D.C. United plays the Chicago Fire only twice this year. And although it feels like we JUST played a game (we did), that match against the Fire is tomorrow night. To prepare, we exchanged three questions with our friends from Hot Time In Old Town, the Chicago Fire blog on SB Nation.
B&RU: The Fire have plenty of attacking options, with various sets of skills. Who should we expect to see starting on Wednesday night?
HTIOT: DC could see a couple of looks from the Fire. Newly acquired Sherjill MacDonald has looked very good so far. He got his first start last Saturday against the Revs, as he is getting close to being fully fit. However, with a short turnaround of only 3 days, I am not sure that Frank will tab him for a start. If he does start, he is a dangerous target forward who knows how to hold the ball up and work with his back to goal. He has been on the verge of a breakout the past couple of games, and netted his first MLS goal against the Revs. Many Fire fans are thinking he is due for a 2 goal, standout performance and judging by his recent play, I am of that line of thinking myself.
If Sherjill doesn't start, I would expect to see Dominic Oduro up top. You are probably much more familiar with him. Additionally, Chris Rolfe has been on a tear as of late, and is just as dangerous in terms of threat to score as any player in Fire red. The Fire now have a multi-pronged attack that makes the team much harder to gameplan for than when it was just Oduro and nobody else.
And, although he is not known for scoring, Patrick Nyarko has been phenomenal lately and has been able to come off the bench and get some rest now that we have midfield reinforcements. Patrick desperately needed the rest, and that means nightmares for opposing teams when his fresh legs enter the pitch. To put it simply, he has been giving opposing teams fits lately.
Chicago has to be seen as one of the winners of the transfer window. Which of the Fire's midseason acquisitions has been most impressive?
The aforementioned Sherjill MacDonald definitely needs to be at the top of this conversation. He has been a breath of fresh air and really has the fans on his side. He is the type of striker that we have not had in a long, long time. If he keeps up his progression in MLS he could develop into a deadly striker. The other big acquisition has been Alvaro "Flaco" Fernandez. He has played well so far, but I expect as he gets settled into the offense he will be yet another quality piece in our midfield of Flaco, Alex, Pappa, Nyarko, and Pardo.
Although most teams would list additions as being the most impactful, the Fire shipping out the bust that was Rafael Robayo also had a big effect. He didn't truly want to play for the team and the sooner he left, the better. He has gone back to the team he came from, Millonarios, and I think both parties learned a lesson to say the least.
Chicago is coming off three straight wins, all over Eastern Conference opponents, and all with at least two goals scored. Will those streaks continue on Wednesday night?
I am confident of the Fire getting the win on Wednesday. Although our recent wins have come over some of the lower Eastern conference teams, the recipe is there for success. Our new additions are really starting to contribute. Our defense has been very good recently and Sean Johnson is in a groove. Additionally, DCU will be missing Branko Boskovic and Emiliano Dudar after the wild fiasco to close out the Union game. While playing in RFK is always tough, I think the Fire have a little too much firepower in this matchup. I am going to predict a 1-0 Fire win.
If you'd like to read my answer's to HTIOT's questions, just keep on reading.
HTIOT: What's at the heart of the tension that spilled out publicly this past weekend and could those paying attention to the team see it coming? (via Ben Burton)
So we have a team that's coached and constructed by Ben Olsen, and we have players wearing their emotions on their sleeves and reacting dramatically, and people are surprised by this? Olsen played with bite, and his players do too. And he's putting a lot of pressure on these guys right now. The Philadelphia Union match on Sunday was the first of five matches in just 14 days for United. This is the most important stretch of the season, and they know it.
By all accounts, the D.C. United locker room is very tight. The players seem to legitimately like each other, but just like any other family, they have disagreements sometimes. The tightness of the locker room may have been compromised a bit earlier in the week when a popular player in Danny Cruz was traded away, and Lionard Pajoy was thrust immediately into the starting lineup ahead. That's enough to shake up a group. But I don't expect that tension to carry over into the match Wednesday night. If anything, United is going to play angry and aggressive.
What's the status on building a new stadium? And realistically, what's the timeline supporters have seen? (via Rudy Gomez)
The optimist says that the team is farther along than its ever been. The pessimist says that they're still nowhere. Both are correct. Because with the introduction of new investors in the D.C. United organization, we suddenly have something that we've never had before: MONEY! There are still plenty of road blocks in the way, plenty of red tape to cut down in the District. But United now has an experienced ownership team with the political fortitude and the financial means to get something done. The timeline is still unknown. If I had to guess, I'd say roughly 2015 for a stadium opening. But at least the goal is now finally realistically in sight.
How big of a loss do you think Boskovic and Dudar will be for this game? (via Ryan Sealock)
When you consider that Branko Boskovic and Emiliano Dudar were probably the best players on the field for United on Sunday night, I'd say it's a pretty big loss. But it's not an unprecedented loss. Both players have missed time during the season, so United is prepared to cope without them. In the back, Dejan Jakovic will move back to the middle next to Brandon McDonald in Dudar's usual position. Boskovic's absence just means that Dwayne De Rosario will need to stay in the midfield full time rather than moonlighting as a forward.