D.C. United made light work of the Chicago Fire, winning 3-0 at home thanks to an Ola Kamara hat trick. United’s top marksman, who now leads the MLS Golden Boot race with 16 goals on the year, buried two penalty kicks in the game’s first 35 minutes before nodding home his third just before halftime as the Black-and-Red moved up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Hernán Losada brought his returning international players back into the fold, with Andy Najar and Junior Moreno stepping into the lineup, while Edison Flores had to make do with a spot on the bench. Just as vitally, goalkeeper Bill Hamid returned after missing the last six games.
United’s habit of fast starts at home continued, with Ola Kamara winning a penalty just six minutes into the match. The Black-and-Red broke forward with purpose from the left, and Reyna slipped Kamara in behind the Fire’s back three. Carlos Terán reached out and hauled Kamara down, and referee Dave Gantar had no hesitation in booking the Chicago defender and pointing to the spot. Kamara did the honors, sending Bobby Shuttleworth the wrong way in the 9th minute.
The home side remained dangerous, but Chicago was not without their threats. Luka Stojanovic wasted a golden opportunity in the 22nd minute, side-footing a cross from Miguel Navarro wide from inside the six-yard box. Five minutes later, Stojanovic kept his shot on frame after Jhon Espinoza cut the ball back to him from the right, but Hamid produced a reflex stop to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Still, those moves came on the counter, with United holding the edge in terms of possession and pinning Chicago into their own end for spells, and eventually D.C. extended their lead. Once again, it came from a penalty, with Espinoza tripping Kevin Paredes after the homegrown wingback danced into the area after a prolonged spell of possession. Shuttleworth didn’t bite early on Kamara’s 35th minute spot kick this time, but the Norwegian beat him anyway, taking over the Golden Boot lead from Seattle’s Raúl Ruídiaz.
Kamara couldn’t be stopped, making it a hat trick in the 44th minute. The build-up saw another Paredes penalty claim before Arriola sent a rocket off the underside of the crossbar, but United weren’t to be denied. Julian Gressel tracked down the rebound on the right, clipping it back in at the near post for Kamara to nod past Shuttleworth.
Losada was able to make substitutions with Saturday’s trip to Atlanta in mind, and two of those players nearly combined to add to the lead in the 65th minute. Flores and Reyna opened the Fire up at midfield, with the latter sending Ramón Ábila in behind. Ábila eventually shook Terán’s attention off and drew Shuttleworth off his line, but with Arriola wide open, the striker called is own number, eventually seeing his shot saved.
Ábila saw two other opportunities go awry as United repeatedly took advantage of the Fire’s willingness to push virtually their entire team forward in search of any hope of a goal. Those attempts were fruitless, though, with United comfortably seeing out the game’s final 15 minutes.
The win sees United (10W-4D-10L, 34 points) climb to 5th place in the East, staying ahead of CF Montreal and Atlanta United, who both won their games tonight. United has just two days to recuperate and plan for their next match, which is a big one: the Black-and-Read head down to Georgia to take on Atlanta Saturday at 3:30pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 24
D.C. United 3 (Kamara 9pen, 35pen, 44)
Chicago Fire 0
DCU (343): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum (C), Donovan Pines (Tony Alfaro 46); Julian Gressel (Edison Flores 56), Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes (Joseph Mora 46); Paul Arriola, Ola Kamara (Ramón Ábila 56), Yordy Reyna (Moses Nyeman 79)
Chicago (3421): Bobby Shuttleworth; Wyatt Omsberg (Ignacio Aliseda 58), Carlos Terán, Jonathan Bornstein (C); Jhon Espinoza, Gaston Giménez (Federico Navarro 58), Álvaro Medrán, Miguel Navarro; Fabian Herbers (Stanislav Ivanov 75), Luka Stojanovic (Elliott Collier 86); Chinoso Offor (Robert Beric 58)
DCU - Pines 12, Gressel 53
Chicago - Terán 8, Giménez 11