Preview: Playoffs on the line as United host Fire
D.C. UNITED vs CHICAGO FIRE
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
7:30 p.m. ET (CSN-Chi)
October 15, 2011 (WEEK 31; MLS Game 294)
D.C. United and the Chicago Fire renew their rivalry on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium with a simple truth - if either team loses, their bid to stay alive for postseason contention is likely over. United have lost three in a row following their 2-1 defeat in Vancouver, but have more breathing room, with three games still remaining on the campaign. The Fire are coming off a midweek home defeat to FC Dallas, putting their playoff hopes in dire straits.
REFEREE: Jorge Gonzalez. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Matthew Kreitzer; 4th: Terry Vaughn
MLS Career: 70 games; FC/gm: 24.5; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 23; pens: 20
INJURY REPORT: D.C. UNITED - OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); MF Chris Pontius (R tibia fracture); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Ethan White (L MCL sprain) ... CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MF Gabriel Ferrari (L knee ACL reconstruction); DF Steven Kinney (lower abdominal strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Cristian Nazarit (L quad strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: CHI: Cory Gibbs (caution accumulation; through Oct. 16), Dan Gargan (caution accumulation; through Oct. 16), Pavel Pardo (through Oct. 16)
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: DC: Marc Burch ... CHI: Diego Chaves, Josep Mikulic, Dominic Oduro, Gonzalo Segares
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC: Austin da Luz, Charlie Davies, Dwayne De Rosario, Perry Kitchen, Ethan White ... CHI: Yamith Cuesta, Baggio Husidic, Cristian Nazarit, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause
- ALL-TIME (40 meetings): United 16 wins, 56 goals ... Fire 14 wins, 55 goals ... Ties 10
- AT RFK STADIUM (20 meetings): United 10 wins, 32 goals ... Fire 6 wins, 25 goals ... Ties 4
- In their first meeting this season, Chicago's Sebastian Grazzini and D.C's Josh Wolff traded second-half goals before the clubs settled for a 1-1 draw, Aug. 18 at Toyota Park.
- The Fire haven't defeated D.C. United at home since Sept. 17, 2006, a 1-0 victory at Toyota Park. United have won on three of their last six visits to Bridgeview, with three draws.
- The Fire have won on two of their last four trips to RFK Stadium, including a 2-0 victory last year.
- Coaches' records: Ben Olsen v CHI: P2 W0 L0 D2 ... Frank Klopas vs. DC: P1 W0 L0 D1
- 8/18: CHI 1, DC 1 (Grazzini 59 - Wolff 73)
- The Fire took the lead in the 59th minute. Patrick Nyarko rounded Dejan Jakovic on the right flank and sent in a curling cross that United defender Daniel Woolard could only flick into the path of a wide open Sebastian Grazzini at the back post, and he side-volleyed a shot off substitute goalkeeper Steve Cronin's hands.
- But United pulled even 14 minutes later. Dwayne De Rosario's deflected cross found Josh Wolff in the area, and after a quick one-two with Quaranta back at the edge of the 18, Wolff hammered the return pass into the roof of the goal from the corner of the six-yard box.
- CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-2-2): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Yamith Cuesta, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo - Sebastian Grazzini (Daniel Paladini 72), Marco Pappa (Diego Chaves 86) - Patrick Nyarko (Orr Barouch 86), Dominic Oduro.
- D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid (Steve Cronin 46) - Perry Kitchen, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard - Andy Najar, Clyde Simms, Stephen King (Santino Quaranta 71), Chris Pontius - Charlie Davies (Josh Wolff 60), Dwayne De Rosario
D.C. United went down to a third consecutive defeat, falling 2-1 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. United have 38 points from 31 games on the year, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
- Whitecaps FC took the lead after just 42 seconds with the second-earliest goal in the club's MLS history. Jordan Harvey sent in a curling cross from the left flank and Camilo raced onto the end of it, side-footing home from about seven yards out.
- Then, seconds after the halftime interval, Whitecaps FC doubled their lead. Left back Alain Rochat put in an inviting cross and Long Tan's powerful header deflected off center back Daniel Woolard and the underside of the bar, just over the line.
- United pulled themselves back into the game in the 57th minute, when Brandon McDonald headed home a free kick from substitute Santino Quaranta, rising well in a crowd of Whitecaps defenders to head into the bottom left corner straight out from goal.
- United coach Ben Olsen made four changes to the team that dropped a 2-1 decision to the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Stephen King and Austin da Luz came into the midfield for Dwayne De Rosario and Santino Quaranta, and Blake Brettschneider and Josh Wolff replaced Charlie Davies and Joseph Ngwenya up top.
- D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard, Marc Burch - Perry Kitchen - Andy Najar, Stephen King (Charlie Davies 77), Austin da Luz (Santino Quaranta 54) - Blake Brettschneider, Josh Wolff.
- D.C. United's three-game losing streak is their longest of the season, and comes at the worst possible time as the team is still chasing a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- "It was a pretty much unacceptable performance tonight. To give up two goals that quickly at the start of halves is just something you preach, it comes down to concentration, it comes down to starting the right way and it wasn't there and then we make life so difficult on ourselves throughout the game. Now we're always chasing the game, and now we're always spending more energy and now we're desperate," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "There was some good stuff after the fact, but it was after the fact and that part isn't good enough. It's easy to play desperate. The trick is to play the way we played after we had those goals scored on us from the start and that wasn't there and we deserved to lose this game."
