By TYLER DAY
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Teams say they approach every game with the same effort and intensity. But after back-to-back defeats, another loss Saturday at home against lowly D.C. United would have been inexcusable for the Chicago Fire’s playoff chase.
A Fire team that usually starts slow exploded from the opening whistle thanks to a renewed intensity from its veterans. Joel Lindpere delivered two excellent assists to Chris Rolfe, and added a goal of his own, leading the Fire to a full 90-minute pummeling of D.C. United.
The Fire took control in the 2nd minute when Lindpere served a beautiful left-footed cross from the sideline up and over the D.C. United defense in step to Chris Rolfe. D.C. goalkeeper Joe Willis came out into no man’s land, leaving Rolfe with a volley into a wide open net.
“We were all talking about how important it was to score first,” Rolfe said after the game. “That changes the whole outlook of the game for us.”
Less than ten minutes later, it was Lindpere’s turn to be on the receiving end of a nice pass. In the 11th minute, Jeff Larentowicz showed a rare burst of speed along the right box, went by D.C. United defender Daniel Woolard, and cut it back across the box to Lindpere. The Estonian took a touch and buried a left-footed shot back across goal to make it 2-0.
Towards the end of the first half it looked like D.C. United had settled themselves back into the game, dominating the possession and creating chances in the Fire’s half. But it ended almost identically to how it started, with a Lindpere cross over the defense to Rolfe, who flipped it around Willis to make it 3-0. It was Rolfe’s fourth goal of the season, and Lindpere now leads the team with five assists.
“I think our combination play was real good tonight,” Rolfe added. “We had a lot of three man combinations and the timing was on for the most part.”
There were a couple of bright spots for D.C. United, who again featured a number of young players with an eye towards the future. The first half damage could have been worse, but center back Ethan White recovered on another Rolfe opportunity and a few minutes later cleared a shot off the line from Fire midfielder Dilly Duka.
D.C. United attacker Luis Silva scored from the top of the box in the 58th minute in his team debut after coming over from Toronto.
But by the time Luiz put D.C. United on the board, the Fire had already extended their lead to four. Woolard’s dreadful night continued as he was whistled for bringing down Fire forward Quincy Amarikwa in the box in the 56th minute. Mike Magee buried the PK for his sixth goal for the Fire, twelfth overall, solidifying the Fire’s 4-1 victory.
“Regardless of where this team is in the standings they have quality players and you cant underestimate anyone,” Fire head coach Frank Klopas said. “I give a lot of credit to my players for the effort and the attitude they put into the game and their commitment over 90 minutes.”
These teams face off again at Toyota Park on August 7th in the semi-final of the U.S. Open Cup.
By that time, the Fire may have even more at their disposal as Fire President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon told reporters at halftime the club is finalizing a deal with a 24-year-old Ecaudorian striker. While he would not reveal the player’s name, reports indicate it is most likely Juan Luis Anangono from Argentinos Juniors.
“This is a crucial part of the season for us,” Klopas said. “The next six weeks there are a lot of games where we need to pick up points to be in that race. And we also have an opportunity at a semi-final Open Cup game where we can be one step closer to playing for a trophy.”
The Fire (24, 7-9-3) will next venture to Houston to start what will be the season defining part of their schedule – at Houston, at Philadelphia, Montreal, at New England, K.C., Houston, at Seattle. They are currently five points behind Houston for the final playoff position.
D.C. United (10, 2-14-4) remain at the bottom of MLS standings, and return home next week to face New England.