Once again, D.C. United entered second half stoppage time trailing by a goal on the road. Once again, they managed to score that goal, with Bobby Boswell’s 92nd minute header handing the Black-and-Red a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire. It was the second straight week that United scored a stoppage time goal to secure a 2-2 draw. Rob Vincent had given United the lead in the first half with his first goal in a DC shirt, only for Chicago to respond with two goals in ten minutes from Razvan Cocis and David Accam.
Ben Olsen made two changes to the side that came back to snare an unlikely 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls last week. Luciano Acosta returned from suspension to central midfield, pushing Nick DeLeon to the bench. Further back, the injured Sean Franklin was replaced by Luke Mishu (who subbed in for Franklin when he picked up the calf problem in New Jersey). Chicago, meanwhile, made do without productive mid-season signing Michael de Leeuw, who apparently picked up an ankle issue during the week.
Both teams had some moderately dangerous attacks in the early going, but the first truly good look on goal came in the 17th minute. Mishu pushed up the right wing with the ball before cutting it back to the top of the box for Rob Vincent. Despite a sliding effort to break up the play by Matt Polster, Vincent side-footed a low shot that beat Johnson only to skip inches wide of the post.
Referee Kevin Stott ruled that Polster got a touch, and from the resulting corner, United got their goal. Chicago half-cleared the corner before Mishu put the ball back in for Patrick Mullins, who nodded the ball down to Bobby Boswell. Boswell looked to have a great chance to score himself, but his first touch let him down. Kappelhof tried to pass back to Johnson for a clearance, but his pass ended up looking like a dangerous effort on goal. Johnson reversed course and dove low to make the save, resulting in Stott calling a backpass on the Fire.
Chicago stacked virtually their entire team along the goalline, but with the ball placed on the edge of the 6 yard box, there was still room for United to screen Johnson. A quick touch backward from Luciano Acosta was followed by a powerful strike by Vincent, whose effort burst through the wall and in to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, that lead did not last. A bit of confusion reigned, as Stott appeared to call offside only to then bring play back for a Fire free kick 45 yards from goal. That turned into a Chicago corner kick that the Fire took full advantage of. Arturo Alvarez’s left-footed inswinger met the near-post run of Cocis, who had escaped Mishu to glance the service past Hamid, leveling the score.
United tried to respond, with a combination between Mishu and Lloyd Sam freeing up the former to serve in a good cross that Patrick Nyarko could only head well over the bar. Moments later, Sam spun Michael Harrington like a top on the edge of the box before sending in a hard cross that Johnson ended up having to get a palm to as to prevent an accidental goal.
The Fire took the lead shortly thereafter. Harrington pushed the ball upfield in the 29th minute for Cocis, who didn’t even break stride to lay the ball off for Accam. By continuing his run, Cocis drew attention from Mishu, forcing Steve Birnbaum to step up and deal with Accam. Accam took advantage, cutting further inside. No one from United arrived to support Birnbaum, allowing the Ghanaian to fire a low bullet from 24 yards. Accam’s powerful strike tucked into the lower corner, though it may be one that Hamid wants back.
Chicago pressed on, with Accam forcing a desperate block in the 33rd minute as the Fire had most of the play in the aftermath of their second goal. However, United would miss two major chances to get back level in the 38th minute. First, Sam’s low cross somehow got through Mullins and Jonathan Campbell before barely evading Vincent’s lunge at the back post. Kappelhof tried to clear, but Kemp kept the play alive and crossed to his one-time college teammate Mullins at the back post. Mullins touch a touch to lose Meira, but his blast from 11 yards flashed less than a yard over the crossbar.
Sam continued to be United’s brightest attacking spot in the first half. In the 40th minute, he lulled Polster and Harrington to sleep before beating Johnson with a low shot that, sadly, rolled just barely wide. Two minutes later, Sam wanted a penalty kick given after he was tangled with Harrington in pursuit of a Kemp cross, but the argument was rendered moot by what appeared to be an incorrect offside call.
