Less than three weeks after receiving the most lopsided loss of the season at RFK Stadium, the Chicago Fire have another chance against D.C. United.
The Fire lost 6-2 at United on Aug. 27, a scoreline which was partially fueled by a first half red card to Fire midfielder Khaly Thiam. On Friday, D.C. will make its second trip to Toyota Park.
The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Bridgeview on April 30. Former Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko scored the tying goal for D.C. (7-9-12, 33 points) in that match.
Coach Veljko Paunovic said the Fire (6-13-8, 26 points) are anxious to prove the blowout loss in D.C. was a fluke.
“I think the game we played in D.C., that wasn’t us,” Paunovic said. “I said that before and I think of course now it’s a great opportunity to prove what we say. Now we have the opportunity to show that was just the accident of the season and the overload of the situation and circumstances that we were in at that point.”
Paunovic mentioned forward Patrick Mullins in talking about D.C. Mullins scored a hat trick against the Fire last time out and will be a focus of the Fire this time around.
New signing David Arshakyan made his Fire debut off the bench in that loss at D.C. He also came on as a substitute in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Toronto. The Armenian forward could be in line for more time with Michael de Leeuw, who has scored in three straight matches, limited in training this week with an ankle injury. De Leeuw was listed as questionable on the injury report.
“We know… that (Arshakyan) will need to adjust to this league,” Paunovic said. “We know we can evaluate him through every training, every week and then give some opportunities in the game. We don’t want to overwhelm him, which means at this point of the season where the team has progressed so far I think he needs certain and the right amount of minutes and the load in the game and also in the week.”
The attack has improved with de Leeuw, Luis Solignac and now David Arshakyan giving Paunovic more options up front. However, last week’s loss to Toronto was one of the best midfield games of the season. The Fire had a season-high 57 percent of the possession in that loss.
“During the whole year we were looking for the right fit in our midfield and I think in the last games both of them were performing very, very well,” Paunovic said. “It’s a constant work out and constant improvement for the team and every single individual on our roster.”
It could be a good time to face D.C. There are eight players listed as out on the injury report. Notably, defender Sean Franklin and midfielder Jared Jeffrey will be out.