D.C. United, Fire clash has notable absences (Sep 16, 2017)

Saturday’s D.C. United at Chicago Fire game may be as notable for who’s not there as to the make-up of each side’s starting 11.

A groin injury has sidelined United’s Taylor Kemp possibly for the season and with the prospect of surgery needed to fix it.

“You get to that point where you can’t recover and it’s now not allowing you to play at the level you need to play,” United coach Ben Olsen told reporters this week. “In some ways, it’s good timing because he’ll have the proper time to recover and compete in (the 2018) preseason.”

Others likely out include midfielder Patrick Nyarko (concussion symptoms), who has not played since late July. Sean Franklin will serve a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation.

Playoff prospects for last place United (8-16-4, 28 points) are all but extinguished but they still could cause fits for a Fire team (13-9-6, 45 points) currently in third place in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago is solidly in the mix for a postseason spot, although realistically out of the running conference’s top two spots.

The longtime MLS rivals meet a 7:30 p.m. CT at Toyota Park for the 57th time over 20 seasons. United holds a 22-19 advantage with 15 ties.

Chicago will be without forward/midfielder Michael de Leeuw, out for the game also due to yellow card accumulation. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger may also be sidelined again after he missed the last game with a calf injury,

The Fire are steadily moving toward a playoff berth after a win over Montreal and last week’s 1-1 tie with the New York Red Bulls which earned a point.

“One point in this game means a lot, it can be decisive for the playoffs,” said Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic. “We played against one of the great teams in the league with huge experience, huge resources, great team on the field. They pushed hard and we played hard. That’s what it is and that is what it’s going to take from here on out.”

Saturday’s game is the second and final regular season meeting. The Fire beat United 1-0 at RFK Stadium on May 20.

United saw a run of 315 minutes without conceding a goal, the sixth-longest stretch in team history, end with Orlando City’s first score in the Lions’ 2-1 win at RFK Stadium last Saturday.

Chicago travels to Philadelphia next Saturday while DC United hosts San Jose.