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Patrick Mullins’ hat trick propels D.C. United past the Chicago Fire

After Khaly Thiam got his marching orders, Mullins scored three times as United opened up offensively in a 6-2 win

D.C. United took full advantage of playing against a 10-man Chicago Fire side on Saturday night, scoring five times after Khaly Thiam was sent off in the first half in a 6-2 win. Patrick Mullins, in just his seventh appearance with the Black-and-Red, fired in his first professional hat trick, scoring twice in the first half, before grabbing a third in the 74th minute.

Luciano Acosta gave United the lead in the 25th minute, but Michael de Leeuw equalized six minutes later. Thiam was then sent off in the 34th minute, opening up the floodgates, as Patrick Nyarko and Nick DeLeon added the other two goals for United. Razvan Cocis gave the Fire hope with his deflected goal in first half stoppage time, sending the teams into the break with United up 3-2.

On short rest from Wednesday’s draw against the Montreal Impact, head coach Ben Olsen made seven changes to the team, bringing in Mullins, Acosta, Jared Jeffrey, Lloyd Sam, Marcelo Sarvas, Taylor Kemp, and Bobby Boswell. Nyarko, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, and Bill Hamid were the four holdovers.

Proceedings got off to a slow start, as it wasn’t until the 11th minute until either side threatened in front of goal. On a Sam corner, Birnbaum rose up highest to win a header, but his effort was saved by keeper Sean Johnson, who quickly reacted on the line.

Luis Solignac had the first look for Chicago in the 19th minute, receiving a pass from Cocis on the run on the left flank. Making his way into the box, Solignac cut back towards the middle, firing in a shot that was held by Hamid.

Birnbaum had another header from a corner saved by Johnson in the 24th minute, before the goal party got started a minute later. Marcelo Sarvas played the ball into the box for Nyarko, who then back heeled a pass for the onrushing Marcelo. The Brazilian veteran crossed in behind the defense to the back post, allowing an unmarked Acosta to slam home his third goal of the season.

That lead for United didn’t last long, as the Fire were level in the 31st minute, thanks to a mistake from Hamid. Solignac had a shot blocked in the box, but United failed to fully clear the ball from danger. The ball fell to Matt Polster, who struck a long range shot that confounded Hamid as it bounced. The rebound was spilled in front of goal, and de Leeuw was there first to level the score.

Thiam was then sent off in the 34th minute as he saw a straight red from referee Drew Fischer. Fischer called a foul on Thiam on Nyarko, but the midfielder reacted by throwing the ball at Nyarko's head while he was still on the ground, earning him his marching orders.

Rob Vincent, who entered moments before as a substitute for Jeffrey, had a powerful shot in the 38th minute saved by Johnson, and Mullins was denied a minute later by the busy Fire goalkeeper from a tight angle in the box.

United were undeterred, and they regained their lead against the ten man Fire in the 40th minute. Vincent again tried his luck from outside of the box, but his shot was deflected. Nyarko was quickest to react, and slid a pass back towards the middle of the box, where Mullins one-timed a shot past Johnson for the 2-1 lead.

Mullins then doubled his tally on the night in the first minute of stoppage time, with his fourth goal of the season. Acosta lost the ball at the top of the box, but quickly regained possession, and tried to find Mullins in the box. That pass was blocked, but a second attempt found Mullins on the move, and the scuffed shot had just enough to get underneath Johnson for the two-goal advantage.

Seconds later though, and the Fire went into halftime down just one goal. It was a stroke of fortune for Chicago, as Cocis fires a long-range shot that was speculative at best. But it took a wicked deflection off of Birnbaum at the top of the box, and looped in over Hamid, who could do little as he had taken up a position to save the shot on its initial course.

Acosta and Mullins just missed getting on the end of a Sean Franklin cross to start the second half, but that was just a sign of things to come for United. In the 51st minute, from another Sam corner, Birnbaum won a header that was deflected. The ball fell to Nyarko in the box, who acrobatically shot towards goal. Mullins tried to get a touch to send it over the line, but Nyarko’s shot had just enough on it to get over the line, despite Johnson stretching to knock the ball away. The assistant referee confirmed that the ball crossed the line, putting United back ahead by two.

Sam had an opening in the 58th minute on a counter attack, but curled a shot from the top of the box wide of the mark. Birnbaum then won another header from a corner in the 61st minute, heading towards Mullins, but his bicycle attempt on the doorstep flew over the bar.

Solignac had the first shot for the Fire in the second half in the 68th minute, looking to get Chicago back into the game with a shot from long distance. But like the rest of the night for the Fire, it was for naught, as the ball sailed wide of Hamid’s goal.

After nearly getting his third of the night on Nyarko's goal, Mullins then completed his first professional hat trick in the 74th minute, putting United up 5-2. With Chicago shutting it down for the game, Acosta picked out Franklin on the side of the box with a pass. Franklin took one touch before looking up and finding Mullins making his way towards goal. The cross was right there for Mullins to get the slightest of touches to redirect the ball towards the goal, skipping it under Johnson.

David Accam, who came on at the half for Chicago, nearly gave the Fire a consolation goal in the 78th minute, only to be denied by Hamid. After skipping around several challenges making his way towards goal, Accam was through United’s back line in the box, with just Hamid to beat. Hamid quickly came off his line to cut down the angle, and snuffed out the shot by Accam to preserve the three goal lead.

The outcome was already determined as the game wore down, but substitute Nick DeLeon provided the final margin in the 89th minute. Acosta, who had three assists on the night, had the ball near the Fire box, with little defense around him. DeLeon was open in the middle of the field, and a simple pass from Acosta allowed DeLeon one touch before he snapped a shot off that got by Johnson for the finally tally of the game.

The Black-and-Red, with 32 points from 26 games, next head up to face New York City FC on Thursday.