The two sides have had somewhat different starts to the season, but both have yet to concede.
D.C. has technically been perfect in 2022, picking up six points out of six. However, when you look more into their wins, they seem less and less impressive. They’ve had two easy games, playing at home to expansion side Charlotte FC and away to FC Cincinnati. United also won those matches in fortuitous fashion. Their goals came via a penalty, a deflection, and a lucky bounce versus Charlotte, and they only beat Cincy thanks to a stoppage time penalty kick. Supporters won’t care in the slightest, though, and the team will still come into this contest with a decent amount of momentum.
Chicago, meanwhile, has been the epitome of average, tying their two matches 0-0. Neither result was a terrible one since they came away to Inter Miami and at home to Orlando City, but the contests lacked genuine excitement. Fans were hoping that this Fire team would light up the league early on, but they’ve not had any sort of spark going forward. There’s plenty of time to turn things around, so no one should be panicking, but the team could really use a goal in this game.
Don’t expect a classic, though.
Only a few players might end up missing this contest.
United’s only potential absence is Russell Canouse, who is questionable due to a groin injury.
Chicago will be without Carlos Terán once again, while Andre Reynolds II is also unavailable because of a problem with his left thigh.
D.C. United: Hamid, Najar, Hines-Ike, Birnbaum, Gressel, Nyeman, Skundrich, Smith, Flores, Kamara, Yow
Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Omsberg, Czichos, M. Navarro, F. Navarro, Giménez, Ivanov, Shaqiri, Gutiérrez, Przybylko
Ones to watch
He’s done so for years now, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be stopping anytime soon. One of the better strikers MLS has ever seen, he just finds a way to produce at a consistent level in this league no matter what.
It all started when he joined the Columbus Crew in 2016. He scored an impressive 16 goals in his debut campaign, and then he followed that up by grabbing 19 the following year, with one of those coming in the postseason.
Kamara was then traded to the Los Angeles Galaxy. He only spent one year there, but his tenure was still a good one since he scored 14 times. A move to China went very poorly, so he returned to the United States to sign for D.C. United. His 2020 campaign was rough, but he bounced back by grabbing 19 goals this past season, which was the joint-most in the entire league.
He’s been quite lucky this year, to be fair, as both of his goals came via the penalty spot. A goal is still a goal at the end of the day, and he’ll still be in good form regardless going into this weekend.
The forward isn’t really great at anything in particular, but he just has a knack for being at the right place at the right time. He’s also an elite finisher, so if the ball ever bounces his way, he’ll almost certainly bury it into the back of the net. (He’s also scored one of my favorite MLS goals of all time.)
If the Fire want to keep their clean sheet streak alive this weekend, then they’ll have to figure out a way to stop Kamara. Much easier said than done, though.
It’s hero time.
For all intents and purposes, Xherdan Shaqiri has been quality since coming to Chicago. He played well in both of the team’s opening two games, serving as the main creative force throughout. There have been plenty of highlights along the way, like some silky skill moves and clever flicked passes.
However, it’s not led to anything substantial. This isn’t his fault, of course, as he doesn’t get a lot of help, and the few times he’s created chances for others they have let him down. He’s still the main man going forward, though, so some of the team’s attacking struggles will ultimately fall on his shoulders.
That’s why Shaqiri needs to produce a moment of magic on Saturday. He’s able to create something out of nothing in a number of different ways, whether it’s by scoring a long range screamer, going on a mazy run, or by picking out a teammate with a dream ball in behind.
If he doesn’t, then there’s a good chance that the Fire will be shutout once again. Is it unfair to put this sort of pressure on the Swiss international? Sure, but he was brought in to be a matchwinner that can do things others can't. We’ve seen plenty of good from him, but we haven’t seen him hit that next level just yet.
Can Shaqiri do it? Chicago will certainly hope he can.
Last time out
The last meeting between these two sides was a bit of a blowout.
Facing off near the final stretch of the 2021 season, both teams were in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. That wasn’t the case by the end of the night, though.
D.C. United opened the scoring early on from the penalty spot. Ola Kamara was stupidly brought down by Carlos Terán in the box, and the referee had no other than to give a penalty, which Kamara coolly slotted home following a well-timed stutter step.
The Fire would go on to rue those misses, as another defensive moment of madness led to them going 2-0 down. A careless challenge from Jhon Espinoza was enough to send Kevin Paredes to the floor, and the referee had to point to the spot once again. Kamara stepped up and did exactly what he did moments earlier, freezing the goalkeeper and converting the spot-kick.
It would be 3-0 before the half. Kamara was able to finish off his hat-trick, getting on the end of a cross from Julian Gressel to head home from just a few yards out.
As a result, the second half didn’t even matter, and D.C. comfortably held on to the win and the three points. That meant that Chicago were effectively eliminated from playoff contention, but United ultimately ended up missing the postseason as well.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EST, and it will air live on NBC Sports Washington and dcunited.com for fans in the D.C. area and on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.