Fire in Big D: should be a good one

[TV PREVIEW] Since taking over the Fire, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio's team has posted a 4-2-2 record and edged into the playoff octet. To stay there it will need better performances in its last six games, as no team chasing a postseason spot has a tougher schedule.

FC DALLAS (12-9-3) vs. CHICAGO (8-10-6)
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Home and away games with D.C. United, this trip to Dallas, and a date with Chivas USA at Home Depot Center are on the docket. It has a daunting home game against New England, and its other Toyota Park date falls on the final day of the season. The good news is Chicago plays the Galaxy in its final game, the bad news is if it doesn't get enough points before LA comes to down, the playoffs could already be out of reach.

Both Dallas and Chicago play again this weekend, which will affect the coaches' decisions of who to play and for how long. Three players on each team are one caution short of suspension.

Defender Willan Conde sits out the Dallas game with a red card incurred for an intentional handball from which Red Bull New York scored its second goal in a 2-2 tie last weekend, so the back line needs revamping. Diego Gutierrez may replicate the defender's role he's played a few times this season, and Osorio has the option of a three-man back line supplemented by wingbacks Gonzalo Segares and Logan Pause.

Justin Mapp is still sidelined with a sprained ankle, though defender Bakary Soumare can return to the team after being suspended against New York. Osorio has shown a preference to play two midfielders in support of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and that might leave Paulo Wanchope alone up front. There's a lot of potency in the FCD lineup if Denilson brings his 'A' game.

For Dallas, Juan Toja's ouchy ankle has healed sufficiently that he's listed as probable, yet Coach Steve Morrow may opt to start Pablo Richetti and Dax McCarty in the central midfield roles and let Denilson and Arturo Alvarez attack from the flanks. Carlos Ruiz scored both goals in a 4-2 loss to New England last Saturday; he has only six goals this season but might be heating up at just the right time.

Blanco scored the first goal against RBNY on a penalty kick caused by one of his crosses and set up the second for Segares with a superb free kick.

Neither Denilson nor Blanco were in MLS when FCD beat Chicago, 2-1, on May 17. This Brimstone Cup match is more than a meeting of DPs, though the result could hinge on a brilliant moment by one of them. Or by Ruiz or Wanchope or Segares or Toja or any one of a half-dozen other players.

This should be a good one.

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