In the best case scenario, D.C. United will stroll out onto the RFK Stadium pitch Saturday night five points out of the last playoff spot, with the Black-and-Red still having to play three season-ending home matches in seven days. In the worst case scenario, which would come to pass if both Houston and New York win their earlier matches, United will kick off against the Chicago Fire six points out of the final playoff spot with three games left to play.
At any rate, the calculus is clear for Ben Olsen's side: win out, and you're likely in the MLS playoffs. Stumble along the way, and you'll make a small piece of history as the first D.C. United team to miss the playoffs for a fourth year running.
D.C. United (9-11-11) vs. Chicago Fire (7-9-16)
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, October 15.
Where: RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington D.C.
Team News And Tactics
D.C. United: Dwayne De Rosario should be back in the lineup after missing Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Vancouver. It'll be interesting to see if Ben Olsen chooses to play De Rosario in the center of midfield alongside either Clyde Simms or Stephen King, or if the manager plays De Rosario in the hole behind a single striker (either Charlie Davies or Josh Wolff). If it's the former, look for Davies and Wolff to play together while Blake Brettschneider is dropped to the bench. If it's the latter, one of Davies or Wolff will have to be sacrificed.
De Rosario's return also means that Perry Kitchen should return to his customary right defensive position,as the rookie played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday in a midfield role. Elsewhere along the back line, Dejan Jakovic's availability will be a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury. Ethan White's fitness (MCL sprain) is also a question mark. Olsen could partner Brandon McDonald with Daniel Woolard and put Marc Burch at left-back, as he did against Vancouver, or he could spring a surprise and put in Jakovic, White or Kurt Morsink. We shall see. Finally, look for Santino Quaranta to start at left midfield instead of Austin da Luz.
Chicago Fire: Frank Klopas will have to make at least three changes to his team, as Cory Gibbs, Dan Gargan, and Pavel Pardo will all be suspended for this match (the first two due to yellow card accumulation, while Pardo picked up a straight red in Wednesday''s 2-1 loss to FC Dallas).I'd expect Orr Barouch to fill in Gargan's place along the back line while Josip Mikulic can take over for Gibbs.
The good news for Chicago is that Marco Pappa is expected to be back after missing Wednesday's match for international duty with Guatemala. He'll likely take Pardon's spot and play alongside Sebastian Grazzini.