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Tico goals the story as D.C. United, Chicago Fire produce 3-3 thriller

Ulises Segura’s brace wasn’t enough to hand DCU a win

MLS: Chicago Fire at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United fell behind 2-0 early before an inspired fightback appeared to give them a victory over the visiting Chicago Fire. Instead, a stoppage time goal from Francisco Calvo handed the visitors a 3-3 draw before a crowd of 14,201 on Buzzard Point. United got two goals from Ulises Segura, and another from Luciano Acosta, but the early hole they dug proved too deep to completely come back from.

United had the first truly good chance of the match. A long ball from Wayne Rooney, who had dropped deep in possession, picked out Leonardo Jara, who just barely kept the ball in on the touchline inside Chicago’s box. Jara smoothly picked out the trailing Ulises Segura, but the Costa Rican badly scuffed his shot, letting the Fire off the hook in the 7th minute.

At the other end, surprise starter Chris Odoi-Atsem — making his first start in competitive play since September 16, 2017 — had to make two crucial interventions on CJ Sapong in the early going. United didn’t heed the warning signs, though, falling behind in the 12th minute. Nico Gaitan’s pinpoint, driven service from a free kick was inviting, and Sapong continued his long history of success against United by rising up early to power a header past Bill Hamid.

Things went from bad to worse. United appeared to have fended off a marauding run from Aleksandar Katai in the 14th minute, but Fredric Brillant’s tackle rolled towards the top of the box. With no one present to win the loose ball for D.C., Djordje Mihailovic struck a venomous shot from 25 yards that clipped Junior Moreno’s knee on the way in. The deflection didn’t take much of the shot’s speed, but it did change its trajectory, leaving Hamid with no chance of changing direction mid-leap.

Hamid produced two big saves in a short span midway through the half, denying first Sapong then Katai as Chicago kept forcing turnovers and knifing through the Black-and-Red with attacks in transition.

With Chicago perhaps content with a 2-0 lead, United began piling up possession, with Rooney’s header over the bar a portent of things to come. After a stoppage that ended with Johan Kappelhof being substituted in the 43rd minute, United pulled a goal back. Chicago shuffled their lineup as a result, and while they were still out of sorts, Acosta picked off a sloppy pass on the Fire left. Acosta backheeled to Lucas Rodriguez, who immediately pushed play forward to Rooney. Chicago was scrambling, and Rooney had space to shuttle the ball to Segura, who by this point was in alone on goal. This time, he didn’t miss, calmly side-footing past Kenneth Kronholm to make it 2-1.

United had life, and briefly thought they had a second goal. Seconds into first half stoppage time, Moreno helped Segura escape some pressure before firing a pass quickly up the right to Acosta. Acosta drew defenders before finding Rooney in a pocket, and Rooney one-timed a pass into Rodriguez’s path. Kronholm blocked Rodriguez’s initial shot, but the ball bounced back into the young Argentine’s path, letting him deposit it into an empty net.

Audi Field roared, but about 30 seconds later, referee Armando Villarreal was at midfield listening to a call from the VAR booth. Replays showed that the rebound popped up into Rodriguez’s extended arm, and after taking a look, Villarreal pulled the goal back.

United’s outburst to close the half wasn’t there immediately to start the second, but after a few minutes they started to look sharp again. A few decent attacking moves nearly panned out, and then Segura struck again for the equalizer. It was simple stuff: Jara played Segura into space up the wing after Raheem Edwards had stepped up too high, and Segura angled his run perfectly before slotting the ball low and across Kronholm, kissing the post on its way in in the 61st minute.

Chicago was still able to provide a threat, though, and had the game’s next two chances in the 69th minute. First, Przemyslaw Frankowski’s long-range rocket was punched away by Hamid. Katai picked up the loose ball on the Fire left, whipping it back in for Sapong, whose diving header was perfect to set up Francisco Calvo, who come all the way forward from center back. Calvo had a sure goal, but somehow contrived to volley straight up into the air, stunningly leaving the score at 2-2.

Both teams were playing wide-open soccer in pursuit of a winner, and eventually United got their noses out in front. Jara was involved again, this time bombing down the right flank before driving in a cross to the back post. Acosta, the shortest player on the field, was initially marked by Frankowski, but picked his run up to full speed to win the race to the service and authoritatively head past Kronholm in the 81st minute.

Steven Birnbaum took a late knock in a collision between Hamid and Bastian Schweinstieger, and while he was waiting to return to play, Chicago served in a corner. Schweinsteiger found the ball at the back post and went for a half-volley, but the German legend didn’t get enough purchase on his shot to beat Hamid.

Just as United started to believe they were going to walk off winners, Chicago got level two minutes into stoppage time. United half-cleared a service into the box, only for Schweinsteiger to twist and try a blind attempt to lob the ball back into the mixer. Calvo, still forward from the last corner, was kept onside by Jalen Robinson, and just barely glanced the ball past Hamid.

Chicago still looked like they could steal a late winner, and Rooney fired a 93rd minute free kick over the bar, but in the end a breathless encounter ended 3-3.

United will be back in action on Saturday, as they host the San Jose Earthquakes before the beginning of a two-week Gold Cup break.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season (Game 16)
D.C. United 3 (Segura 43, 61; Acosta 81)
Chicago Fire 3 (Sapong 12, Mihailovic 14, Calvo 92+)

DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Chris Odoi-Atsem (Jalen Robinson 68); Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno; Ulises Segura (Zoltan Stieber 80), Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney (C)

Fire (4231): Kenneth Kronholm; Johan Kappelhof (Fabian Herbers 43), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Francisco Calvo, Raheem Edwards (Marcelo 72); Dax McCarty (C), Djordje Mihailovic; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Nico Gaitan (Brandt Bronico 75), Aleksandar Katai; CJ Sapong

DCU - Canouse 49
Fire - Frankowski 62