Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CLIFF STARKEY
WASHINGTON—D.C. United was left still seeking their first win in over seven months as the Chicago Fire came from behind to leave the cold, rain-soaked pitch at RFK Stadium with a 2-2 draw.
The Fire took the lead thanks to Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s head, but D.C. United responded with their heads as well, as Fabian Espindola’s goal from a set piece was clever enough to fool the Fire defense. D.C. United looked to have a game winner courtesy of Perry Kitchen, who capitalized on sloppy defending, but Quincy Amarikwa broke D.C. United hearts with a late equalizer.
“It’s not easy to get a win around here,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen told SBI following the match. “I certainly think we did enough to get the win, and it’s disappointing to get the draw. I think if we just had a little bit more class in the final third, that game could have been 4-3.”
The chilling downpour forced both teams to play a tentative game at first, but after feeling each other—and the field—out, the players began to open up, hoping to take advantage of weather-related mistakes.
It looked like D.C. United would capitalize first, as multiple poor defensive clearances by the Fire gave D.C. United a handful of very clear, realistic chances to go in front. Eddie Johnson looked set to take the game over early, but Sean Johnson bailed his team out time and time again. D.C. United fans were agonizingly close to celebrating a goal by their new Designated Player, but his shot from outside the box curled just wide of the post.
Almost to script for those suffering D.C. United fans, the Fire opened scoring against the run of play. Rookie Harrison Shipp’s perfectly-placed corner kick found a rising Hurtado, who powerfully headed the ball into the top corner of the net.
D.C. United felt aggrieved once again in the 34th minute, as Eddie Johnson was pulled down inside the box. Referee Jair Marrufo correctly identified the foul as taking place just outside the box, ignoring the D.C. United penalty appeal. Boos quickly turned into cheers as Nick DeLeon and Espindola worked together to score on the ensuing free kick. DeLeon flicked the ball back to Espindola, whose shot went under the wall, past Johnson, and into the net.
The teams went into halftime locked at 1-1, and as the teams switched ends at the start of the second
half, the play on the field mirrored the action in the first half. This time it was the Fire who had the best chances early on. Bill Hamid stepped up multiple times to frustrate the Fire. Amarikwa’s impressive shot forced an even more impressive diving save from Hamid, but Patrick Nyarko’s rebounded shot went wide.
Once again, the team on its heels found a way to take the lead. This time, D.C. United found a way to punish the Fire for their terrible clearances. In the 73rd minute, Espindola’s corner found Bobby Boswell, whose header forced a save from Johnson. The deflection found its way back to Boswell, who shot directly into a crowd of Fire defenders.
After multiple clearance attempts, Perry Kitchen buried a close-range shot, and gave the home fans hope that their long wait for a precious three points was over.
The Fire, however, weren’t about to let themselves become an answer to a future D.C. United trivia question.
After Nyarko’s impressive touchline play, which included nutmegging Cristian, he found Amarikwa, whose 82nd minute equalizing blast underscored the fantastic play he had all afternoon.
Following the game, the teams shared the points, but neither team seemed happy with the result, or the foul weather which led to it.
Amarikwa, despite stealing a point for his team, is ready to put March behind him.
“Whenever it’s raining like that, it can get a little slick and hard to control the ball at times,” Amarikwa told SBI following the match. “Hopefully the weather starts clearing up everywhere across the league, because everywhere we’ve been, the elements haven’t been too kind to us.”
Both teams will have opportunities at home to build on this result next weekend. The Fire will host Philadelphia, while D.C. United play against New England.
Here are the game highlights: