- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

With the playoffs one game away and D.C. United playing poorly, the clash between United and the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium on Sunday has taken on added importance.

United suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season with a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution Saturday at RFK Stadium that followed by a week a 1-0 loss to the Dynamo in Houston.

That’s enough to cause nervousness, if not panic, on a club that earlier this season went 14 consecutive games without a loss. A win over the Fire in the regular season finale is just the remedy the club is seeking on the eve of the postseason.

“We have no choice but to win for the confidence of this team,” forward Freddy Adu said. “We have to win that last game against Chicago, and Chicago is a team that has beaten us pretty handily this season. So that would be a huge confidence booster.”

United earned a 1-0 win over the Fire at home in June but since has gone 0-2-1 against Chicago in physical, nasty affairs during which numerous cautions and red cards were issued.

In the four games between the teams this season, including United’s 3-0 loss in the U.S. Open Cup, referees handed out 21 yellow cards and four red cards. In the U.S. Open Cup match, United’s Facundo Erpen and the Fire’s Chris Armas were thrown out of the game after a brawl.

Ten yellow cards were issued and the Fire’s Logan Pause was ejected during a 1-1 tie in Bridgeview, Ill., in July. In the teams’ last meeting, a 1-0 loss on the road Sept. 17, there were seven cautions, and United midfielder Josh Gros was sent off in the dying minutes for a serious foul.

Following that game, United goalie Troy Perkins said, “I think it’s not going to be like a soccer game anymore. It’s going to come to throwing fists and elbows.”

United also knows it could face Chicago in the Eastern Conference final if both teams advance from the semis. And the United players have not forgotten the embarrassing 4-0 loss at RFK in the playoffs last year.

“We’ve lost to them twice in a row, so there’s a bit of grudge there,” forward Rod Dyachenko said.

The Fire also are in need of a confidence booster after a 4-1 pounding by the lowly Columbus Crew over the weekend at home before more than 20,000 fans. Chicago is fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs after dropping to third in the conference behind their playoff opponent, the Revolution.

“It’s always been tough to play Chicago this season,” Gros said. “Hopefully we can turn that around and figure out how to beat them before the playoffs come around.”

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