D.C. United got two goals in the second half from Wayne Rooney, overcoming a spirited challenge from the Chicago Fire to win 2-1 on Sunday afternoon. Raheem Edwards gave the visitors the lead early in the second half, but Rooney scored after the hour mark — the second coming from the penalty spot — to give United all three points to keep pace in the playoff race.
A week after thumping the Montreal Impact 5-0, head coach Ben Olsen made one change to his starting lineup against the Fire. With Oniel Fisher out for the season after injuring his knee, Paul Arriola took over at right back. Ulises Segura moving into the starting lineup, occupying Arriola’s spot on the wing.
United came out of the gate dictating the play of the game, but early chances were scarce. In the 18th minute, Wayne Rooney picked up a clearance near midfield, and noticed Fire goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland off his line. Rooney shot from midfield, but Cleveland recovered in time, even as he slipped just as the ball came down.
Three minutes later, United had the ball in the back of the net for the lead, but a video review denied Rooney a goal. On a counter, Segura found Luciano Acosta, who cut back at the top of the box. Acosta found Rooney, and the striker clinically finished off his chance. However, referee Ismail Elfath signaled for a review, and later chalked the goal off, calling Acosta for an apparent foul Brandt Bronico in the build-up.
The call shifted the tide a bit, as Chicago found a stronger foothold. In the 27th minute, a cross from Edwards was just cut out by Steven Birnbaum in front of goal. Moments later, a cross from Jorge Corrales found Edwards in the box, but the winger couldn’t guide a free header on target.
The Fire did well in the 35th minute to clear out a header from Frederic Brillant after a free kick from Rooney. Yamil Asad then picked up a feed from Acosta in the 38th minute, but only found the side netting from a tough angle in the box.
From that goal kick, United should have had the lead, but Segura wasted a golden opportunity. Forcing a turnover from Bastian Schweinsteiger, Segura was in on goal from an angle, with Rooney wide open in front of goal. Opting to go at it alone, Segura did beat Cleveland with a rocket of a shot, but the ball smashed off the crossbar, and a follow-up from Rooney was wide of the goal.
Bill Hamid was forced to make a save late on in the half, as a cross from the Corrales found Djordje Milhailovic at the back post. The young midfielder centered the ball for Aleksandar Katai, who should have done better than stab the ball right at Hamid as the half came to a close.
Acosta and Rooney combined in the 49th minute to create an early chance, as United won possession in the Chicago half. Acosta found his partner in crime quickly, but Cleveland stopped Rooney’s near post shot.
Two minutes later though, United were on the wrong side of the scoreline as Edwards gave the visitors the lead. Katai was able to make his way towards goal, riding a challenge, and found Edwards on the left of the box. Edwards skipped around challenges from Brillant and Russell Canouse before calmly shooting past Hamid.
United were stunned, and Chicago had a couple opportunities to increase their lead. The best of them came in the 59th minute, as Katai gained possession from a turnover. Katai’s shot took a slight deflection from Brillant, and was then pushed just wide of the post by Hamid.
Zoltan Stieber was brought on for Segura as Olsen tried to change the team’s fortunes, and immediately, United were level. A somewhat speculative left-footed shot from Arriola found its way through the Fire back line, and Rooney gave it a slight redirection. Cleveland was able to make the initial save, but the ball popped right back to Rooney, who easily finished into the empty goal.
United were back in charge, and should have taken the lead in the 72nd minute. Acosta won possession in midfield, and found Rooney in space. The striker was all alone with just Cleveland to beat, but could only shoot wide, much to his chagrin.
United were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute though, and Rooney had a chance to redeem himself. Junior Moreno was taken down in the box by Johan Kappelhof trying to latch onto a trademark Rooney flick. Rooney, after taking a moment to reset the ball on the spot, confidently dispatched the penalty for his 9th goal of the season.
Nick DeLeon, making his first appearance since May 29th, and Chris Durkin were brought on late to help United wrap up the three points. Despite pressure and a reshuffle from Veljko Paunovic to push Schweinsteiger closer to goal, Chicago’s only real look was an 86th minute Katai free kick that went over the bar.
United, with 41 points from 30 games, take on FC Dallas next Saturday at Audi Field.