D.C. United, given another chance to create even more distance between themselves and the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference, did just that with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire. Conor Doyle smashed a shot home from outside the box following a half-clearance to give United 34 points from 19 games played this season.
The win, coupled with New England's loss against the Columbus Crew, gives United a 10 point lead over the second place Revs, who have played one less game. After a two game losing streak in MLS play, D.C. have quickly responded with two straight wins, both against Eastern Conference foes.
Doyle's goal was his second of the season, both against Chicago this year. Doyle netted the third at RFK earlier this month in United's 3-1 win.
With another three games in the next week and a half, Ben Olsen made several major changes to the side that beat the Revs on Sunday, with Perry Kitchen, Fabian Espindola, and Chris Rolfe all relegated to the bench. But United got off to a smart start, not allowing much from Chicago while going close themselves.
Facundo Coria had the first chance in the 19th minute, collecting a pass from Luis Silva, before dancing his way past several Fire defenders. After lining up a left footed shot, Coria saw his effort saved by Sean Johnson, who was able to push the ball out.
Jairo Arrieta was played in behind the defense from a Silva long ball minutes later, allowing him to collect the ball on the left before moving in towards goal. Cutting back towards the middle of the box, the Costa Rican had a well hit shot parried away by Johnson.
Chicago came close to opening the scoring in the 29th minute, utilizing the speed of Kennedy Igboananike. Razvan Cocis played a well timed ball in behind United's defense, allowing Igboananike to latch onto the ball. But after messing up a cut back, Igboananike was able to work himself a good opportunity from a tight angle only to send the shot into the side netting.
Igboananike then worked himself into a good spot to receive a Joevin Jones cross from the left, but unfortunately for the Nigerian, his good position was offside, though his shot was off the mark regardless.
Coria had the final opportunity of the half, as United won a free kick near the penalty box in stoppage time, but Coria sent his effort well over the goal.
Chicago came out in the second half making one change, bringing in Jason Johnson for Jones, and the move almost paid immediate dividends. United seemed out of sorts as Igboananike was again played in behind, forcing Bill Hamid into a wonderful save, but the striker was again adjudged to have been offside.
After weathering a storm for several minutes, United began to get back into the game, and found themselves creating several openings at the other end. Doyle got on the end of a long ball in behind Chicago's backline, but his cross went through the box without anyone able to get on the end.
Bobby Boswell then came inches away from the opener in the 50th minute, only to be stymied by Johnson. Silva whipped in a free kick from the Fire half that Boswell won, sending a bouncing header towards the post. Arrieta just missed getting a touch to the ball, and allowing Johnson to reach back at full stretch to palm the ball awy.
At the other end, Jason Johnson came close for Chicago from a set piece. Harry Shipp chipped a ball towards the back post, and Johnson lost his mark in Markus Halsti. But as Johnson slid in to knock the ball home, it bounced just past his outstretched leg.
Olsen then turned to his bench to help find a goal, but it was Doyle who ended up being the match winner. Espindola, who had entered the game for Silva, sent in a free kick that was flicked on by Doyle near the top of the box. The ball bounced around to Boswell, who saw his shot blocked. As the ball rolled out of the box, Doyle hit a one-timed shot that was rising all the way as it ripped into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead after 73 minutes.
Frank Yallop, needing a win for his Fire, rolled the dice by bringing on Mike Magee after the goal, and Magee got to work immediately, setting up Guly do Prado, who sent a shot from outside the box straight at Hamid. Magee then got in behind United's defense in the 78th minute, after beating the offside trap. But an awkward first touch forced him to play the ball back to Igboananike, and United were able to block the resulting shot before it reached Hamid.
Espindola just missed Arrieta with a cross that would have sealed United's victory in the late stages, before do Prado sent Chicago's last chance - a desperate long range shot - over the goal, ensuring United's 1-0 win.
The Black-and-Red return to action on Saturday with a trip to BMO Field to take on Toronto FC.