Dynamo-Fire Preview

The Chicago Fire’s recent struggles cost them a chance at a top

seed in the MLS Cup playoffs, and set up a one-game elimination

contest with one of last year’s finalists.

The Fire will try to shake out of their funk as they host the

rested Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference wild-card game

Wednesday night.

Chicago (17-11-6) concluded the regular season with a 1-3-1

stretch after winning seven of the previous eight to move into

serious contention for first place in the East.

The Fire continued to pay the price for their late-season swoon

Saturday, tying D.C. 1-1 when a win would have moved them into

second. Instead, they dropped into fourth and the wild-card

contest.

“The goal from the beginning was to be in the playoffs and we

are. Did we want to finish second? Yes, we did,” coach Frank Klopas

said. “I want a week to prepare for sure, it would be a lot better

than a quick turnaround like this.

“The good thing is that we are at home and don’t have to

travel.”

Chicago is 11-3-3 at home this year, beating Houston 3-1 there

Sept. 2.

While the Dynamo (14-9-11) have been part of five of the last

six postseasons, the Fire are ending a two-year playoff absence and

have only four players that have represented the club in the

postseason.

“The main things we focus on and what I try to talk to the young

guys about is everything is magnified,” captain Logan Pause told

the team’s official website. “The details are that much more

important. Every play, every tackle, every shot – things just

tighten up. In this situation especially, it’s one game where

you’re moving on or you’re done.”

Chicago will look to leading scorer Chris Rolfe (eight goals)

for production, and it went 5-0-1 when he found the back of the

net. But Rolfe has failed to score in five straight games, and

didn’t even muster a shot against United.

Rolfe has two goals in eight career meetings with Houston, and

none in two matchups this year.

The Dynamo, who lost last year’s MLS Cup final to Los Angeles,

already knew their playoff fate before falling 2-0 to Colorado on

Saturday. That allowed coach Dominic Kinnear to rest a number of

starters.

“We were a little disappointed in how we performed, but we’ve

got a big game on Wednesday, so that’s our focus right now,”

Kinnear told the team’s official website. “We’re just going to need

to stay positive. We had a good season so I’m just looking forward

to Wednesday.”

Forward Will Bruin and midfielder Brad Davis should be back

against Chicago. Bruin led Houston with 12 goals, and Davis was

second with eight while setting up 12 others.

They’ve both struggled against the Fire, though. Davis has three

assists in 16 meetings, while Bruin has managed one goal in four

matchups with Houston going 0-1-3.

The winner of this game will host East champion Kansas City on

Sunday in the opener of the two-legged conference semifinal

series.