D.C. United’s winless streak is now at 15 games, but there are a number of positives to take out of Saturday’s performance at RFK Satdium. For the second week in a row, Ben Olsen’s team showed progress, this time getting a 2-2 result against visiting Chicago.
It’s a somewhat patronizing view, but remember: This is a team coming off a season where it set a record for fewest wins. They also lost 3-0 at home on opening day, giving their last two games the feeling of an upward trajectory. After losing 1-0 last Saturday at BMO Field, D.C. United got its first goals and points of the year.
This wasn’t a game that would recommend either side, though. Particularly in the first half, where D.C. was creating most of the initial chances, the game was characterizing more by hard play and effort than skill and execution. This looked like two teams that had combined for zero win in five games.
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Chicago, however, found its first piece of execution in the 27th minute, though the opening goal looked as much like a D.C. breakdown as it did a well-executed corner. Yet after Sean Franklin lost Jhon Kennedy Hurtado on a mid-half restart, the Fire had drawn first blood.
D.C. quickly staunched the wound, with Chicago’s own piece of poor set piece defending allowing the hosts to equalize. After Eddie Johnson drew a foul on Greg Cochrane just beyond the Fire penalty box, a back-heeled restart from Nick DeLeon allowed Fabian Espindola to get an angle around the Chicago wall. His low blast went under a slow reacting Sean Johnson to tie the game before halftime.
The second half was more of the same, though the teams reversed roles. Instead of Chicago taking advantage of D.C. to go up on a corner, it was Perry Kitchen’s (pictured) third career goal through some goal mouth chaos that gave United a 2-1 edge in the 73rd. Nine minutes later, Patrick Nyarko shredded Cristian Fernandez down the right flank before finding Quincy Amarikwa at the edge of the six-yard box. The striker’s second goal of the season gave Chicago its third straight draw.
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Perhaps that breakdown will leave D.C. disappointed, but a look at the numbers helps describe what was team’s best day of the season. Fifty-two percent possession speaks to the improved play in the midfield, something that’d been a problem through games one and two. The team put nine shots on target while limiting Chicago to four. While soccer stats can often portray a false impression of a game, there’s some truth in today’s numbers. Perhaps United weren’t as far beyond Chicago as a 9-4 shots on target edge suggests, but they were generating more chances throughout.
In that sense, there’s no need for disappointment. True, D.C. gave away a late lead, and on Thursday, we called this game an “if we can’t win this one, we’re in real trouble” affair, but that looks like an exaggeration, now. United didn’t win, and it’s in less trouble than it was three hours ago. Today was progress, if only slightly so.