Chicago had the first look after halftime, with Alvarez escaping Marcelo to feed Accam. Accam dipped his shoulder to open up a shooting window around Mishu, but his low bid bounded across goal and wide. Olsen clearly needed to inject some life into his team, and did so by bringing Nick DeLeon on in an unfamiliar right back role. Mishu made way in the 54th minute.
United quickly had a couple looks, with Kemp’s cross to Mullins broken up by Harrington in the 56th minute and Birnbaum unable to make contact on the resulting corner. Nyarko picked Acosta out with a visionary crossfield ball two minutes later, but Acosta couldn’t corral it. United got another corner in the end, but couldn’t make much out of it.
Kemp was forced into another block on the hour mark, as David Arshakyan was in place to volley a dangerous-looking shot after Harrington had rounded DeLeon to cross, but United was at least opening the game up. A 65th minute corner from Sam found Birnbaum, who could only head over the bar at the near post. Chicago broke upfield in the aftermath, but neither Arshakyan nor Accam could turn possession deep in DC’s area into anything truly threatening.
Those two tried to combine again, with Arshakyan getting poor purchase on his 70th minute shot, before both sides went to the bench. Chicago brought Khaly Thiam in for Arshakyan in an effort to plug up the midfield. United, meanwhile, brought in Lamar Neagle - scorer of three goals in four games - on for Sam. Six minutes after that, Olsen made his final sub, bringing in Julian Buescher for Marcelo and dropping Vincent into the anchor role.
Chicago probably should have finished off the game in the 78th minute. A move up the wing caught United with numbers upfield. Solignac offered up a pinpoint cross from the right for Polster, who was unmarked and just 10 yards out. Somehow, Polster contrived to head over the bar, letting United off the hook.
Neagle almost made that miss come back to haunt Chicago less than 60 seconds later. Acosta’s splendid pass from deep in midfield found Neagle slashing across Meira inside the Fire box. Neagle rolled the ball away from Meira before blasting a close-range shot that Johnson blocked with his shoulder. The rebound popped right back to Neagle, who tried a falling quasi-bicycle kick that ended up flying too high.
United repeated last week’s tactic of using Birnbaum as a second forward, going to three at the back, and Chicago was just as uncomfortable with that look as the Red Bulls were on Sunday. A 60 yard pass from Vincent in the 85th minute found United’s stand-in striker, and Birnbaum nodded it down towards Mullins. Mullins touched the ball around Campbell, but the rookie center back did just enough to prevent Mullins from directing his shot on frame.
Chicago got another chance to finish off United. A DeLeon giveaway in the 90th minute ended up with Solignac. The Argentine found Accam, who faked Vincent to the ground only to lean back as he fired, sending a shot from an excellent position a couple of yards over the bar.
The Fire would rue their misses, as United once again scored a stoppage time equalizer. A long throw-in from DeLeon ended up being too high for Birnbaum and Boswell, but Chicago couldn’t clear. Mullins juggled the ball up for himself and went for a miracle shot, hooking the ball over his shoulder as he fell. Mullins’ goal of the year bid was denied by the crossbar, falling to Nyarko. Nyarko stabbed the ball across the face of goal, forcing a spectacular save out of Johnson, but no one could stop Boswell from jogging in to nod the rebound in from two yards out.
The game was not over, though. The Fire pumped the ball upfield, with Solignac’s backheel picking out Thiam. Thiam launced a rocket that clearly struck Kemp in the hand, with Stott calling a handball just inches outside the penalty area. Despite the adamant Fire protests, replays revealed that Stott was correct in only giving a free kick rather than a penalty. United had to stare down Accam’s free kick, with the wall blocking the initial shot before the Fire slammed the rebound high and wide on virtually the last action of the game.
The point leaves United temporarily in 6th place, on 34 points and ahead of Orlando City - who host Columbus tomorrow - on goal difference. The Black-and-Red will face the Lions next Saturday, September 24th.