Fire-D.C. United Preview
D.C. United already clinched a playoff spot but is still trying to climb its way up a crowded Eastern Conference. The Chicago Fire are just hoping to graduate up to one lonely road win.
While United looks to improve its playoff positioning, the last-place Fire will try to end their woes away from home on Sunday at RFK Stadium.
D.C. (14-12-6) secured a spot in the postseason with a 2-1 win over New York City FC on Oct. 2, ending an 0-5-1 skid. After a two-week international break, United will set its sights on rising up the ladder of a crowded East.
Six points separate the conference’s Nos. 2-7 spots, and United still has a shot at grabbing the second seed and avoiding the postseason’s knockout round.
"Making the playoffs … was our goal at the beginning of the season, and it’s nice to reach goals," coach Ben Olsen told the team’s official website. "Now we’ll have new goals, one of them is in the short term to continue to rev things up."
The postseason-clinching win over NYCFC was a good start. United’s two goals were as many as it scored in its previous five games, and the multigoal effort was its first in eight games.
D.C. next faces a Chicago team it has beaten in three straight meetings. Jairo Arrieta scored two goals and Conor Doyle added another in a 3-1 win on June 3, while Doyle scored the game’s only goal of a June 24 victory.
Even if his team can’t track down a higher playoff seed, Olsen said his team needs to be in top form going into the playoffs.
"We have two more games left to get that going," midfielder Chris Pontius told D.C.’s official website.
Chicago (8-18-6) has one final chance to snap the third-longest road winless streak in MLS history. The Fire are 0-17-7 away from home since July 12, 2014, including a 0-11-5 mark this season. Sunday is the Fire’s final chance to avoid becoming the seventh team in league history to finish winless on the road.
"They’re fighting for spots in the playoffs and we’re fighting for pride," forward Patrick Nyarko told the team’s official website.
Chicago, which snapped a five-match losing skid with a 3-1 win over New England on Oct. 3, has scored 12 goals in its last six road contests. The problem, though, falls with its defense, which has surrendered 16.
The Fire will try to string two wins together for the first time since winning three in a row from March 29-April 24. What won’t help is the iffy status of forward Gilberto, who injured his foot late in the win over the Revolution. He was held out of training on Thursday.
Gilberto, considered day to day by Olsen, has four goals and two assists in eight games since the Fire claimed him off waivers in July.