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D.C. United versus Chicago Fire preview: Behind Enemy Lines with Chicago blog Hot Time in Old Town

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D.C. United takes on the Chicago Fire tonight, and Sean Spence has all the answers you want.

Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

To preview tonight's game between D.C. United and the Chicago Fire, we talked to Sean Spence of Hot Time in Old Town to get the lowdown on all things Fiyur, fiyur, fiyur fiyuuuuuur.... To see my answers to his questions, head on over to Hot Time in Old Town.

B&RU: Mike Magee is finally coming back from injury, with a loan appearance in St. Louis under his belt. What will his return to Chicago mean and will it come on Wednesday?

HTiOT: In the long run, Magee's return can only mean good things for a Fire team that has created chances in bulk but seen few finished. Barring some unforeseen offensive collapse, Magee's clever runs and dead-eyed finishing should fit seamlessly into the attack. Put it this way: Sub out the Igboananike/Amarikwa/do Prado three-headed monster for MVP-quality Magee, and the Fire are right there with your might United in the table - except we're the rock-and-roll version, scoring 3 and giving up one.

A pleasant fantasy, but reality can be a great deal different - even top athletes need time to acclimate to the pace of the game again, to get to the point that their bodies are doing the amazing things their minds are imagining. And Magee's 30, coming off of a 9-month layoff from surgery to a major mobility joint. Don't be surprised if 'Magic Mike' takes a while to find his way.

That said, I wouldn't entirely preclude an appearance Wednesday. Sixty minutes for St. Louis, his first game action since August, likely rules him out, though. A more likely scenario is a cameo against Ricky Kaka and the rest of Orlando's purple pirates on Saturday.

B&RU: After a horrid start, the Fire have quietly climbed into the last playoff spot. What do they need to do to stay in the playoffs?

HTiOT: Besides 'avoid rashes of injuries' - always a necessity for success - Chicago need to stay the course, both in terms of the gameday 18 and the basic tactical framework. The Fire's underlying numbers are good - they're keeping the ball, they're creating chances, and they're forcing opponents to settle for glimpses of goal. Matt Polster's emergence has improved the midfield depth from 'good' to 'wow, ok, who can we trade?'. It's all trending upward, frankly. This is a playoff team if they just continue to hone what they do well and limit those phases at which they're poor.

That said, stability is a fool's bet. All it takes is a serious injury or a personality conflict - like, say, David Accam sparkles for Ghana over the next two weeks, and arrives back in the windy city with promises of a $10 million bid from Leicester City. Or Maloney returns from Scotland duty with a hamstring that never quite heals. Or Larentowicz blows a knee. Or Joevin Jones is caught, I dunno, streaking through Hyde Park. This is a roster that's got some depth in certain areas, but absolutely needs its best parts to truly sparkle.

B&RU: The Fire have traditionally been a team that prioritized the US Open Cup; is that or the playoffs a bigger focus this year?

HTiOT: I'd hate to see the Men in Red de-emphasize the Open Cup. Hate. It. The USOC is a frickin' beeline to a trophy - what is it? Four, five wins to glory? It's part of the Fire's DNA to strive for that trophy, all the way back to our beginning.

That said, I could see this group - who've not stood on tradition, surely - giving the Open Cup over to the second group, at least in the early stages. Fixture congestion is going to hurt - and hurt worse because we agreed to let New England move our MLS match - and that decision could be defended as pragmatic, if not inspirational.

B&RU: Lineup/prediction?

HTiOT: Fire lineup: (4-4-1-1) Jon Busch; Joevin Jones, Adaílton, Jeff Larentowicz (c), Lovel Palmer; Greg Cochrane, Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens; Harrison Shipp; Kennedy Igboananike

1-1 draw