By PABLO MAURER
WASHINGTON – After giving their fans a reminder of the club’s glory days on Tuesday, D.C. United brought them back down to earth tonight, dropping their match to an opportunistic Chicago Fire side by a score of 3-0 and sinking even deeper into the MLS record books.
Goals from Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumare and Quincy Amarikwa helped the Fire post a desperately-needed victory that moves them into fifth place in the MLS Eastern Conference. The Fire now sit one point ahead of Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the East.
“The scoreline is a bit disappointing, and I think that’s going to hurt us – hurt our pride,” lamented United head coach Ben Olsen. “Overall, though, if we can take a look back at the film of this game, there’s going to be a lot of good stuff.”
It wasn’t the most unexpected result; aside from their record, United were playing on two days rest and were forced to water down their starting eleven. Missing regulars like Dejan Jakovic and Ethan White, United’s back line was particularly threadbare, and it showed.
Things started brightly for DC, who seemed to be riding the high of their Open Cup title. Collin Martin had a pair of chances in the opening 10 minutes, while Jared Jeffrey nearly scored his second spectacular goal in as many weeks at the quarter hour mark, only to find himself denied by the woodwork.
Just three days removed from a performance against RSL where they only managed one solitary shot on goal, United peppered Chicago keeper Sean Johnson throughout the half. The often error-prone Johnson was up to the task, though, pushing away all 5 of D.C. United’s attempts at goal.
The early push would be for naught. In a season full of heartbreak, it only made sense for Chicago to find the net against the run of play, and few were surprised when they did it twice in quick succession. Jeff Larentowicz opened the scoring in the 24th minute, combining beautifully with Juan Luis Anangono. Anangono collected the ball outside the area, then put on a dazzling display of footwork. Cutting back and forth several times, the Ecuadorian forward eluded United defender Daniel Woolard before defly slotting the ball through to a streaking Larentowicz, who had little challenge tapping it home inside the six.
The Fire would double their lead just two minutes later through a bit of good fortune. Mike Magee played a free kick into the area from the right side. The inswinger unexpectedly found its way to goalkeeper Joe Willis, deflecting off of his shin and directly into the path of Bakary Soumare just below the penalty spot. Easy finish. 2-0.
Both teams struggled to find traction early on in the second half, trading half-chances and mis-hits. United did their best to crawl back into the match, inserting Dwayne De Rosario and Lewis Neal in search of an offensive spark, but they simply couldn’t find their way past Johnson, who was excellent throughout the evening. By the time Dilly Duka and Quincy Amarikwa linked up for a garbage time time goal just moments from the death, the game had already been lost.
“This is definetly a huge disappointment,” Jeffrey told SBI after the match. “Coming off such a high – winning the Open Cup this weekend. Between the boxes, we were dominant. They just beat us in the 18 yard box. They beat us.”
The storyline at RFK this evening was the same as so many MLS games – the team that takes their chances – however few and far between – gets the spoils. There were stretches in both halves where United played a pretty attractive brand of soccer, linking up nicely through midfield. In the end, however, Chicago’s opportunistic edge was more than enough to hand D.C. its fifth loss in it’s last seven league matches.
As you might expect, United’s players had a hard time after the match seeing the bright side of their performance.
“We just didn’t finish our chances,” said a clearly frustrated Perry Kitchen, looking squarely at the floor. “They put theirs away, and from there everything went south. It’s very frustrating, but we’ve just gotta move on.”