D.C. United couldn't quite manage to string together a second win in a row, but without Fabian Espindola, Marcelo Sarvas, and Nick DeLeon, United still earned a point on the road in less than ideal conditions in a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire. Patrick Nyarko, in his return to Chicago, nodded home a 65th minute cross from Luciano Acosta following a short corner. That nullified Jonathan Campbell's opener - also from a set piece - in the first half.
With three starters absent due to injury, suspension, and illness, manager Ben Olsen went with a more adventurous starting 11, with Jared Jeffrey handed his second start of the season, in place of Sarvas. Acosta was paired with Chris Rolfe ahead of him in a 4141, with Alvaro Saborio alone up front.
Despite the crummy conditions, which had an adverse affect throughout the game, United threatened several times in the opening 15 minutes. Acosta's through ball in the 7th minute eluded Nyarko, but keeper Matt Lampson spilled the ball briefly. Nyarko was still lurking, but Lampson collected at the second attempt.
Acosta was adjudged to have been offside on a Rolfe pass in the 9th minute, having his shot saved by Lampson anyway. And then Lamar Neagle, receiving a pass from Bobby Boswell just outside of the box, swiveled to fire a shot that Lampson was able to push away.
From there, the Fire settled into the match, without much end product to show for. Nick LaBrocca fired first time from a corner that was knocked around in the box, but his effort was well off target. Then several step overs from Kennedy Igboananike created a crossing opportunity for the Nigerian, but United were quick to clear the ball from danger.
Gilberto then went close twice in a matter of moments, though he wasn't able to test Travis Worra in goal either time. LaBrocca knocked down a cross in the 27th minute, but the resulting shot from Gilberto was blocked on the doorstep by Boswell. Gilberto then got on the end of a cross seconds later, but could only send a shot wide.
Nyarko forced a turnover two minutes later in the Chicago half, and quickly made his way up the right flank. Taking aim, he picked out a cross for Neagle, who nipped in just in front of Lampson. But Neagle's touch took him wide of the goal, and his ball back into the box was cleared away.
There wasn't much doing for the rest of the half from either side, until Campbell popped up for his first professional goal in the 41st minute. A free kick from the Fire was whipped in from the left by Arturo Alvarez, and United failed to deal with the ball before it bounced in the box. That hesitation allowed Campbell to cut in to redirect the ball past Worra for the lead.
Sloppy conditions continued to plague each side in the second half, as both teams struggled to create real looks at goal. Acosta, Rolfe, and Saborio combined in the 49th minute, with Saborio laying off for Nyarko, but the shot was well wide from the winger. Nyarko's cross for Saborio was then cut out in the 58th minute, with the Costa Rican charging into the box.
But it wasn't much longer before the Black-and-Red were level, as Nyarko headed home his second goal of the season. A short corner from Neagle was played to Acosta, who was able to set himself up for a cross with time and space available. His curling service found Nyarko, who was wide open in the middle of the box, and the header had just enough to get past Lampson.
It continued to be tough sledding as both teams looked content with a point, as Worra claimed a loose ball in the box from a corner kick in the 75th minute. Julian Buescher, who came on for his third appearance of the season, took aim from long distance a minute later, but saw his effort hit over the goal.
Chicago came closest to a winner in the 86th minute, as a long ball from Alvarez found Gilberto, who had managed to stay onside between Boswell and Steve Birnbaum. Heading in towards goal, Gilberto was forced wide by Birnbaum, and could only send his shot wide of the mark.
Alvarez was saved by Worra from a tight angle in the 90th minute. Deep into stoppage time, both teams had a look: Buescher's tempting free kick was cleared out in stoppage time, before Worra claimed a dangerous Alvarez ball in behind the defense for Joey Calistri just before the final whistle.
United return to action on Sunday, hosting New York City FC at RFK Stadium.