The Black-and-Red started their three game road trip off with a win, beating the Chicago Fire 1-0. Don’t let the score fool you, it was as close to a complete game that they’ve played all season. From start to finish, outside of a couple of stretches in each half, United was in control. They dictated the pace at which the game would be played and never really relinquished it. Connor Doyle was the hero of the night, as his beautiful blistering strike found the net for the lone goal of the game.
While both teams were missing players, both to suspension and rest (DC United) so that wasn’t going to be an excuse for either side. Tactically, Ben Olsen made a change. United went away from it’s 4-4-2 the last two matches, playing a 4-2-3-1 against New England and a 4-1-4-1 last night in Chicago. As expected there were changes to the starting 11, the Black-and-Red used it’s 18th new lineup in their last 19 games.
The tactical change made an impression right away as DC’s midfield was able to dictate the tempo and terms of the match. Their midfield consisted of Facundo Coria, Luis Silva, Miguel Aguilar, and Connor Doyle. Behind those four and in front of the back line was Markus Halsti, so those five were able to control the game.
Not only did they limit Harry Shipp’s touches, but they kept him from having a huge impact on the game by forcing him to defend. Coria, Silva and Halsti are experienced players with great skill on the ball. United didn’t have that issue of sustaining possession they normally do with that group out there.
The first half was played at the visitor’s pace, the Fire were able to generate a few chances but couldn’t capitalize on them. The culprit was Igboanike, with Accam out he filled that role of high pace and skill. He was the one player that had some success against the backline of DC. Around the 28th minute, he could have changed the game.
He played a great thru ball, many of United’s players thought he was offsides and failed to give chase initially. Kofi Opare was the lone member of that unit that pursued the speedy attacker. Igboanike put a move on Opare, cut back on Hamid and had an open net at his liberty. His touch was awful, the ball hit the outside of the near post and Chicago’s best chance of the game was gone. United tightened back up and there was no score going into the half.
The second half started with a surge from Chicago, but it was short lived, Igboanike got loose again and ended up in a 1v1 situation with Hamid, but the linesman raised his flag to signal offsides. The flag was raised extremely late much to the chagrin of the home team’s crowd.
The Black-and-Red nearly scored off a set piece, Silva took the corner and Boswell got a head on the ball and it looked like it was going into the corner of the goal. Only Chicago’s Sean Johnson wouldn’t allow it, as he made a diving stab at the ball to knock it down the end line. Aguilar hasn’t been known for his defense, he’s admitted as much earlier this year. This may have been his best game yet in terms of a complete game, there were several occasions where he tracked down Shipp and dispossessed him. Shipp tried to move around the field to find space, but a United player always seemed to be on his hip.
Olsen took full advantage of his subs as he sent in Espindola and DeLeon in the second half, looking to leave Chicago with nothing less than a win. A luxury for a team in first place, arguably their best player came off the bench in the 60th minute or so.
The game went that way until the 74th minute, United would have it’s breakthrough. They had earned a free kick as Chicago had been overly physical for much of the match. Espindola put the ball into play, Boswell got to it again, fired a shot but it was blocked by a defender. The ball rolled out to the top of the box, maybe five yards beyond that. Connor Doyle ran on to the rolling ball and delivered a splendid strike that would dip right underneath the top of the cross bar. Johnson, had made big save after big save all game, had no chance on this one. It was wonderfully struck, it was Doyle’s second goal of the season and the only goal of this game.
Chris Rolfe did not play and his streak of not playing the Fire since leaving continued, the streak that did continue was the team’s as they put back-to-back wins together. It was a great way to start a road trip, United will have a couple of days off before playing Toronto on Saturday.