Alecko Eskandarian and D.C. United host Kelly Gray and the Fire this weekend.
Allen Kee/MLS/

Fire, United set to square off

I hadn't played in 2 1/2 weeks but it felt like 2 1/2 years," Eskandarian said. "I have a role on this team, and anytime I can put some goals away, that's my job."

  • Moreno was credited with assists on all three goals, something he had done twice before - in a space of a week (three games) late in the 1999 season, hitting for three against Miami on Aug. 25, then getting three on Sept. 4 v Dallas (both at RFK Stadium).
  • "That's why Jaime is Jaime," Olsen said. "I thought we didn't get Jaime the ball enough in dangerous spots at times. We can always do that. That's the luxury of having Jaime."
  • The Dallas game started a run of four of United's final six games at home - something which should bode well for playoff survival. United have 22 points at home from 12 matches (mid-table), but their eight points from 13 away matches rank bottom of the league.
  • "We had three away games and got two ties [in addition to a home tie with New England], so it's not the end of the world," Olsen said. "Now we have our home stretch. It's just important we do the job here at home like we've done for the most part this year."

    The Chicago Fire have had a weekend off since the 3-1 victory against D.C. United at Soldier Field in the first half of this home-and-home series, though United has played in between. With United's win last weekend, the Fire fell back into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, now on 29 points from 25 matches, one behind D.C. but five ahead of last-place New England Revolution.

  • Fire coach Dave Sarachan made wholesale changes to the team that defeated the Kansas City Wizards 3-1 three days earlier at home, mostly due to international duty.
  • Henry Ring returned to goal in place of D.J. Countess, while Denny Clanton came back in for Evan Whitfield in the back four. With Andy Williams and Damani Ralph with the Jamaican national team, Scott Buete came in on the right side of midfield, while Sumed Ibrahim made his first MLS start, partnering Nate Jaqua in attack.
  • "It was about the guys who were here today," Sarachan said. "We were a real team tonight. This showed me that this is a group that competes. It doesn't matter who's on the field."
  • The Fire's two victories in four days came after a 13-match stretch in league play where Chicago had won just once. "During that stretch, we had some breaks that went against us, and our mistakes hurt us,'' said Sarachan. "But through it all we felt we were playing pretty well."
  • Last week, the Fire re-signed goalkeeper Zach Thornton, who left following last year's MLS Cup Final campaign to move to Portugal, where he had an unsuccessful stint with Benfica. Thornton was the club record holder in appearances and games started until just a few weeks ago, when he was passed by Jesse Marsch and C.J. Brown respectively.
  • To make room for Thornton, the club released rookie Sumed Ibrahim, just days after he made his first MLS start against D.C. United.
  • This week, the Fire were hit with a huge blow as Justin Mapp will be sidelined for likely the remainder of the regular season with a sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.
  • "Friday in practice during a scrimmage, Nate (Jaqua) and I were going for a ball, my foot was planted, and somehow he came down with his cleats on my shin and I kind of hyperextended my knee," Mapp said. "From there, I went out and my knee swelled up pretty badly. It's better than it was, the first couple of days I couldn't walk around on it too much. The range of motion still isn't that good."
  • "Justin was really like another forward for us,'' Sarachan said. "We have a number of forwards to choose from. But as a true left-side, left-flank guy, I don't know. (Mapp) had kind of a free role the last few games. We hope our other attacking options can fill in for him."
  • The Fire will be able to count upon new signing Andy Herron, who had his transfer finalized. The Costa Rica international came from Club Sport Herediano, where he led the Primera Division with 12 goals in the Clausura last year, leading the club to the title. Herron has four goals in 12 appearances with Costa Rica, scoring both goals in their 5-2 victory against Honduras in the opening match of the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

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