Potential Starters: Alex Bono, Brendan Hines-Ike, Derrick Williams, Steven Birnbaum, Andy Najar, Pedro Santos, Mateusz Klich, Gabriel Pirani, Chris Durkin, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Christian Benteke
Subs: Luis Zamudio, Donovan Pines, Ruan, Eric Davis, Russell Canouse, Jackson Hopkins, Yamil Asad, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Cristian Dájome, Nigel Robertha, Jose Fajardo
Captain: Steven Birnbaum
Tyler Miller (abdomen)
Potential Starters: Chris Brady, Rafael Czichos, Carlos Terán, Miguel Navarro, Mauricio Pineda, Ousmane Doumbia, Federico Navarro, Maren Haile-Selassie, Xherdan Shaqiri, Brian Gutiérrez, Kei Kamara
Subs: Spencer Richey, Alonso Aceves, Jonathan Dean, Arnaud Souquet, Wyatt Omsberg, Fabian Herbers, Jairo Torres, Gastón Giménez, Georgios Koutsias, Kacper Przybyłko
Chris Mueller (right upper leg)
Javier Casas Jr. (right lower leg),
Victor Bezerra (right lower leg)
DC United - Wayne Rooney
DC’s Gaffer has not only improved the play on the field, but has improved the sense of camaraderie and teamwork. Rooney continues to promote the idea of playing with courage and on the front foot, yet at the same time patience and calmness on the ball, so they can maintain control of the game. Through the last month his coaching has begun to pay dividends in both scoring and defense. This has allowed Rooney’s team to comeback from last match’s fluke goal, and the confidence to seek a fifth straight win in league play tonight.
Chicago Fire - Frank Klopas
The Chicago Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas is Chicago through and through. A Greek who’s family immigrated to Chicago, he signed with the Chicago Sting of the North American Soccer League straight out of high school. An an injury led to him missing the team's final outdoor season. Klopas did play for the indoor Sting in the MISL for four seasons. When MLS started, Frank Klopas was one of the original players, playing for the Kansas City Wizards. In 1998 he was traded to Chicago, and was one of the team’s original players. Klopas retired following the 1999 season. He was inducted into Chicago's "Ring of Fire," which celebrates outstanding players and contributors to the organization, in 2004.
After serving as a color commentator for the Fire, Klopas returned to their sideline as an assistant coach in January 2020. He was named interim head coach on May 8, 2023, following the dismissal of Ezra Hendrickson.
Klopas is known for being meticulous in his preparation, and will have his team organized and well prepared. He will have seen the success the Union had, and will have his team look to replicate that performance. He will use two ten’s in Xherdan Shaqiri and Brian Gutiérrez to initiate the offense, and get the ball to Kei Kamara on quick counter attacks.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC make a push for the playoffs?
DC United faces a must win game to bounce back following their disappointing 3-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Union last week at home. That loss was a significant setback in their quest to secure a playoff spot in the fiercely competitive MLS Eastern Division. To give their postseason aspirations any hope, the Black & Red must get home victories, something they haven’t done enough of this season.
Home victories would not only boost the team’s morale, which is badly needed, but also every point is now necessary for them to move up in the standings. DC United’s supporters can sense the team is beginning to unravel, a win versus Chicago which are two points ahead of them in the standings could play a pivotal role in energizing United down the stretch and help them to secure their first playoff match in years.
It’s imperative that DC United must harness the power of their home ground and turn it into a fortress to achieve their postseason aspirations.
Can the defense be improved? DC United’s defensive unit has faced challenges recently, conceding three goals in their previous game against the Philadelphia Union in their last match, and four goals on the road against the New England Revolution. The back three, consisting of Steve Birnbaum, Derrick Williams and Brendan Hines-Ike, has shown a lot of vulnerability, especially against the press.
Donovan Pines, a towering presence in defense, could indeed make a difference if he returns to the starting lineup. His physicality and aerial ability can provide stability and help shore up the defense, while his long strides give him deceptive speed. However, the question remains whether the coaching staff will opt for bringing him back into the starting lineup.
The team’s defensive struggles indicate the need to revitalize their defensive standing. DC United must solidify their defense while at the same time revitalizing their attacking threat. Pines’ potential return could be a step in the right direction to bolster their backline and regain defensive solidity, while giving the team an aerial threat on set pieces.
Can Benteke get his scoring form back? DC United has faced a striking challenge during the 2023 season as their star striker, Christian Benteke, endured a goal drought since early June. This Belgian forward, known for his aerial prowess and clinical finishing, had been a key asset for DC United. However, his struggle to find the back of the net has raised concerns among fans and analysts.
Benteke’s inability to score has not only impacted his personal form but also the team’s performance, as they heavily rely on his goal-scoring abilities. DC United’s management and coaching staff are undoubtedly working tirelessly to address this issue and reignite Benteke’s scoring prowess, hoping to secure a stronger position in the MLS standings as the season progresses.
Is Bono the answer? With United’s Tyler Miller sidelined due to a hip injury, which is expected to keep him out for 4 to 6 weeks, the Black & Red will call upon Alex Bono to step into the starting goalkeeper role.
