Preview: DC host Chicago with playoff implications on line

DC vs. CHI 8-21-12

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D.C. UNITED vs CHICAGO FIRE
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
August 22, 2012 (WEEK 25, MLS Game #235)
7:30 pm ET (CSN-MA; CSN-Chi)

D.C. United and the Chicago Fire meet in a massive match in the Eastern Conference playoff race when the clubs face off Wednesday evening at RFK Stadium. The clubs are separated now by four points in the East, the Fire holding the edge and third place in the standings, ahead of fifth-place United. The Fire have won three games in a row to move ahead, coming off a 2-1 home win at the weekend vs. New England, while United are coming off a contentious 1-1 home draw with Philadelphia Union that snapped their seven-game RFK Stadium winning streak.

REFEREE: Ismail Elfath. AR1 (bench): Craig Lowry; AR2 (opposite): Jeff Muschik; 4th: Jorge Luna Hernandez
MLS Career: 4 games; FC/gm: 23.0; Y/gm: 2.0; R: 4; pens: 3

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE HERE (PDF)

INJURY REPORT:

  • D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Lance Rozeboom (L knee ACL tear); DF Robbie Russell (L plantar fasciitis); DF Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms); DOUBTFUL: FW Maicon Santos (R toe soreness); PROBABLE: FW Dwayne De Rosario (L shoulder soreness)
  • CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Logan Pause (L pneumothorax)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: DC: Branko Boskovic (through Aug. 22); Emiliano Dudar (through Aug. 22)
WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CHI: Dan Gargan
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC: Maicon Santos, Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Najar, Dejan Jakovic, Lionard Pajoy … CHI: Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro, Gonzalo Segares

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (41 meetings): United 16 wins, 57 goals … Fire 15 wins, 57 goals … Ties 10
AT RFK STADIUM (21 meetings): United 10 wins, 33 goals … Fire 7 wins, 27 goals … Ties 4
RETURN MATCH: 10/27: Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United, 3 p.m. CT (NBC SN)

LAST YEAR (MLS)
8/18: CHI 1, DC 1 (Grazzini 59 – Wolff 73)
10/15: DC 1, CHI 2 (De Rosario 90 – Grazzini 90; Chaves 90)
• D.C. United haven’t defeated the Chicago Fire since a 1-0 win at Toyota Park on Aug. 29, 2009. The Fire have won two of the four meetings since, with two draws.
• The Fire have won both of their last two visits to RFK Stadium, in each of the last two years. But the Fire haven’t defeated United at home since a 1-0 win in 2006. Since then, United have won three of their six trips to Toyota Park, with three draws.
• When the Fire came back for a 2-1 win last Oct. 15, it was the fifth time in MLS history a team had scored the game-tying and winning goals in second-half stoppage time – and it was the third time either D.C. or Chicago had been involved. United was on the winning end in a 3-2 win against the Fire, April 8, 2000, and also in a 4-2 win against New England on July 27, 2003.
• The first time a team scored the tying and winning goals in stoppage time also involved D.C. United and Chicago – April 8, 2000. The winning goalscorer that day? Current United head coach Ben Olsen.
• Coaches record: Ben Olsen vs. CHI: P3 W0 L1 D2 … Frank Klopas vs. DC: P2 W1 L0 D1

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United saw their seven-game home winning streak come to an end in dramatic circumstances, playing to a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia Union on Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium. United are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 37 points from 23 games.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: DC 1, PHI 1

• Union took a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. A free kick pinballed to Carlos Valdés, who fired a shot that was headed away by United’s Perry Kitchen, right to Brian Carroll, and he provided the final touch into the goal from right on the line.
• The home side tied the game in the 71st minute when Branko Boskovic’s free kick slid through a bevy of players, then nicked off Union defender Amobi Okugo’s head and by the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
• The game then exploded over the final minutes. After United Chris Pontius was tripped by Roger Torres in the box in the 87th minute to win a late penalty, the first attempt from Dwayne De Rosario beat MacMath to his right. But referee Mark Geiger ruled there was encroachment -- the scrum that followed saw Boskovic shown a red card -- and on the second try, De Rosario rocketed his shot high over the goal.
• The dramatics weren’t done. United defender Emiliano Dudar was handed a straight red three minutes later, while Union defender Sheanon Williams was also sent off with a second yellow in the dying seconds.
• United head coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that fell 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. Dejan Jakovic came into the back four for Mike Chabala, Dwayne De Rosario started in midfield Branko Boskovic, and Lionard Pajoy entered up top for Long Tan.
• D.C. UNITED (4-3-1-2): Bill Hamid - Dejan Jakovic (Hamdi Salihi 61), Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar (sent off 91+), Chris Korb - Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon - Dwayne De Rosario (Marcelo Saragosa 90) - Lionard Pajoy (Branko Boskovic 57, sent off 89), Chris Pontius.

