This weekend marks the first of two trips to the Midway in the next few weeks for D.C. United. With both teams either on the fringes or well out of the playoff race, this weekend's league tilt against the Chicago Fire could hold the most value as a preview of the U.S. Open Cup semifinal, which will be held in Chicago on Aug. 7. Nevertheless, this game stands in its own right, and so we swapped a few questions with Hot Time in Old Town, SB Nation's Chicago Fire blog. Our questions for them are first, and our answers to their questions are further down.
Questions for HTiOT
1. Exactly how many of your lucky stars were you counting when you heard that the Fire had traded the ghost of Robbie Rogers to LA for the fully corporeal Mike Magee? When is the last time the Chicago front office pulled off a coup like turning Dominic Oduro (sent to the Crew for Rogers' rights and Dilly Duka) into a talented young winger and a frontrunner in the MVP race?
The trade was certainly a boon for the Men in Red. Rogers turned into Magee, and Duka has really started to get it going lately. The Fire needed a lift, and it arrived in the form of Magee. He took a team that had no logical direction, and turned it into a side that has pride now.
The FO hit a home run on this transaction. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for all transactions. Credit must be given where due, but a move like this has been the exception rather than the rule.
2. The Fire made some pretty substantial additions to their midfield in the offseason, acquiring Jeff Larentowicz from Colorado and Joel Lindpere from Jersey. Halfway through the season, how have those roster moves worked out?
Lindpere has been a bomb, plain and simple. It's quite clear to me now that NYRB knew what they were doing when they unloaded him. Joel is just not the same player he was even 2 years ago. The Fire took a chance, but at this point in time it's clear that Lindpere is nearing the end of his career. The Fire feature a robust midfield, which means that Joel is the odd man out of the picture.
In terms of Larentowicz, he has done a pretty decent job so far this season. Logan Pause has been injured, so it's worked out quite well actually to have him on the roster to slot in at the DM position. He has even been a danger on set pieces, which is an area that is sorely lacking in Fire country, and has been the past few seasons. Overall, I would rate the Larentowicz transaction so far as a solid one.
3. Like United, the Fire were tabbed by some to compete in the Eastern Conference this year, and like United, the Fire haven't really delivered. With the month-long secondary international transfer window now open, are you expecting any influx of talent to help the Fire with either a playoff push or the quest for the U.S. Open Cup?
Most Fire fans are expecting some help. Some rumors surfaced today that the Fire have an imminent DP heading this way. It looks like he will be a younger player (mid 20's), but as always with something like this, only time will tell. Hopefully the incoming player will pay great dividends. The Fire also need some back line help, and hopefully that will roll in this window as well.
Projected Lineup: Tornaghi, Anibaba, Soumare, Berry, Segares, Larentowicz, Duka, Alex, Nyarko, Rolfe, Magee
Prediction: I will go with a 1-1 draw. While I would love to pick a Fire win, reality shows that the defense just can't get it done right now.
Questions for B&RU
1. So I know that Ben Olsen is a D.C. United hero. But if DC's form continues for the rest of the season will he be removed as head coach? (via Adam Merges)
He very well might. Right now the fanbase is actually split between those who want Olsen out now, and those who are fine with him going or staying so long as General Manager Dave Kasper is given his walking papers. Personally, I fal into the latter category, as I think this team's failings are more based on the player personnel side than the coaching/tactics side, but I don't think there's really anybody - Olsen included - who could seriously object if he were replaced after the year he's had.
2. DCU currently sits in 10th place in the East, and the Chicago Fire 8th. The Fire and DCU meet again on August 7th for the USOC semi finals. With both clubs on the outside looking in in MLS action do you see this match as a practice match for the main event in August? Should we expect to see a different approach by DCU Saturday than we will on in a couple of Wednesdays? (via Anthony Seymour)
At this point, United can't really afford to treat anything as a practice match, but not for the usual reasons. Ben Olsen has done a fantastic job keeping the players' loyalty, and by all accounts, he hasn't lost the locker room, but Job One for the rest of this year - even ahead of winning the Open Cup, has to be a refusal to allow the team culture to value anything short of winning. The players and staff have to know that this year hasn't been good enough for supporters and that results have to change. Even worse than this year's bad form, though, would be for a Toronto FC- or Chivas USA-esque cloud to descend over RFK Stadium and for players to expect incompetence and not to fight for playing time and results. For that reason, I expect Olsen to put out a strong XI for both matches in Chicago over the coming weeks.
3. What has been the biggest reason for DCU's fall down the table compared to 2012? (via Ryan Sealock)
As I alluded to in the first question, the biggest cause of the fall from grace this year is on the personnel side. Dave Kasper and Ben Olsen allowed several important pieces to depart - Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi foremost - and did not adequately replace them with starting-quality players. Instead, we brought in the likes of Rafael Teixeira de Souza (released this summer) and Marcos Sanchez (same) and expected moe from acquisitions from later in the 2012 season like Raphael Augusto (also released this summer). The grounding of the decision to avoid shaking up the roster too much wasn't baseless - RSL, the Galaxy and the Dynamo have shown that stability wins in this league - but the league is improving at such a rapid clip at this point that if your team isn't getting better during the offseason, it's getting worse. D.C. United failed to improve between 2012 and 2013, and so we see the decline. (Sure, the regression of players like Dejan Jakovic and Chris Korb hurt, and the implosion of the just-traded Brandon McDonald killed us, but that just made the fall worse.)
Projected Lineup: With Bill Hamid with the USMNT at the Gold Cup and both Nick DeLeon and Dwayne De Rosario just coming back from injury, I think we'll see something like a 4-2-3-1 of Joe Willis; Chris Korb, Ethan White, Daniel Woolard, Taylor Kemp; Perry Kitchen, John Thorrington; Kyle Porter, Luis Silva, Chris Pontius; Carlos Ruiz.
Prediction: Well, Mike Magee is going to score - of that we can be fairly confident. But with Ruiz finally finding the goal against Chivas de Guadalajara last week and with the creativity of the newly acquired Silva, I think we could see something good out of United's attacking four as well. I'll optimistically call for a scoring draw.
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Share your take on the Fire and give us your predictions for this weekend in the comments.
More from Black And Red United:
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- D.C. United acquires Conor Doyle, continues to get younger and American-er
- D.C. United Trades Brandon McDonald To Real Salt Lake
- Filibuster Podcast: Week 20 - Previewing D.C. United's trip to the Windy City
- D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire lineup: Back after a break