Bono has already shown he’s quite capable of giving strong performances in goal for DC United, particularly in the recent Leagues Cup outing, where he performed admirably. Miller, on the other hand, had been struggling with form even before the injury, so this change might have happened even without the injury.
This shift might just have provided Bono with the opportunity to prove his worth and to secure the starting goalkeeper spot. DC United’s playoff hopes hinge on Bono’s ability to maintain clean sheets and bolster their defense, making his performance a pivotal factor in their postseason run.
Things to Watch:
Offense - DC United’s defensive players need to accelerate their ball movement up the field. Against the Union, the back three were too slow moving the ball, and had way too many turnovers in their half. This was part of a trend seen against the Revolution and Pumas. The Center Back’s passing game has often lacked the swiftness and accuracy required to transition effectively from defense to offense.
Over reliance on the long ball to target man Christian Benteke has become a noticeable pattern, and it’s time for a tactical shift if for no other reason to relieve some of the pressure on Benteke, and make it harder on opposing defenses to prepare for DC United. To maximize Benteke’s goal-scoring potential, DC United must focus on delivering the ball to him inside the box during scoring opportunities. Instead of launching hopeful long balls from deep positions, defenders need to look for quicker and more precise passes to the midfielders Mateusz Klich, Russell Canouse, and Gabriel Pirani and wingers, who can then create scoring chances in and around the penalty area. This approach not only utilizes Benteke’s strengths but also diversifies the team’s attacking options.
Furthermore, it’s essential for the wing players to make well-timed runs towards goal as it will stretch the Chicago’s defense but also creates opportunities for Benteke to pass to. Andy Najar, Santos and Ruan need to exploit open spaces, exploit overlaps, and look for opportunities to cut inside and take shots themselves if the defense gives them room.
In essence, DC United needs a more dynamic and cohesive approach to their offensive buildup. Quick and accurate passing from Pirani and Klich, combined with intelligent movement from Benteke and the wingers, can help the Black & Red regain their scoring touch and reduce their dependence on the long ball. A more multifaceted attack will not only benefit Benteke but also make DC United a more unpredictable and potent offense.
Defense - DC United face a critical need to improve their defensive organization and pressing as a unit. One key aspect the Black & Red must address is closing down their opponents more quickly and effectively. A big weakness has been the freedom of movement opposition midfielders have had in recent games. This adjustment could have a profound impact on the team’s defensive solidity and overall performance.
First and foremost, pressing as a cohesive unit starting with the forwards is essential. DC United’s three lines, defenders, midfielders, and forwards must work in sync with each other, ensuring that there’s coordinated pressure on the opposition players throughout the field. This collective effort is needed to disrupt the opponent’s passing lanes, limit their time on the ball, and force turnovers higher up the pitch.
The midfield also needs to prioritize getting back into position more quickly when the team loses possession. Quick transition from attack to defense is crucial to prevent counter-attacks that Chicago will attempt.
The Black & Red must maintain their compact defensive shape. This requires not only individual speed, which might mean a return of Donovan Pines, but also awareness of the team’s defensive structure. Moreover, defenders and new Goalkeeper Alex Bono must communicate effectively with each other, and not lose opponents in the box. The midfielders and wingers must also do more to relieve pressure on the defense.
One thing Rooney has wanted his team to do is short accurate passes between United’s lines so his team can retain possession and gradually build the attacks from the back. Clearing the ball hastily has often lead to loss of possession and invite more pressure from the opposition.
By improving their pressing, transition play, and communication between the lines, DC United’s defenders can reduce the pressure they face and enable the team to have better control over games. It’s not just about individual defending but also about working as a synchronized defensive unit to disrupt the opposition’s rhythm and create more opportunities to regain possession and launch fast attacks. These adjustments could be pivotal in improving DC United’s defensive performance and overall competitiveness.
By the Numbers:
DC United have scored 33 goals for 14th in MLS scoring
DC United’s 38 goals conceded rank 21st in the league
DC United’s goal differential of -5 is 18th in MLS
Christian Benteke has scored 8 goals and one assist (15th in league)
Mateusz Klich has 2 goals and 5 assists
Ted Ku-DiPietro has scored 4 goals and 1 assist
Ruan has zero goals, but 5 assists
Donovan Pines has scored 3 goals
Chicago has scored 32 goals, ranking it 16th in MLS
Chicago’s 38 goals conceded rank 21st in MLS
Chicago’s goal differential of -6 ranks 20th in MLS
Maren Haile-Selassie has 4 goals and 3 assists, for Chicago
Xherdan Shaqiri has 3 goals and 3 assists
Brian Gutierrez has provided 1 goal and 5 assists
Kei Kamara has 5 goals and 2 assist
2-0 victory at Audi Field as the Black & Red fight to get back into the playoff picture.
Coverage: Apple MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Start time 7:35
📻: 1190am, 101.1HD2, 104.7fm
🔊: Any Smart Speaker
📱: @iHeartRadio App
Written by: RJ Rolsen