The Chicago Fire continue the search for the team’s first win of 2014 when they visit D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday (3pm CT on NBC Sports Network).
Here are five things you should know about the match…
Absences vs. D.C. United?
Amid some controversy this week about the MLS Disciplinary Committee not giving Tim Cahill any type of suspension for his swing at Mike Magee last Sunday, it’s well known that Fire defender Lovel Palmer will serve the second of his two-game suspension for his incident at Portland on March 16.
Gonzalo Segares, his full back peer on the left, was hopeful to be back for this match after suffering a bad ankle sprain against Portland but Fire head coach Frank Yallop admitted that Segares was still “struggling” with the injury this week.
Matt Watson and Greg Cochrane proving useful early on
In the absence of Palmer and Segares last week stepped in the two newest members of the Fire in Matt Watson and Greg Cochrane. The appearances marked firsts for both players as Cochrane made his Fire debut in place of Segares on the left while Watson, who played in midfield vs. Portland, moved to right back for the first time in his career.
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Yallop was impressed with the play of both in the 1-1 draw vs. New York and admitted the early season trades for the pair paid bigger dividends than maybe he’d expected they would:
“When you make trades you know about the players and you think ‘they’re going to help us’. You don’t know until they start playing. I’d like to think my judgment is pretty good on those squad guys that get to play but [with Matt and Greg] they don’t end up being squad guys, they end up helping us a lot. We’d have been in trouble if they weren’t here – we’ve had issues with injuries and those things and those two were really good pickups, two good kids that want to contribute to the team.
“I thought they both played very well on the weekend – Greg’s not played for a while, he’s a natural left back and Matt’s never played right back. I sort of asked him in the middle of the week, we worked on it and he said he was fine. He did a good job.”
Patrick Nyarko Returns
One player that will be back is winger Patrick Nyarko, who returns after serving a one-game suspension for the red card he was shown in Portland. The instance marked the Ghanaian’s first sending off in 162 MLS matches and it came when he entered the game as a substitute after fighting a niggling injury earlier in the week.
With the play of youngsters Harry Shipp and Benji Joya, it will be interesting to see if Nyarko slots back into the starting 11 or if he once again comes off the bench for Yallop’s side on vs. D.C. United.
Mike Magee on the young kids…
Speaking of Shipp and Joya, it’d be hard not to feel good about yourself when you’ve got the reigning 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee speaking highly of getting to play with you.
This week Magee spoke about not needing to give as much direction to the Fire youngsters saying, ”They’re pretty smart kids and I feel I’m pretty vocal as it is. I’ve definitely found younger players much more difficult to work with than Benji and Harry. They have an amazing grasp on what soccer really is and how to play the game -- they don’t need to be over-coached by me.
D.C. United and their streak
Let’s be clear, though D.C. United is 0-2-0 this year, they’re still better than the team that went 3-24-7 last year.
Ben Olsen’s starting 11 has seven new starters still hoping to click and as such, haven’t scored a goal and have just registered three shots on goal in their first two matches.
You couldn’t find a Fire player or coach this week that would use D.C.’s current 14-match MLS winless run as a reason for confidence, though if they can’t get three points on Saturday, it will mark a full eight months since their last league win.