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Friday Night Open Thread: Sporting Kansas City & Chicago Fire kick off the weekend

Friday night's nationally televised tilt between the Sporks and the Fire has major implications for D.C. United and the rest of the MLS Eastern Conference. Recognizing this, Black & Red United set up an open thread to discuss the game as it happens.

Ed Zurga - Getty Images

It's the time of year when scoreboard-watching becomes a nasty habit for fans of any of MLS' playoff hopefuls, D.C. United's diehards obviously included. NBC Sports Network is banking on that tonight as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference get together in Kansas City with barbecue and blues CDs first place on the line. Well, I'll be tuned into the dulcet tones mildly confused baritone of Arlo White JP Dellacamera tonight, and I'll be right here commenting as it happens.

What Are You Drinking?: First things first. I've got a nice big bottle of Fat Tire for this one. I could try to come up with some connection between the roasted malts and the Fire or the vague sweetness and Kansas City barbeque, but mostly it's just a damn good beer.

Tactical Preview: Both sides are high-pressing teams at this point in the season - the Sporks have been so for the last two years, but Chicago has adopted the tactic recently, and their ascent up the table shows it's been working for them. This actually presents Frank Klobas with a big decision, as it is diametrically opposite the tactics Chicago used back in June to steal 3 points from a much superior Kansas City side.

It will be interesting to see how Chicago lines up and whether they come out with high pressure or revert back to the counter-attacking style that worked (if only just) in their last visit to LIVESTRONG ALLCAPS Park. If they do come out pressing, it will figure to be a hectic affair and could easily be determined by a bad turnover by either side deep in their own territory. If not, expect the field to be tilted solidly toward Sean Johnson's net. Either way, Graham Zusi figures to be the key man tonight, whether he runs out in the center of midfield or lines up on the right wing, where he will find more space and time on the ball and will look to send in bunches of crosses toward KC's big forwards.

Prediction: Either way, I expect the Sporks to thwart Chicago's bid for a season sweep and win tonight, 2-1. Late September Sean Johnson isn't the same guy that kept wave after wave of Spork attacks out of his net in June, and I don't think he'll be able to keep the clean sheet with guys like Zusi, Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong coming at him. At the same time, Chris Rolfe is playing his own game, and I'm not going to bet against him scoring or creating a goal tonight.

Should be fun - I hope you'll join me.