TEAM NEWS
• While United’s long home winning streak came to an end, they still have not lost at RFK Stadium since the opening match of the season (a 1-0 loss by Sporting KC), now 11 games without defeat.
• “Once we realized we were on a playoff race, about 20 minutes in, we picked it up. We were still a bit unorganized in the back,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “ … I thought it was an inspiring second half from our guys and I was proud of them for that. We just have to understand that we have to play inspired the entire time.”
• After two games out of the starting lineup, Dejan Jakovic returned to the team, playing the full match at fullback with Brandon McDonald and Emiliano Dudar composing the central defense partnership.
• “It's a different fitness level to be out there and getting up and back, to do what we are asking him to do,” said Olsen. “I think he got a little tired in particular after the 90 [minutes] with Canada. But we got him out and we are going to need him for Wednesday.”
• After missing a match with a shoulder injury, Dwayne De Rosario returned to the lineup and played nearly the full match in the attacking midfield role.
• "He's been pretty good there. He's [second in] the league in assists and most of his assists came from when he was in that position. I think we needed a little more possession; I wanted to get the ball more,” said Olsen.
• Following four starts in five matches, Branko Boskovic came off the substitutes’ bench for the final half-hour, his free kick leading to the United goal.
• “I think Branko has been very good for us coming off the bench,” said Olsen. “That's when he's been at his best for the group. He changes the game, gives us a little bit of savvy as the game is a little bit slower and not as hectic. I thought it worked pretty well overall. Branko did his job and we should've won that game.”
• After he was acquired from Union just a couple of days before the match, Lionard Pajoy was given the start, playing 57 minutes alongside Chris Pontius in attack.
• "I thought he was good. It's always tough. You throw him into a new team and the ball comes to him and he doesn't know if DeRo's tendency is to go left or right. So there was a little bit of miscommunication at times,” said Olsen. “But I thought he did well. He runs well and his ability to get behind is going to help us. We just have to do a better job of finding him. His relationship with Chris [Pontius] or Dwayne [De Rosario] or whoever it is will get better."
• Said Pajoy: “I have become used to moving. It's part of the game. Now I am in D.C., I am happy, and focused on achieving what the coach wants from me…Throughout the years I have had to play against my former teams. Today I went through that experience again, and unfortunately I could not score.”

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire stretched their winning run to three games, defeating the New England Revolution 2-1 on Saturday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire are in a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with 41 points from 24 games.

LAST MATCH
• The Fire took the lead in the fifth minute. After Revolution defender A.J. Soares took Chris Rolfe down in the penalty area, the Fire striker took his own penalty, slotting it just past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Matt Reis.
• The Revolution equalized six minutes later, when Fernando Cárdenas was able to bundle the ball home after a scramble in the box after Saer Sene's cross from the left wing.

HIGHLIGHTS: CHI 2, NE 1

• But the home side re-took the lead for good in the 25th minute. Patrick Nyarko took a quick throw-in from Gonzalo Segares near the byeline and crossed to Sherjill MacDonald, who headed it down and past Reis for his first MLS goal.
• Fire head coach Frank Klopas made two changes to the team that posted a 3-1 win against Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park. Daniel Paladini came into the midfield for Logan Pause, and Patrick Nyarko started in midfield in place of Marco Pappa.
• CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares - Daniel Paladini, Pavel Pardo - Alvaro Fernandez (Michael Videira 79), Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko (Marco Pappa 75) - Sherjill MacDonald (Dominic Oduro 71).

TEAM NEWS
• The Fire have won three games on the trot, matching their longest winning streak of the season, also winning three in a row June 17-29. In both instances, all three wins have come against Eastern Conference opposition.
• “At the end of the night, I didn’t think that we were particularly good with the ball. We had a lot of turnovers and were sloppy with our passing,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “On the other hand, we created a lot of chances. Even though we were ahead in the stats in possession, we were not sharp. We need to finish our chances. It’s great that we’re creating, but we need to focus in the final third and put teams away.”
• Sherjill MacDonald scored his first MLS goal in his second consecutive start, after recording his first MLS assist the weekend before.

• “Physically, he’s very strong. He’s comfortable with his back to goal. His timing is very good. He can protect the ball. He also makes good runs down the channels. Now he needs to keep pushing himself in games to get fitter and sharper,” said Klopas.
• Chris Rolfe has scored four goals in the last four games, again hitting the scoresheet Saturday after scoring a brace the weekend before.
• “In the first couple weeks, he kept saying that he needed to get his feet under him. In three years, he had not played a lot…Having played consecutive games and getting back in game shape, now he seems to find the right spots. We know what he can do when he is in the right spots,” said Patrick Nyarko.

WATCH: Fire preview matchup with D.C.

• “They are both smart players. They look to combine,” Klopas said of the MacDonald-Rolfe pairing. “When you have combination play, we worked on diagonal runs the whole week. I thought at times it was on and we didn’t make those runs. The relationship is good. It’s easy to play when you have good players around you. It’s good but can always get better.”
• With Logan Pause sidelined for 4-6 weeks following his rib fracture and pneumothorax, Daniel Paladini made his first start since April 28 in a defensive midfield role alongside Pavel Pardo.
• Patrick Nyarko made his first start after coming off the substitutes’ bench in back-to-back matches, and contributed his third assist in the last four games.
• “I think the midfield is our strongest spot on the team. We have a lot of depth. Frank mentioned that we are going to try to do a rotation to keep everyone fresh…I was fresher coming into this game since I’ve played less minutes in the past couple weeks,” said Nyarko.
• Said Klopas: “Patrick’s got some issue with his back so that is why he came out. He pulled his back so we have to assess that. When he gets opportunities, I think he can be even more dangerous with finishing plays off. With his ability to take players one on one with his pace, he creates a lot. He’s very dangerous and has been a difference maker for us not only tonight, but throughout the season. He’s consistent.”
• Marco Pappa did not start after playing with Guatemala at midweek, coming on for the final 15 minutes in place of Nyarko. “Marco played a little bit longer than I wanted to with the national team. We were hoping for him to get 45 minutes. Now we feel good with the depth that we have,” said Klopas.
• Michael Videira made his second consecutive substitute appearance, his first two matches of the season. “Videira came in and did a very good job,” Klopas said.