Fire-United Preview

If the Chicago Fire are to move into playoff position, they must
end their current road struggles by beating a D.C. United club
coming off its biggest triumph in a mostly miserable year.

The Fire look to end a four-match road winless stretch by
sweeping the league season series from lowly United on Friday
night.

Though Chicago (11-12-7) went 1-2-3 in September and sits eighth
in the Eastern Conference, a victory Friday would put the club one
point ahead of Philadelphia for the fifth and final playoff
spot.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve had many chances to climb up
the ladder but we haven’t been able to take advantage,” defender
Gonzalo Segares told the team’s official website.

“We’re still alive and we’re going to keep fighting until the
last game.”

The Fire have been outscored 8-2 during the current 0-3-1 road
skid, and three of their four remaining matches are away from
home.

However, their latest frustrating result came at home, settling
for a 2-2 draw with Montreal on Saturday after giving up a goal in
the 87th minute. Mike Magee’s two goals in a 16-minute span of the
second half had given Chicago a 2-1 lead.

“There’s not enough time to cry or feel bad for ourselves,” said
Magee, who has 12 goals in 18 league matches since Chicago acquired
him from Los Angeles on May 24.

“We have four games left and we’re going to make the
playoffs.”

Magee had a goal against United (3-21-6) in his Fire debut, a
2-0 home win June 2, and added another in a 4-1 home victory over
D.C. on July 20.

Despite that success against a United squad that has an MLS-low
15 points and is the only team without a league road win, Chicago
lost 2-0 at home to D.C. in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Aug.
7.

United’s silver lining to an otherwise dismal season came with
Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Real Salt Lake in the Cup final.

“We have that faith in ourselves that we can go and get a result
anywhere we want,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. “As long as you
believe, and continue that mentality, you can do it.”

D.C. totaled nine goals while going 4-0-1 in U.S. Open Cup play,
but has been outscored 16-7 during its current 0-6-2 league
slide.

“It’s not been (a) good enough (season) from top to bottom,”
midfielder Lewis Neal told United’s official website. “For some
reason we have seemed to play really well in all of the Cup
games.”

Though D.C. has scored six times during its current 1-0-2 home
stretch, it remains to be seen if regulars like Dwayne De Rosario,
Chris Pontius and John Thorrington will take the pitch with nothing
left to play for on the MLS schedule. Prior to the Cup final,
United dressed 16 players and rested most of their major
contributors during Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Toronto FC.

“I think you have to just assume they’re going to be confident
after winning the biggest game of the year,” Fire midfielder Jeff
Larentowicz said. “They have that taste for winning and feeling
good again. Teams realize to feel that way you have to win games
and they’ll probably want to do that again. That’s what our
assumption has to be going into Friday.”

De Rosario has three goals in his last four matches overall
versus Chicago, which hasn’t swept a season series from D.C. in
league play since winning both meetings in 2001.