This match was billed as two teams in similar situations. DC United and the Chicago Fire are perennial playoff teams. They're two of the most successful clubs in the Eastern Conference. And much more was expected of them this year than their current locations in the standings.
Both teams entered this match without hope of a playoff bid. All that's left to play is their respective retiring superstars: Jaime Moreno and Brian McBride.
Moreno was absent today due to a controversial red card he received last week, and McBride was kept off the scoreboard thanks to solid defensive work by United.
In fact, it was the defense that stood out for both teams. The back four on each side looked like they belonged in MLS, which is more than we can say for the front six. In the end, a 0-0 draw was probably a fair result, as United extended its record number of scoreless matches to 17.
The entire defensive unit deserves some credit for shutting out the talented collection of attacking players on the Fire roster, but the standouts in my opinion were Jed Zayner and Troy Perkins. It didn't matter who he was facing - Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Nyarko - the result was always the same for Zayner. This was quite definitely his best match in a United uniform. Perkins made a few critical saves, including denying McBride the ultimate send off.
Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, and Devon McTavish also did well to stop McBride, Marco Pappa, and the rest of the Fire attackers. It wasn't always pretty, as they gave up more chances than they should, but someone (usually Jakovic) was always there to clean things up. Even Clyde Simms in his limited minutes in relief of James in central defense made some important stops, including one late save on Calen Carr.
Unfortunately for D.C., the Chicago defense played just as well as ours did. This meant that our top scorers Andy Najar and Danny Allsopp were kept off the board. Najar seemed like he was trying to do too much. He took two or three long shots with little chance of success, as if he was just trying to add some spectacular highlight to his Rookie of the Year campaign. Of course I'll take it all back if just one of those attempts goes in. Allsopp's high work rate was evident in this match, holding possession, starting the break, drawing fouls.
Santino Quaranta just wasn't connecting with his teammates today. He was usually more likely to turn the ball over than create an opportunity on get a shot on target. His job remains safe though, which is more than I can say for Pablo Hernandez, who seems to be playing himself ff this team more and more every week. Hernandez was a nonfactor in this match.
Good news. Just one match left. United will be sitting home watching the playoffs, along with seven other MLS teams. No better, no worse at that point.
But first, we have a major event next Saturday. An event every D.C. United fan should do their best to attend. The team has some big things in mind for Jaime Moreno's last match in D.C. Hopefully a win will be part of it.