United lead all-time regular-season series 16-13-8
What's at stake?
A long history of antagonism headlined by several highly charged postseason clashes means neither United nor the Fire are ever likely to give an inch when they meet, and both sides enter Saturday’s match in search of their first win in 2010. It might be a bit too early to use the word "desperation," but first-year head coaches Curt Onalfo and Carlos de los Cobos both need to quiet their doubters by extracting better performances from their squads as soon as possible.
2009 was a rough year for United, but a season sweep of the Fire offered some solace as the Black-and-Red took four points off the Men in Red at RFK before snatching a 1-0 win at Toyota Park on Aug. 29, as Illinois native Bryan Namoff provided the winner with a set-piece header on his homecoming. Namoff is one of four D.C. defenders who’ll be consigned to a spectator’s role on Saturday due to injury and/or suspension.
Dating back to their 2-0 upset win in MLS Cup 1998, the Fire have delighted in crushing United’s playoff dreams and one particular occasion, a 4-0 first-round defeat to Chicago at RFK on October 30, 2005, ranks among the most crushing setbacks in D.C. history. Few United fanatics will forget Fire defender C.J. Brown’s wolfish grin after his rough handling of Christian Gómez goaded the diminutive playmaker into spitting in Brown’s face to earn the red card that sealed Chicago’s stunning triumph.
Heroes & villains
Troy Perkins vs. Bryan McBride and Collins John: United’s defense is badly shorthanded, putting the newly returned goalkeeper in the spotlight -- and under the microscope, given the price of his reacquisition in the allocation draft. Even a sterling performance from fill-in center backs Julius James and Carey Talley probably won't prevent Chicago’s meaty strike duo from carving out scoring chances and Perkins may have to save the day.
Danny Allsopp vs. Wilman Conde: United’s big Australian showed flashes of quality in his first XI debut last week and he offers a physical dimension that has been scarce along the D.C. front line in recent years. The response from Chicago’s composed Colombian will be pivotal to his team’s prospects.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm...”
48,779 minutes: That’s the combined number of career MLS minutes -- almost 813 hours -- played by Brown and Jaime Moreno. The two old warhorses epitomize their respective clubs and will go head to head for long stretches on Saturday night.
He said it
“Maybe in America there are different rules, I don’t know ... I don’t think anybody else is going to go close to the ‘keeper right now.”
--United captain Jaime Moreno has a chuckle over the minor ruckus he caused by bamboozling Philadelphia goalkeeper Chris Seitz to score his team’s second goal last week. The game-tying play that was later ruled as illegitimate by U.S. Soccer Federation refereeing supervisors.