D.C. United had hoped to create some history for themselves, but the Chicago Fire spoiled the party, handing the Black-and-Red a 2-0 loss on a brutally cold night at Audi Field. United had entered the night with the chance to start 2022 with a third straight win, something they’ve never done without the aid of the old MLS shootout, but goals from Stanislav Ivanov and Jonathan Bornstein let Chicago walk out the victors.
United made three changes to the team that defeated FC Cincinnati last week. One was enforced, as rookie Sofiane Djeffal got his first pro start, replacing the suspended Moses Nyeman. Hernán Losada’s other changes were up front, as Ola Kamara got the nod over Michael Estrada, while Adrien Perez stepped into the team for Griffin Yow.
Both teams started slowly, but a 15th minute Edison Flores shot looped up to Kamara on the doorstep, only for last year’s Golden Boot runner-up to be forced to try to float his header over Gaga Slonina, who was able to bat the ball away. Bill Hamid made a tremendous save a minute later after some lovely work from the Fire carved open a good chance for Mauricio Pineda. The defensive midfielder was in alone, but Hamid’s early read allowed him to close down Pineda’s angle and keep the game scoreless.
United’s season-opening shutout streak came to an end in the 32nd minute, through some brutal bad luck. While their initial defending wasn’t great, as they left Xherdan Shaqiri with plenty of room to operate, the Swiss star’s pass was not on line with its target, Stanislav Ivanov. However, Brad Smith’s attempted interception only ended up skewing the ball into the Bulgarian winger’s path, and Ivanov clipped it past Hamid from close range.
United seemed to have scored in the 41st minute, with Kamara smashing the ball in from a yard out, but the goal was called back by referee Rubiel Vazquez, as Kamara had strayed offside pursuing a rebound after Flores tested Slonina.
The Black-and-Red pressed for an equalizer as Chicago came out for the second half in a very low block, but in truth the visitors were largely comfortable. United routinely threatened to break loose, but imprecision as they entered the final third, or crowds of white kits, denied their efforts.
If that wasn’t frustrating enough for the frozen fans on Buzzard Point, Chicago’s second was. A counter down the right saw Brian Gutiérrez float a cross into the middle for Gastón Giménez, who drew three defenders but flicked the ball on away from all of them. Jonathan Bornstein, seemingly brought into the game solely to man-mark Julian Gressel, calmly volleyed the ball past Hamid in the 81st minute.
United’s best look of the half came three minutes later, when Slonina could only palm Gressel’s free kick down. Andy Najar kept his low shot on frame, but the ball struck the prone Slonina, and Brendan Hines-Ike’s follow-up went into the Chico Stand.
That was it for United’s attempt to come back, though, with the Fire seeing the final ten minutes out without issue. The Black-and-Red (2W-0D-1L, 6 points) will look to get back to winning ways next Saturday, as they head to Canada to take on Toronto FC. Kickoff at BMO Field is scheduled for 3:00pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 3
D.C. United 0
Chicago Fire 2 (Ivanov 32, Bornstein 81)
DCU (343): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum (C), Brendan Hines-Ike; Julian Gressel, Sofiane Djeffal, Drew Skundrich, Brad Smith (Gaoussou Samaké 75); Edison Flores (Michael Estrada 67), Ola Kamara, Adrien Perez (Nigel Robertha 74)
Chicago (4231): Gaga Slonina; Boris Sekulić, Wyatt Omsberg, Rafael Czichos (C), Miguel Navarro; Mauricio Pineda (Federico Navarro 71), Gastón Giménez; Stanislav Ivanov (Jonathan Bornstein 71), Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabian Herbers (Brian Gutiérrez 63); Kacper Przybyłko
DCU - Najar 21, Skundrich 45, Hines-Ike 65
Chicago - Giménez 45, Sekulić 48, F. Navarro 86