Forget tradition, the Chicago Fire should be favored for Wednesday's first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals for a whole host of reasons, says USSoccerPlayers' Ian Plenderleith. First, D.C. United is in trouble if it lines up at Toyota Park without one of either Luciano Emilio or Jaime Moreno, which looks likely. That's because the team's three second-stringers, Guy Roland-Kpene, Nicholas Addlery and Rod Dyachenko, combined for just two goals in 16 starts during regular season when one of the two first-choice strikers was absent.
Secondly, Plenderleith says D.C.'s fall form has followed the same pattern of the past two years, when it sputtered into and out of the playoffs after having a strong regular season. Last year, United lost three games in a row before scraping by the New York Red Bulls in the first round, and they were then duly beaten by New England in the Eastern Conference final. This year United heads into the first round on the back of another losing performance, falling at home to Columbus, 3-2.
Meanwhile, the game prior to that was a limp 0-0 draw at home to -- yep -- Chicago, a game which the Fire dominated and deserved to win but for an excellent performance in goal from Troy Perkins.