It was truly a tale of two halves for the Black-and-Red as they rallied from a 1-0 deficit to score three unanswered goals to get the result against the Chicago Fire. The much maligned DC attack went from mildly threatening to Michael Myers very quickly, much of it had to do with the return of Fabian Espindola. While he certainly played a role in two of the three goals, well in three of the three goals, Jairo Arrieta was in top form in the second half as well as he netted two of the home team’s three goals.
With Bill Hamid, Taylor Kemp, and Chris Korb, and Chris Pontius all out for injuries both minor and major, the home side had to shuffle the lineup a bit. Especially with Korb, which was a late decision. That ushered changes to the backline as Olsen used all three of his centre backs along with right back Sean Franklin. With three centre backs on the field, it meant one of them would have to play out wide, in this instance it was Steven Birnbaum. Earlier this week, Olsen referred to Birnbaum, Boswell, and Opare as a ‘luxury’ and those words rang true as all three started on the back line against Chicago.
Energy wasn’t the issue for DC in the first half, rather ‘quality’ was the word Olsen used after the game when discussing what was lacking from the half. There was something missing from the attack as they created several chances, but couldn’t convert any of them into goals. Markus Halsti and Nick DeLeon combined well to generate a great scoring chance just 10 minutes into the game, but couldn’t come up with the goal.
Chicago took the lead 28 minutes into the game after a great run by David Accam, he received a good pass from Quincy Amerikwa, but it was his clever touch and timing that made the goal happen. He was the lone thorn in DC’s side all game long as he terrorized the left side of the field in the first half with his speed and skill. Shipp and Matt Polster were held mostly in check by the duo of Markus Halsti and Perry Kitchen.
Prior to Chicago’s lone goal, they had two great chances slip away. The first was a shot from Accam that just went wide of the post, had he gotten more power on the shot, it could have been the game’s first goal. In the 26th minute, Chicago got a golden opportunity via a penalty kick after Birnbaum was called for a handball on a Chicago cross. Jeff Larentowicz stepped up to take the penalty shot, Dykstra answered the bell for United as he dove to his right and got enough of his hand on the ball to push the shot off the post. Boswell was first on the scene to clear the ball from any further danger.
United’s best chance of the first half happened when Arrieta got the ball deep in the Chicago box, he cut back on two defenders to get quality space. At this point he was literally within 10 feet of the keeper, instead of taking a shot he tried to pass the ball across the box but a defender recovered and knocked it out for a corner. In Espindola’s absence, that’s been a huge issue for the Black-and-Red. They were missing a finisher in the final third, that said, United would go into the half down 1-0.
Before the second half could officially begin, Espindola came on for Miguel Aguilar(45th minute). Olsen was asked about the peculiar timing of the substitution, “I think he was going to be the first sub, I might of held off a little bit into the second half if the game wasn’t what it was in the first half.”
From that point on, the game turned on it’s head. The home side went from barely threatening Chicago to dominating possession on their end of the field. Creating numerous chances, at he center of it all was Fabi. Having only played in two games this season, his absence has played a huge role in the lack of punch in the attack. DC went from just one shot on target in five attempts in the first half to seven of six of their 12 second half attempts being on frame.
With Aguilar going to the bench, it put Arreita and Espindola together up front. Little did anyone at RFK know, but Chicago didn’t stand a chance. The duo connected for the equalizer in the 60th minute on a set piece. Fabi delivered an in-swinger from the right corner, the ball came across the mouth of the goal and Arrieta placed the header in the bottom left corner of the net. It would be his fifth goal on the season and gave DC much needed life.
The pressure placed on the Fire’s back line was unbearable, chance after chance was created by the Black-and-Red. The second goal came from activity, Arrieta hooked up with Nick DeLeon on the left flank. DeLeon got the ball to Arrieta who had gotten into the box, Jairo played the ball back to DeLeon but a defender got a foot on it and deflected it right back to Arrieta. Jairo fired the ball into the same corner as his previous goal to put DC up 2-1.
Dykstra stepped up again, with his team up 2-1 he made one heck of a save. He couldn’t corral the ball, but Halsti was there to clear the next shot off the line. With the crisis averted, United went back to putting pressure on Chicago. This time Fabi did his damage on the left flank, finding space to deliver a speedy cross to the far post where the running Connor Doyle tapped it past the keeper with a defender on his back. The goal capped a great attack from United, with three unanswered goals all of which came in the second half.
In regards to Espindola, Olsen hinted that he would be an option on the 18 man game roster. No one expected him to play an entire half in his first game back, especially considering his injury, not even him. ” I wasn’t expecting to play that much, but it’s good for my fitness” he said with a laugh after the game.
The home team picked up another result, they are now two for two on their current home stand. The third and final game of this stretch is on Saturday against Toronto.