D.C. United takes on a Chicago Fire team that has rounded into decent form after a bad start to the 2015 season. Both sides will be missing key attackers, and both teams are playing three times this week, so it might not be the most elegant match of soccer in recorded history. However, there are still three points on the table, and a win would put the Black-and-Red back on top of the Supporters Shield standings.
Key player: Perry Kitchen
There's good reason to believe that the Fire's defense can be had. Individually, they're not that strong, and they've also recently managed to concede twice against NYCFC. We should be comfortable expecting United to score a goal or two in this one.
The game likely hinges on whether United can make sure that Chicago's ability to generate chances - which has been very good of late - is not a major factor. Making sure that there's no space in the midfield or time on the ball for Chicago's players is a team job, to be sure, but no one will be more important on that front than Kitchen. He'll probably be seeing a lot of Harry Shipp, and if Shipp is kept under wraps United should be able to win tonight. If not, it might take another big outing from Bill Hamid to make it 20 games at home without a loss.
Key question: Is United going to be awake at kickoff?
In two straight games, the Black-and-Red have conceded a goal five minutes into the game. I probably don't have to remind you that soccer is a low-scoring game, and United will be without Chris Rolfe (and, in all likelihood, Luis Silva) tonight. And let's not forget that sitting in and defending is less taxing on the legs than chasing a game trying to overturn a deficit.
United is making it hard on themselves lately, and it's all about the early stages of the game. It's easy to just say "Uh, hey, don't give up goals early," but United needs to show that they're prepared at the opening kickoff. Ideally that means taking the game to Chicago from the first second of the match, but at the very least DCU needs to be ready to keep a zero at the back. Maybe it's time to bring back the daily use of the word "focus" around these parts.
Match date/time: Wednesday 6/3, 7:00pm
Venue: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
TV: CSN Washington (English), MLS Direct Kick (English, blacked out in DC region)
Online: MLS Live (English, blacked out in DC region)
Check back in two hours for our gamethread.