preview: d.c. united at Chicago fire

Preview: D.C. United at Chicago Fire

D.C. United travels to the Midwest for tonight’s game against the Chicago Fire (8:30 p.m. ET, Comcast SportsNet). After falling to Chicago 2-0 earlier this season, United will look for a measure of revenge against a Fire side that’s dropped its last two League games. The Black-and-Red has an all-time record of 17-15-11 against the Fire, and more recently, D.C. has gone 1-2-2 since 2011—including last season’s emphatic 4-2 win at RFK Stadium.

Despite its current standing of eighth in the Eastern Conference, Chicago is still within striking distance of a playoff spot. The Fire has gone 4-2-2 in its last eight games and put together a six-game unbeaten run before falling to Sporting Kansas City on July 7. Most recently, Chicago was defeated by Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-1 on July 14, with Patrick Nyarko grabbing a consolation goal for the Fire. While Nyarko’s strike pushed his season total to three, Chicago’s real danger man is forward Mike Magee, who has 11 goals on the season and currently sits joint-second in the MLS scoring charts. Magee has scored five times in seven games after being dealt to Chicago by the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 25.

United is coming off a two-week break from League action, during which it hosted Chivas de Guadalajara in an international friendly. A goal from Carlos Ruiz—off an assist from Homegrown starlet Michael Seaton—gave the Black-and-Red a 1-1 draw in a game that featured many of the club’s new signings, including Luis Silva, Jared Jeffrey and Collin Martin. Silva and Jeffrey will be available for tonight’s game while Seaton, Martin and Conor Shanosky will join the Richmond Kickers for a West Coast tour. Other additions to the squad are midfielder Kyle Porter, who returned from Canadian national team duty, and Nick DeLeon, who is nearing a full recovery from an ankle injury. D.C.’s last MLS action came in a 0-0 draw at the Colorado Rapids on July 7 as the United defense—led by goalkeeper Joe Willis—shut out the home side for a road point. With the draw, the Black-and-Red moved to 3-2-3 in its last eight competitive games.

Head coach Ben Olsen was pleased with his new players’ performances against C.D. Guadalajara and is looking forward to re-tooling United’s attack, especially with former Toronto FC man Luis Silva.

“[Luis] Silva was just who we thought he was. He’s a guy that thinks differently than many of our players. He’s technically sound and calm on the ball. I think he will help with our production in the offensive half. It was a friendly game, but you can see his qualities. Finding out where he plays, where Chris [Pontius] plays, where Nick DeLeon plays – finding out where all these guys play will be a challenge. But the good thing is we have a talented core group and we’re continuing to build it.”

Olsen also expressed his confidence in goalkeeper Joe Willis, who started D.C.’s last two League games as well as the friendly against C.D. Guadalajara.

“He made the saves he needed to make. He didn’t have a game like he did the other night [against the Colorado Rapids]. But, it was a very good steady game from him and that’s what we expect.”

With first-choice goalkeeper Bill Hamid and the U.S. Men’s National Team reaching the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Willis has made the most of his starting role by posting nine saves in two League games and leading United to a point at Colorado. Interestingly, the Fire will also be without starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson—another member of the U.S. Gold Cup squad—and will rely on Paolo Tornaghi, who’s conceded five goals in Chicago’s last two games.

D.C. returns home on Saturday, July 27 for a game against the New England Revolution, a side that United is already 1-1-0 against this season. PURCHASE TICKETS.