preview: D.C. United vs Chicago Fire image

Preview: D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire

Fresh off its U.S. Open Cup triumph, D.C. United returns home to face the Chicago Fire (8:00 p.m. ET / NBC Sports Network). After defeating Real Salt Lake for the organization’s 13th major title, United will look to end its season on an equally high note against several Eastern Conference playoff contenders. That includes Chicago, who currently sits two points out of the conference’s final post-season spot and will consider tonight’s game a must-win.

The eighth-place Fire has endured an up-and-down season, including a record of 4-3-3 in its last ten matches. Last weekend, Chicago played to a 2-2 draw against Montreal after the Impact’s Maxim Tissot netted an equalizer in the closing minutes. Despite Mike Magee’s 17th and 18th goals of the campaign—and a dominant team performance on the night—the hosts struggled to close out the Canadian side when it mattered most.

Now, the Fire will need offensive stars Magee and Joel Lindpere to lead the side against D.C., whom Chicago has already met three times this season. On June 2, the Fire topped United 2-0 behind a strike from Magee and an own goal by Nick DeLeon. Over a month later, Chicago picked up another victory against United, routing D.C. 4-1 with a brace from Chris Rolfe and additional goals by Magee and Lindpere. Luis Silva provided the visitors’ lone highlight with a beautiful strike from distance—his first goal for the Black-and-Red.

However, DCU exacted a measure of revenge in its Aug. 7 Open Cup semifinal, defeating the Fire 2-0 thanks to goals from Dwayne De Rosario and DeLeon. Overall, United had also enjoyed an advantage over Chicago before this season’s two defeats—the Black-and-Red is now 17-17-11 all-time against the Men in Red.

With just four games left in the 2013 campaign, D.C. will have one eye on next season as it navigates its remaining fixtures. Head Coach Ben Olsen has a full-strength squad at his disposal, but there's a good chance he'll utilize several of the team’s younger talents in the coming weeks.

Still, the excitement of the franchise’s third Open Cup title should carry the team through its final matches. After Tuesday’s triumph, Olsen spoke on the importance of sticking together and bringing home the cup.

“It’s tough to stay together but they did that—the fans didn’t turn us off, and the organization supported us. And now we’ve found a way to get something positive out of a really tough season.”

In addition, goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who finished with four saves on the night, addressed the team’s developing confidence.

“Now we know, we have that belief, we have that faith in ourselves that we can go and get a result anywhere we want. As long as we believe and come with that mentality, we can do it.”

Welcome your Open Cup-winning side back to RFK Stadium. Buy your tickets here