D.C. United could have ensured a home playoff game this week with a win on Sunday against the Chicago Fire. The Black-and-Red will indeed get that honor, but it took some help from New York City FC to get the first-ever playoff game at Audi Field. United was held to a 0-0 draw at Toyota Park on Decision Day, in a wind-swept game that featured few chances for either team.
At the same time, however, NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union 3-1 at Yankee Stadium, meaning United jumped their I-95 rivals, moving up to 4th place with 51 points. United will face either the Union or the Columbus Crew, whose game against Minnesota was delayed due to weather.
A week after United’s playoff clinching win over NYCFC, head coach Ben Olsen made one change to the starting lineup, while shuffling around some roles. Nick DeLeon came back into the starting lineup, with Yamil Asad dropping to the bench. DeLeon took over at right back, where Paul Arriola got the start last week. Arriola started at right midfield, while Ulises Segura shifted over to the left side.
United dodged an early bullet, when a 5th minute Brandon Vincent cross bounced in the box, and then appeared to deflect off of Joseph Mora’s hand. Referee Nima Saghafi briefly signaled a possible VAR review, but gave no penalty kick.
In the 11th minute, a cross from Diego Campos took a deflection off of Mora, which just touched the ball away from Raheem Edwards at the far post. DeLeon had a shot blocked by Vincent at the other end, before Aleksandar Katai stung the palms of Bill Hamid from outside the box, with the keeper making the save in the 17th minute.
Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta combined to set up United’s best chance of the half in the 19th minute, with the striker finding Acosta out on the right. Acosta played into the box for Arriola, who won a header, but couldn’t find the target under pressure from Campos.
Edwards hit United on the counter in the 27th minute, with a pass from Nicolas Hasler at the top of the box. The former Toronto FC man was in a decent spot, but sliced a first time shot wide of the goal. A minute later, Bastian Schweinsteiger found Edwards in the box, but Frederic Brillant deflected the shot out for a corner.
Hasler won a header from a cross by Campos in the 43rd minute, but Hamid leapt up to make an easy save on a weak header. DeLeon then cut out a cross in front of Jonathan Campbell as the first half came to a close without any stoppage time.
DeLeon once again cut out a cross from a dangerous spot to start the second half. Campos’ delivery from the right wasn’t initially dealt with in the 47th minute, and the right back had to head out at the far post in front of Vincent. The resulting corner caused mayhem in the box as Hamid couldn’t handle the cross in windy conditions, but the chance ended with a handball called against Schweinsteiger.
A rare opportunity cropped up for the Black-and-Red in the 50th minute, as Rooney was played into space on the right flank. There wasn’t much room for Rooney to angle into the box, so he clipped a cross into the middle, where Acosta screwed a volley well off-target.
Segura then whiffed on a free kick sent into the box by Rooney in the 55th minute, after the ball took a couple of bounces. Birnbaum tried to keep the chance alive near the end line, but Chicago won a goal kick, as Katai shielded the center back from the ball.
Brillant had United’s best chance of the game in the 68th minute, but couldn’t turn home a rebound for his tally with the Black-and-Red. Rooney’s free kick, bounced in front of keeper Patrick McLain, who could not handle the shot. Brillant did well to react quickly, but stabbed his effort over the goal from the doorstep.
Rooney found Mora out wide in the 78th minute, after United was able to keep hold of possession in the attacking half. The left back sent an inviting cross into the middle, finding Segura, who couldn’t keep a promising header on target.
The Fire could not carve out much more for the rest of the half, looking for a consolation win in a lost season. Katai’s shot from range in the 81st minute was over the goal. The winger then got around DeLeon in the 87th minute, but had his cross from the endline cut out by Brillant for a corner.
United finished the season with 51 points from 14 wins. The time and date of their playoff game will be announced later tonight.