As a fierce rain poured down at RFK Stadium Saturday, the fouls and goals did, too. It was an afternoon of abundance in a lot of ways—just not in the ways that mattered for D.C. United. RFK drew a paltry 9,445 as the Black-and-Red settled for a solitary point in a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire, leaving two more on the table thanks to a late equalizer from Quincy Amarikwa.
"I certainly think we did enough to get the win, and it’s disappointing to get the draw," head coach Ben Olsen said afterward. "But if I could step out, away from that, it’s still a step forward."
The biggest step came on the offensive end, where DCU notched its first two goals of 2014 after getting blanked twice in losses to Columbus and Toronto. Olsen estimated that his squad "quadrupled" its chances from what it had generated its prior two times out. Fabian Espindola's blistering free kick gave DC United its first goal of 2014, but a late Chicago equalizer forced Ben Olsen to settle for a 2-2 draw.
United’s first real chance of the afternoon would come in the 13th minute, when a Sean Franklin cross found Luis Silva in the middle. But Silva couldn’t get any force (or purpose) behind the ensuing shot, and it was cleared harmlessly away.
A different kind of deluge would follow. In the 16th minute, one of several Eddie Johnson give-and-gos set him clear on goal on the right flank, but Chicago keeper Sean Johnson closed up quickly to smother the five-hole attempt. A header forced another tough save a minute later, with Eddie Johnson hitting a strike from long-range soon after that. It was the Fire, though, who would end up getting on the board first.
After winning a corner kick in the 27th, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado rose up to send home the match’s opening goal against the run of play with a well-placed header into the top-right corner of Bill Hamid’s net.
But the Red and Black came right back shortly thereafter, when Johnson won a free kick a half-foot outside Chicago’s box in the 35th minute. Amidst the driving rain and wind, Ben Olsen shouted for a penalty kick. He went unheard. It wouldn’t matter.
Fabian Espindola fired home United’s first goal of the season in impressive fashion, his left-footed blast passing untouched through the Chicago wall and then past Sean Johnson for the equalizer. The Argentine noted that he practices free kicks often during practice, but typically he’ll only try going over the wall. Under was something new. "The field was slippery, and I tried it," Espindola said. "It worked out alright."
The pace slowed down considerably towards the middle of the game, perhaps due in part to a 30th-minute injury to midfielder Luis Silva.
After a back-and-forth first period that saw a total of 14 shots, things started to heat up again in the 66th minute, when Patrick Nyarko’s empty-net shot missed the frame after a Hamid rebound. A clearance would fall at the feet of an unmarked Jared Jeffrey in the 71st minute, but the waterlogged ball got stuck under him, and nothing came of it.
The pinball game continued from there, with Perry Kitchen putting the finishing touches on an Espindola corner kick two minutes later.
"It’s kind of a blur, to be honest," Kitchen said of his goal, the third of his MLS career. "I think Bobby [Boswell] might have kicked the ball two or three times, and it just kept coming back, and it ended up finally squirting out to me. I just took a touch and put it home." Holding that lead, as it turned out, would prove considerably more complicated.
Quincy Amarikwa equalized in the 82nd minute for the visitors, redirecting a Patrick Nyarko cross home from six yards out after Nyarko beat Cristian Fernandez badly along the DCU endline. "I think that we got a lot better with the ball and finishing, but obviously it wasn’t good enough," Espindola said. "Just two mistakes and two goals at home, again."
There was improvement, to be sure—"The Toronto game, that was a step up from Columbus, and this was a step up from Toronto," Kitchen would say later—with DCU chalking up three more total shots and three more shots on target than it had so far this season. Finally for the Red and Black, the heavens opened up on Saturday, and the long-awaited goals came out.
Unfortunately for Olsen and Co., though, that went both ways.
"It’s still a draw," Olsen said. "And we feel like we should have walked out of here with a win."