DC United

Fire hope to avoid repeating recent mistake when hosting D.C. United

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USA TODAY

Fire hope to avoid repeating recent mistake when hosting D.C. United

Two weeks ago the Fire hosted Minnesota, which entered without a win on the road and with the lowest point total in Major League Soccer.

The Loons left Toyota Park with a win.

On Saturday, the Fire host another one of the worst teams in the standings in D.C. United. Like Minnesota, D.C. added some key players in the summer and has been playing better of late. The Fire will be hoping to avoid a similar mistake, especially with Atlanta closing the gap for third place after walloping Dallas and New England by a combined 10 goals in the first two games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Fire (13-9-6, 45 points) host D.C. (8-16-4, 28 points) on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. The Fire already beat United 1-0 at RFK Stadium on May 20, but midseason reinforcements have changed D.C.

“I don’t think it matters at this point,” midfielder Dax McCarty said about the previous win against D.C. “They’re a totally different team now, probably four or five new players in that are playing for them. I think they’ve gotten a lot of really good results lately. I think they’ve tightened up at the back. Defensively they’re a lot better.“

D.C. added U.S. national team player Paul Arriola, Hungarian Zoltan Stieber and Russell Canouse to its midfield in August. In the five games since Arriola’s arrival, United is 3-2, including a three-game winning streak that was snapped with a 2-1 home loss to Orlando last week.

“I know they’re coming off a poor result against Orlando, but before that they had won three games in a row and all by the same scoreline of 1-0 so that shows you that they’ve kind of got that defensive discipline that I think D.C. has kind of been known for the past couple years,” McCarty said. “They’re going to be hard to break down. They’re going to come in here and try to frustrate us and try to slow the game down… We’re coming off the positive performance (a 1-1 tie against the New York Red Bulls), now we just need to turn those performances into wins again.”

Both teams will be missing players due to injury. Former Fire winger Patrick Nyarko will not return to Toyota Park because he is out with a concussion. Defender Sean Franklin will also miss for D.C. due to yellow card accumulation.

Michael de Leeuw will miss the game for the Fire from yellow cards as well. Juninho will also be out due to a left knee injury.

Joao Meira could return from his calf injury. The Portuguese defender has been out for a month and was still limited in training this week, but was training with the group.

The bigger injury question is Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Fire’s German midfielder only stretched and jogged at training on Tuesday, but did begin kicking the ball on Wednesday. With Juninho already out, having Schweinsteiger return will be of more importance.

Regardless of who plays, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic preached urgency as a key factor with only six games remaining in the regular season.

“I think this point of the season, everyone sees every next game as a final and I think we’re going to have a very, very tough opponent, who did good summer signings and reinforced them so they had a good winning streak before the last game,” Paunovic said. “Obviously their confidence is better so it’s going to be for us, a tough, tough game, but the guys are ready and the guys are aware of the urgency.”

Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN+ (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday

Records: Fire (13-9-6, 45 points), D.C. (8-16-4, 28 points)

Three in a row: Fire top D.C. on the road to extend winning streak

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USA TODAY

Three in a row: Fire top D.C. on the road to extend winning streak

Winless on the road no more.

David Accam’s goal gave the Chicago Fire its first road win of the season in a 1-0 game at D.C. United on Saturday.

After a scoreless first half, Accam beat the offside trap to break free on a Luis Solignac long ball. Accam curled the shot past Bill Hamid in the 52nd minute for his sixth goal of the season. It was Accam’s sixth goal of the season.

The Fire (6-3-3, 21 points) won for the third straight game during the team’s crowded schedule of three matches in eight days. D.C. (3-6-2, 11 points) has been shutout and beaten in three straight home games.

Matt Lampson earned the shutout in goal without having to make a save in the first 80 minutes. He finished with two saves.

Lampson’s counterpart, Hamid, kept D.C. in the match with six saves. Hamid’s best was a diving save to deny Nemanja Nikolic in the final 10 minutes.

Bastian Schweinsteiger took a bit of a beating in the match and at one point in the first half went down holding his right shoulder, but finished the match. He was denied an eye-popping assist in added time when he weaved through a few D.C. defenders after stalling in the corner. Schweinsteiger got free and set up Nikolic in front, who skied the shot over the bar.

The win moved the Fire up to second place in the Eastern Conference after the game ended. The Fire went winless on the road in 2015, had one win on the road in 2016 and were winless through five road matches to start this season.

The three teams the Fire have beaten during the winning streak are the bottom team in the East (D.C.) and the bottom two teams in the West (Seattle and Colorado). The schedule will get tougher, starting Thursday with undefeated FC Dallas coming to Toyota Park.

On short rest, Fire head to D.C. in search of first road win

On short rest, Fire head to D.C. in search of first road win

In the first answer of coach Veljko Paunovic's press conference after Wednesday's win against Colorado, Paunovic was already looking ahead to the next game.

"We want to win the next game," he said. "That’s the attitude we were looking for for a long time and the guys are confident. The guys are really happy and enjoying soccer and winning games. I believe we are doing a good job with the team and the team believes it so now we have to keep it up. We just have to think about the next game against DC, how to recover, how to prepare well and go and compete there.”

Part of the reason to look ahead so soon was that the next game was coming so soon after the Chicago Fire beat the Rapids 3-0. The Fire will play for the third time in eight games in a match at D.C. United on Saturday.

The Fire also have another midweek game after traveling to the nation's capital, Thursday against undefeated FC Dallas. This could be squad rotation is in order, but Paunovic tends to stick with similar lineups after good performances. He made just one change in the starting lineup from the Seattle game to the Colorado game (Matt Polster started in place of Dre Conner). Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Accam were both subbed out in the second half on Wednesday, likely in anticipation of having them start in this upcoming road match.

Either way, the Fire (5-3-3, 18 points) have played two of its best games of the season in the past two matches and D.C. (3-5-2, 11 points) has been shutout in its past two home matches. The Fire enter 0-3-2 on the road.

"We make 18 points until now so it’s a fantastic job," Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic said. "To keep doing this we need to improve our game away so the chance is going to be against D.C. We need to prepare. We don’t have too much time for this, but we’ll try to give our best and be 100 percent for that game.”

Luciano Acosta leads United with three goals, but will be serving a red card suspension against the Fire. Former Fire winger Patrick Nyarko will miss the game with a hamstring injury. Regular starters Sean Franklin and Nick DeLeon are also out injured.

Even though D.C. comes in with a full week of rest and the Fire are not, D.C. is shorthanded and struggling at home. This appears to be a good opportunity for the Fire to get a first road win in 2017. Multiple players on the Fire have said some of the recent road performances have warranted better results than they have received.

"In away games we need to improve," Nikolic said. "We played really good against New York, against LA, so we need to keep doing the same things and start getting points in away games.”