Hamid Nikolic

#CHIvDC Numbers and Words: Eastern Conference race heats up as D.C. United visit Toyota Park


Matchup Chicago Fire (13-9-6, 45 pts.) vs. D.C. United (8-16-4, 28 pts.)
Date Saturday, Sept. 16 • 7:30 p.m. CT
Location Bridgeview, Ill. • Toyota Park
TV CSN Chicago Plus (Pregame: 7 p.m. CT)
Spanish Radio Univision América 1200 (WRTO)
Injuries, Suspensions, Lineup Projection MLS Match Preview

After a come-from-behind draw against the New York Red Bulls last weekend, the Chicago Fire now look to continue closing in on an Eastern Conference playoff berth when D.C. United comes to town on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus). These two teams last met back in May, when a David Accam curler made the difference in a 1-0 win at RFK Stadium. United enter the weekend having won three of their last five, but suffered a 2-1 defeat in Orlando last weekend to keep them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. As the Fire's push toward the 2017 MLS Playoffs continues, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind:

Key number: 23

The number 23 makes its few reasons. First, it represents the Fire's goal differential at Toyota Park this season, the second-best home goal differential in MLS behind only Supporters Shield leaders Toronto FC (+29). Flip that negatively, and you've got D.C.'s season goal differential: -23, a total level with Minnesota United as MLS' worst. Goal differentials don't necessarily reflect what happens on the field game-to-game, but it's a sign of the struggle D.C. has endured to this point in 2017. Lastly, it's a reference to the Fire's own No. 23 Nemanja Nikolic, who got back on the scoresheet in last week's 1-1 draw with New York, and with his next goal would equal Ante Razov's single-season club record set in 2000.

Matchup to watch: Brandon Vincent vs. Paul Arriola

Fullback Brandon Vincent returned fully to the Fire starting eleven last weekend, going the full 90 in the team's draw with the New York Red Bulls. Vincent was a key contributor during the Fire's summer successes, but had been sidelined with a quad injury for the better part of eight matches before last weekend's reemergence. He'll look to lock down United new man Paul Arriola, who arrived in D.C. following a stint helping the U.S. Men's National Team capture the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup trophy. Arriola has yet to register a goal or an assist in his first five appearances for D.C., but failing to limit his pace and creativity along the right wing on Saturday would be a mistake.

One Big Question: Will Bastian Schweinsteiger feature?

The Fire's midfield talisman suffered a calf injury in the club's 1-0 victory in Montreal on Aug. 2, and missed last Saturday's draw with the New York Red Bulls as a result. Officially listed as "questionable" on the injury report, it remains to be seen whether he'll be a part of head coach Veljko Paunovic's plans for D.C. this weekend. A limited participant in training this week, Schweinsteiger was named the Krakus Man of the Match for his efforts in the team's 1-0 win in D.C. back on May 20.

50 for Fire?

With six games remaining in the regular season, the Fire enter Saturday night's match with 49 goals scored for the year, which equals the club's highest single-season total since 2005 (49). Landing on 50 Saturday would tie this year's squad for the fifth-most prolific goal-scoring season in club history (2000: 67; 1998: 62; 2003: 53; 1999: 51; 2001: 50).

Sizing Up The Series

The Fire hold a 19-22-15 all-time regular season record against D.C. United, including a 10-7-10 record in matches played at home. This is the second and final regular season meeting between the two sides this season. The Fire took all three points earlier this year in a 1-0 road win at RFK Stadium on May 20, snapping a nine-game winless streak in the series that dated back to Oct. 4, 2013.

Quote of the Week:

That's midfielder Dax McCarty on his mindset approaching the Fire's remaining six games as compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference. Playoff seeding will be a huge factor in the result of every match from here on out, making three points against D.C. a must-have this weekend.

D.C. United’s roster features familiar names to Fire fans in longtime Chicago midfielder Patrick Nyarko (2008-15) and forward Chris Rolfe (2005-09, 12-14), though injuries have prevented Rolfe from playing in 2017 and kept Nyarko sidelined since July 22.

Valspar Matchday Primer: