Rarely does a reserve team match create a potential impact on a first team battle, but the Fire’s latest one might.
The Fire reserves beat the Columbus Crew 5-3 on Wednesday at Toyota Park. It’s significant because the Fire finally had a goal explosion and captain Logan Pause took the pitch again. The Fire first-teamers, on a two-game losing streak, need both in Saturday’s home match against D.C. United.
Goal explosions are always nice, and Sherjill MacDonald, Quincy Amarikwa, Maicon Santos and Brendan King all found the net against the Columbus reserves (the other was an own goal). The best output by the first team this season in MLS play was three goals – which was done twice.
In the last two league matches – a 2-1 home loss to Sporting Kansas City and 3-1 defeat at Vancouver – the Fire didn’t have much punch. Those two losses slowed the Fire’s push for a playoff berth after a six-game unbeaten run. At 6-9-3 the Fire’s 21 points are eight behind the Houston Dynamo, which holds the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Fire visits the Dynamo on July 27.
The MLS season is past the halfway mark now so points are getting more crucial, and getting three against D.C. United (2-13-4) should be expected. United was the premier franchise in the first years of MLS in the late 1990s. Now, however, that’s far from the case and it shouldn’t take much offense for the Fire to win on Saturday.
United hasn’t scored in its last three matches and has just two goals – both on penalty kicks – in its last eight.
Then there’s the Pause factor. The Fire needs its captain back on the field.
Pause, in his 11th season with the club, has had a variety of health problems and has been limited to eight matches this season. His last MLS appearance was on June 22 at Columbus, when he went out early with a back injury. But he did go 58 minutes in this week’s reserve match against the Crew and should be available on Saturday.
So will left back Gonzalo Segares, who sat out last Sunday’s loss in Vancouver for yellow card accumulations. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, on national team duty with the U.S. for Sunday’s Gold Cup match against El Salvador, and midfielder Daniel Paladini are only players out. Paladini has a second game to serve on a suspension for a hard tackle against Sporting Kansas City.
Here’s two other sidelights on Saturday’s match – the second of four meetings between the teams this season. The Fire won the first 2-0 at Toyota Park on June 2.
Santos, the Brazilian striker, spent last season with D.C. United. A contract dispute led to United making him available in the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Dec. 7, and the Fire was quick to claim him. In fact, Santos was the only player chosen in Stage One of the Re-Entry process. He had seven goals and three assists in 26 matches for United last season.
Saturday’s match is also somewhat of a preview to their meeting in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. United will be back in Bridgeview for that game on Aug. 7. Only the final meeting of the season, on Oct. 4, will be played on United’s pitch.