- With a loss to Chicago and wins by Houston, New York and a win or tie by Columbus, United will be eliminated from playoff contention for a fourth consecutive season.
- "It's pretty clear now what we have to do, so there's a positive," Olsen said. "If you think three games is a positive, but why not? We're going home, were playing teams that are certainly beatable and it's a big task but it's one we can certainly do, [but] not if we give up goals in the first minute of each half."
- After having played for Canada the night before at BMO Field in Toronto, Dwayne De Rosario was kept out of the Vancouver match.
- "Dwayne is a big part of what we are doing, but he played 90 minutes [Tuesday] night. I wasn't about to fly him across the country to risk any injury with him," Olsen said. "Would I have liked to seen him out there? Of course ... Dwayne has played a lot of soccer this year. When some have had breaks, he has gone off to international duty, so I want him fresh for next weekend and we are going to grind him out for our next three home games that's for sure."
- It was just the second time in league history that a team had conceded goals in the opening minute of each half, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The first time happened all the way back in the league's inaugural season, when United got goals from Steve Rammel (0:56) and Raul Diaz Arce (46) in a 3-1 win against New England, June 30, 1996.
- "You can't chase games in this league. It's very difficult to come from behind and to fall asleep 30 seconds into the game. It's tough to imagine, but we did it twice," said Josh Wolff. "We fought back and put in a big effort and we played well the other 80 minutes, so in that aspect we are somewhat pleased, but you can't put yourself down two on the road and expect to flip the tables."
The Chicago Fire had their unbeaten run put to end after four games, falling to a 2-1 defeat by FC Dallas on Wednesday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire have 37 points from 32 matches on the year, sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
- FC Dallas scored their first goal in more than a month in the 41st minute. A long throw-in from Ugo Ihemelu from the left touchline well inside his own half sailed over the head of Ricardo Villar. Jackson raced past a Fire defender to collect the ball and carry it into the area, sending a weakly-hit roller past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson inside the far post.
- The home side doubled their lead eight minutes into the second half. A Villar corner was headed goalward by Zach Loyd, hitting Daniel Cruz in the goalmouth. But he hit an acrobatic, overhead volley from the rebound off his chest, sending it just inside the right post.
- The Fire saw their hopes further dim in the 79th minute when Pavel Pardo was sent off by referee Michael Kennedy with a straight red card for a harsh challenge on Villar.
- The Fire were able to pull a goal back four minutes from time when Sebasti·n Grazzini curled a powerful right-footed shot into the top right corner from the left side of the penalty area.
- Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made four changes to the team that played to a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium. Dan Gargan came into the back four for Michael Videira, and Pavel Pardo, Patrick Nyarko and Sebastian Grazzini returned to the midfield for Daniel Paladini, Baggio Husidic and Corben Bone.
- CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan (Orr Barouch 77), Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares (Josip Mikulic 77) - Logan Pause (Daniel Paladini 56), Pavel Pardo (sent off 79), Patrick Nyarko - Sebastian Grazzini - Diego Chaves, Dominic Oduro.
- The Fire could already be eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs before kickoff, with a win or a tie by Houston on Friday night vs. Portland, or a win or a tie by New York vs. Kansas City on Saturday afternoon. Or, a tie or a loss vs. United will also end the season.
- "We need to regroup, go to D.C. and look for the win. We've been pushing pretty hard for the past couple of months and it got us pretty close to being in the position where we're fighting to make the playoffs," said left back Gonzalo Segares. "With the result [Wednesday], it's really tough to swallow but we have two more games to play and we need to go out there and gets wins."
- The Fire will have some reconstruction in their defensive lines for the United game, with both fullback Dan Gargan and center back Cory Gibbs, as well as holding midfielder Pavel Pardo, all suspended.
- "It's definitely a result of the frustration the team feels. A lot of them are when we had them on the corner and somehow we had to steal the play. We hardly had any chances and sometimes you have to stop those breakaways," said Segares. "Because so many guys got cards, it's definitely going to hurt us as a team, but we have other guys who can step into the starting lineup and help us in the last couple of games."
- After playing the full 90 minutes for Guatemala against Belize on Tuesday night, Marco Pappa was not available for the FC Dallas match.
- "Marco's a good player. I put Patrick in the middle. Once we won the ball, we wanted to be a bit more direct and get the ball to him, especially when he was on Zach Loyd's side, and get him to push forward. We wanted to find Diego in transition," said Klopas. "... The guys tried, but sometimes it's not there. In a long season you're going to have moments like this happen. It's unfortunate that it had to happen tonight when we needed the win."
- Dominic Oduro started the game paired up top with Diego Chaves, but at the half, he shifted to a wide right role. Eight of his 12 goals in league play have come since Oduro moved from a wing position to play as an out-and-out striker. Oduro started despite suffering from the ëflu in the days leading to the game.
- "It was really difficult for me to get behind the defense. They just dropped back the whole time, so we had to change tactics in the second half. I had to go play on the right and I think I was able to get to a few more balls on the right," Oduro said. "Technically, they did well the whole time by just sitting back to try and stop a run from behind and they did great with that."
- Said Klopas: "We made a change during the game when I felt Dominic could help. We had a hard time keeping up with Dallas' wing plays. When we gave up the second goal, we had to make changes. Because when you lose 2-0, 3-0 it doesn't matter, you have to push the game and try to get a result."
- Sebastian Grazzini made his first start since injuring a hamstring on Sept. 25 vs. New England, completely missing the league games in Houston and Real Salt Lake and playing just five minutes in the U.S. Open Cup Final.