Chicago vies for 1 more win before 2-week break
Between the road record and the mini-defensive roster that's available, this Chicago Fire team seems to step up in the most dire circumstances.
They face a difficult Eastern Conference test on Saturday when they host long-time rival D.C. United for a 7:30 p.m. match at Toyota Park (game televised on Fox Soccer Channel).
Defender Dasan Robinson, who scored the game-winning goal during Chicago's recent 3-2, come-from-behind win over the Colorado Rapids, has to sit this one out. He picked up his second yellow card for taking off his shirt in celebration of the game-winning goal against Colorado.
The back line has had some variations to it for many weeks now. It appears that the Fire (10-5-8, 38 points) will try to get center defensive back Wilman Conde in the lineup again. He has had hamstring issues for most of the season.
Mike Banner (pictured above) had a huge role in Chicago's win against the Rapids, supplying the game-tying goal and also playing some defense at left back. His versatile efforts have been necessary as the Fire are stretched thin on the back line.
D.C. (6-5-11, 29 points) has been hot and cold this season - frigid when it comes to its road performance (1-5-6). The offense has also come up blank of late, and if United loses Saturday, the team would post a winless MLS slate in August. The only victory so far is a non-MLS win in PKs over C.D. Luis Angel Firpo on Aug. 4 in CONCACAF Champions League play.
The Fire do welcome back midfielder John Thorrington, who missed the Rapids match, serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation.
Past records mean little in this long rivalry, and both East squads know the importance of this game. D.C. has a bit more at stake, trying to make its way back into the playoff picture. The Fire want to maintain their stance with a top-two playoff spot. The Fire are 1 point behind East-leading Columbus, which has played one fewer game than Chicago and takes on MLS's cellar dwellers, the New York Red Bulls, this Sunday.
Though a bit battered, the Fire clearly showed through last week's comeback that they can make up for the long trail of injuries and setbacks. Fire 1, D.C. United 0