game back to where it belongs, at the top of the league.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs DC United:21W-18D-23L, (0-3-0 in OT) 91 GF / 93 GA, 81 pts out of 186 (1-0-0 in MLS Cup)
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs DC United: 9W-6D-16L, 43 GF / 59 GA, 33 pts out of 93
DC United are in about as bad a place as the Fire. They’ve lost three in a row by a combined score of 8-2. The worst loss during that stretch was the 4-1 dismantling at the hands of the San Jose Earthquakes. However, they are ahead of the Fire in the table by virtue of a 2-1 win over NYCFC April 17th.
I’m going to use the suggested lineup to say what I think should happen, rather than what is probably going to happen. Calvo and one of Offor or Collier are most likely going to start. However, something has to change after their last two games. AJ Reynolds is the kid who’s impressed me the most and probably the most MLS ready, and Omsberg played well enough last week to replace Francisco Calvo at left CB. Jonathan Bornstein, meanwhile, needs a break and if Navarro is healthy enough he can slot in without much issue.
Keys To The Match
Communicate: This is where we are now. Instead of thinking about tactics or how to beat a team like DC, we’re stuck talking about how the Fire need to do basic things like talking to each other to track runners and identifying marks on set pieces. That we have to do this is an indictment of the roster, coaching staff, and front office. If the basics like this keep being a problem then it’s going to be an even longer year than we all realized.
Break the Press: Last season the Fire were good against teams that pressed early and were able to run them out of the game late. This year, not so much. Both NYRB and Philly pressed them early and the Fire were unable to break it. DC is another team that’s going to look to do the same thing. The Fire need to move and think quicker than they have been doing as of late, and they need to be more willing to play balls into the pockets of space vacated by the pressing midfielders.
Finish Chances: The easiest way out of the muck the Men in Red find themselves in is putting up a big crooked number on the scoreboard. To do that though, the Fire forwards are going to start putting away the excellent chances the midfield and fullbacks are creating with their play. That means no more Robert Beric scuffing shots from 5 feet away in front of an open net. It means shooting more from outside the box to keep goalkeepers honest. It means shooting instead of trying to dribble the ball into the open net. And it means the attackers have to stop losing concentration and wandering offside. As screwed up as the defense is, the offense has the potential to mitigate that somewhat by scoring goals. They just have to stop failing.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live
These are two bad teams who are looking to stop being bad by beating the other. Unfortunately for Fire fans, the Fire are completely directionless as well as playing badly. It’s going to be an unpleasant 90 minutes. 2-1 DC United.