D.C. United made their return to Audi Field count, defeating the Chicago Fire 1-0. Edison Flores scored the game’s only goal with a 7th minute header, his first since joining last year in a club-record deal for United.
Hernán Losada had changes in mind after three straight road defeats. Jon Kempin started in goal over Chris Seitz, while Brendan Hines-Ike returned from injury at center back. Drew Skundrich, one day after signing an MLS deal with the club, made his MLS debut as a starter in midfield. Designated Player Paul Arriola, meanwhile, made the bench for the first time all season after a quadriceps injury cut his loan to Swansea City short.
United signaled their intent quickly, with Julian Gressel missing a 24-yard free kick by inches inside the first minute, but did even better shortly thereafter. After forcing a turnover, United worked the ball from right to left, eventually finding Moses Nyeman. The D.C. homegrown midfielder fought through a tackle before feeding Adrien Perez, another new starter on the night, who picked out Edison Flores for a wide-open header, scoring his first-ever MLS goal to make it 1-0 in the 7th minute.
The Fire were completely thrown off by United’s high-press, and the Black-and-Red nearly made it 2-0 with Gressel smashing a shot off the crossbar in the 19th minute. Perez then forced Wyatt Omsberg to clear a shot that beat Bobby Shuttleworth off the line three minutes later, though a narrow offside call would have taken that goal back.
Chicago finally got themselves sorted somewhat, and Kempin had to make a strong save in the 32nd minute after fine work from Robert Beric gave the striker a chance to set up young winger Brian Gutierrez inside the box. Five minutes later, Gutierrez went even closer, pinging a shot off the post after Beric once again set him up from inside the United penalty area.
The sides exchanged chances in the final minutes of the half, with Gressel firing over, Kempin making a second stop to deny Alvaro Medrán, and Perez being denied a goal by Shuttleworth with virtually the last kick of the half.
United came out on the front foot, with Gressel, Perez, and Flores all having good looks in the first 15 minutes after the break. Perhaps the best look fell to Flores, who combined well with Perez only for Francisco Calvo’s flying challenge to block his powerful shot attempt from nine yards in the 64th minute.
Still, United were lucky to maintain their edge after a 71st minute sequence saw multiple Chicago pass attempts rebound inside the box. Kempin was screened as Beric’s shot clipped a United player, but substitute Elliott Collier’s shot went right at the United goalkeeper.
Moments after Arriola made his return to action off the bench, Perez thought he’d made it 2-0 in the 79th minute, only for the offside flag to foil a lovely sequence between he and Flores. United was close again in the 89th minute, with substitute Yamil Asad’s clever free kick catching the Fire off-guard, only for Shuttleworth to tip it away just before it curled into the goal.
Still, United nearly gave it all away in stoppage time. A Fire corner was cleared by Tony Alfaro, but after being recycled back in, substitute Fabian Herbers sent a header off the top of the crossbar, sparing United from a gut punch of an equalizer.
That was the last look though, and United hung on for their first shutout of 2021. Now in 5th place on six points, the Black-and-Red won’t have to wait for their next match, as they play the second in three straight on Buzzard Point this Sunday, May 16, as they host Orlando City at 8:00pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 5
D.C. United 1 (Flores 7)
Chicago Fire 0
DCU (3412): Jon Kempin; Brendan Hines-Ike, Frederic Brillant (C), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel (Paul Arriola 75), Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, Andy Najar; Drew Skundrich (Felipe Martins 75); Edison Flores (Ola Kamara 88), Adrien Perez (Yamil Asad 85)
Chicago (4231): Bobby Shuttleworth; Boris Sekulic, Wyatt Omsberg (Fabian Herbers 59), Francisco Calvo (C), Miguel Angel Navarro (Jonathan Bornstein 81); Mauricio Pineda, Gaston Giménez (Javier Casas 46); Przemyslaw Frankowski, Alvaro Medrán, Brian Gutierrez (Elliott Collier 60); Robert Beric (Chinoso Offor 78)
DCU - Hines-Ike 4, Gressel 47
Chicago - Omsberg 18, Frankowski 52, Herbers 63