It's a story that becoming all too familiar at RFK Stadium this season. But after D.C. United fell behind to the Chicago Fire in the first half, a two goal effort from Jairo Arrieta helped United come back to beat the Fire, 3-1 on Wednesday night.
David Accam put the Fire ahead in the first half, moments after Andrew Dykstra saved a penalty from Jeff Larentowicz. But United manager Ben Olsen's insertion of Fabian Espindola to start the second half proved crucial, as the Black-and-Red scored thrice in 14 minutes to extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference.
United were forced to play the game without Bill Hamid, Chris Pontius, and Chris Korb, all of whom picked up minor injuries last Saturday against the Philadelphia Union. In Hamid's place, Andrew Dysktra made two pivotal saves, as United have picked up six points in the first two of three games on this home stand.
In the 5th minute, when United has conceded the past two games, the Fire had a decent chance to open the scoring. A Joevin Jones foray forward from the left back position led to the ball falling to Michael Stephens in the box. Stephens, with his back to goal, quickly passed the ball back to Harrison Shipp, who had his shot saved by Dykstra.
Nick DeLeon then had the first opportunity for the Black-and-Red going the other way. Markus Halsti collected a Perry Kitchen pass, before picking out DeLeon's run beyond the defense. The midfielder collected, and with Arrieta making a run to the far post, sent a shot that nearly was a pass, that Jon Busch pushed away for a corner.
A Halsti turnover in the 20th minute, gifted the Fire another chance, with Matt Polster playing up to the speedy Accam. Accam was able to work himself into the box, but saw his shot nicked just wide by Dykstra for a corner, with the ball rolling tantalizingly close to the post.
After Miguel Aguilar won a free kick for United 35 yards out from goal, Bobby Boswell did his best to put United ahead, but just went wide. Chicago half cleared Halsti's initial free kick, but Sean Franklin sent the ball back in to the far post. Steve Birnbaum won the header, and got the ball to Boswell, but the captain was only able to stab his effort wide from the top of the six yard line.
What transpired in the next couple of minutes was quite the roller coaster for United. Birnbaum conceded a penalty in the 26th minute, after he was caught off guard by Accam's wayward shot. It was an easy decision for referee Edvin Jurisevic. But Jeff Larentowicz was denied from the spot by Dykstra, as the former Fire keeper pushed the effort off the post. United cleared out for a corner, and then were able to successfully defend the corner.
But it was just over a minute later that the Fire took the lead, thanks to Accam's third goal of the season. Busch collected a long ball from United, and Chicago quickly moved to the other end, wide the ball going out wide to Quincy Amarikwa. Amarikwa picked out the run of Accam, and slide a ball in the box for the Ghanaian to redirect home for the opening goal.
Arrieta brought the game alive late on in the half, after he picked up a pass from Aguilar. Dancing past several defenders, Arrieta got himself in the box, dancing past several Fire defenders. But when he finally decided to make a decision, the Costa Rican went with a cross instead of a shot, and United couldn't convert the corner.
Olsen shook things up in the second half, bringing on Fabian Espindola for Aguilar to start the half. And Espindola, in his first appearance since May 2, immediately created a chance for DeLeon to level the score. A dink of a pass from Espindola got in behind the defense, but DeLeon sent his first time effort over the bar.
Espindola then created a chance for Arrieta in the 54th minute, getting the striker in on the defense. Busch was able to make the initial save on Arrieta, pushing his effort away. Conor Doyle was right there for another shot, but Busch quickly covered that as well.
Espindola then went the solo route moments later, but his left footed effort was held by a diving Busch.
It was no surprise then that Espindola was part of United's equalizer when it came in the 61st minute. After United did well to earn a corner, Espindola went out to take it. The Argentinian sent in a perfectly placed corner, allowing Arrieta to beat his mark, and redirect the ball in to the far corner.
The Fire seemed to get back into the game following Arrieta's equalizer, without threatening Dykstra. They were able to find the space in the next couple of minutes, but didn't manage to get a shot away. And just like that, Arrieta scored again to give United the lead. Espindola played a ball out to DeLeon, who got in the box, and tried to play a give and go with Arrieta.
Arrieta's pass back to DeLeon was blocked by Jones, but the ball fell right back to Arrieta. From 12 yards out, Arrieta made no mistake, beating Busch with a first time shot for the 2-1 lead, and his team leading fifth goal of the season.
Having made one great save already on the penalty in the first half, Dykstra was once again called upon for his heroics in the 71st minute to keep United ahead. Shipp chipped an on point ball to the back post for Amarikwa, where the striker was able to direct a shot on target. But Dykstra was able to keep the effort out with his feet, and then Halsti made a save on the rebound, before United scrambled clear.
That save proved crucial to United's efforts, and in the 75th minute, they put the game away, thanks to Doyle's first goal since 2013. DeLeon played a simple ball out wide for Espindola, who picked his head up, and spotted Doyle's run at the far post. The cross on the ground from Espindola allowed Doyle to get on the end of it, and though it wasn't a clean shot, the ball popped over Busch, who could only get a helping hand to it as it hit the back of the net for the two goal lead.
Doyle came close to his second goal of the night, but his effort in the 87th minute was pushed wide from Busch, and the Fire dealt well enough with the resulting corner.
United, with 28 points from 15 games, take the field again on Saturday, as they welcome Toronto FC to town.