It's footy time! Excellent!
Since I already write a match preview - I won't repeat myself or, worse, say different things.
Intead, going into tonight's matchup against DC United, here's a few things to look out for:
How do the Fire press against DC, and respond when they advance? DC United like building out of the back, and will attempt to get players out of position and create offensive overloads by moving the ball quickly. They play with a true, stay-at-home #6 to handle the breakouts and provide support if they lose their press. Usually, the Fire's double pivot is pretty strong, if not excellent, and could help cut that advantage down, but Fede Navarro is still out with injury and so far, Hendrickson has seemed reluctant to start Pineda in that spot, favoring Fabian Herbers, who had previously played on the wing. Giménez has not looked as strong without playing alongside Navarro, and although Pineda looked serviceable in that spot last year - and is defensively one of the Fire's stronger players - for some reason Hendrickson hasn't wanted to start him so far.
Can the attacking midfielders keep the party going? The line of Mueller, Gutiérrez and Haile-Selassie has been clicking over the past few games. Mueller has two goals, Guti has three assists and has powered the offense like a quarterback in gridiron football, and Haile-Selassie has been quick and troubled defenses, and looks due for a goal soon.
How's the marking on D? Hendrickson has to feel like he's playing a game of Whack-a-Mole with the issues the Fire have had in his tenure. Everyone assumed the problem would be scoring goals - and in the long run, it might be - but with 6 goals in their past 2 games, it's less of an issue. Instead, the Fire's biggest problems have been defensive, and part of it has been that attacking players have been left almost entirely unmarked. RB Arnaud Souquet has been guilty of this more than most, but he hasn't been the only problem. That, plus poor passing out of defensive situations have been responsible for most of the goals the Fire have conceded this year. DC loves to push numbers forward, and that means that the defenders need to communicate about who is doing what, including what player GK Chris Brady should keep an eye on if the defense is a man short for part of a play.