MLS Snapshot: DC United 4-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less): That’s a little bit more like it, D.C. United. After snapping a six-game winless streak with a 2-1 victory over New York City FC last week, Ben Olsen’s Black and Red thrashed the lowly, nothing-to-play-for Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium on Sunday, to the tune of 4-0, to make the Eastern Conference standings even more jumbled up (as if that was necessary) with one week of the 2015 regular season to be played. Chris Pontius, Bobby Boswell, Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio provided the goals to put United on 51 points, one clear of Columbus Crew SC in the race for second (and the knockout round bye that comes with it). As if the entire season was scripted by MLS’s schedule makers, United and Crew SC face off next Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium.

[ MORE: East playoff scenarios | West | TFC 0-2 CLB | NE 0-1 MTL ]

Three moments that mattered

39′ — Pontius rounds Busch, makes it 1-0 — We haven’t seen these kind of wheels on Pontius since, oh, let’s say, the 2012 season, when he scored 12 times. Maybe it’s just for one play, but the explosion, the agility in tight spaces, the finish from practically the end line… it was all there from Pontius as he made it 1-0 for United.

67′ — Boswell heads home to make it 2-0 — When you’ve got a set-piece target the size of Boswell, you might as well use the guy. Espindola understands this very well, which is why he was happy to whip this corner kick to the edge of the six-yard box and let the veteran center back do the rest.

71′ — Espindola gets a deflection, makes it 3-0 — There’s really nothing Lovel Palmer could have done here. Sometimes you play decent enough defense, stick a foot in to block the cross and end up deflecting the ball past your own goalkeeper. It was a microcosm of the Fire’s 2015 season.

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Man of the match: Fabian Espindola

Goalscorers: Pontius (39′), Boswell, 67′), Espindola (71′), Saborio (80′)

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 3-1 DC United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For the first time since Andrea Pirlo became a regular start for New York City FC (only three games, admittedly), Jason Kreis’s men are winners following a 3-1 victory over league-leading D.C. United at Yankee Stadium Thursday night. Frank Lampard missed yet another game with a minor injury, but it was NYCFC’s two active Designated Players who led the way in a second-half comeback. Pirlo picked up his first MLS assist on the night, while David Villa bagged his 14th goal of the season. NYCFC’s shoddy defending persisted through the first 45 minutes before United went into full-on bunker mode while clinging to a 1-0 lead after halftime. With the victory, NYCFC (27 points) remain eighth in the Eastern Conference but inch closer to sixth-place Montreal (28, three games in hand), while United’s (44) hold onto a two-point lead in the race for the Supporters’ Shield despite their three-game winning streak coming to an end.

[ USOC semifs: PHI 1-0 CHI | SKC 3-1 RSL | MLS Team of the Week | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Rolfe and Saborio counter quickly after Pirlo’s giveaway — NYCFC midfielder Pirlo notched his first MLS assist (of the secondary variety) in the 36th minute of this game, when his through ball for United’s Chris Rolfe led to a quick, deadly counter attack the other way. So what if Pirlo passed it to a member of the wrong team? He was brought to MLS to create goals, at least he’s doing his job.

51′ — Villa, Poku and Tommy Mac combine for the equalizer — Watch this ridiculous pass by David Villa. Seriously, watch it! MLS defenders are out of position like that all the time, but so few MLS players can punish them for it. Villa is one of the few. Kwadwo Poku does well to round Bill Hamid and find Thomas McNamara in the goalmouth.

80′ — Pirlo to Villa and NYCFC have themselves a lead — When Pirlo was signed, it was undoubtedly done with visions of his elegantly lofted through balls finding the feet of Villa for goal after goal after goal en route to winning multiple MLS Cups sneaking into the sixth and final playoff place. In the 80th minute, Pirlo and Villa connected for the first time, 293 minutes into their time together.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Saborio (36′), McNamara (51′), Villa (80′), Poku (88′)

MLS Snapshot: DC United 3-2 Philadelphia Union (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Philadelphia got off to a roaring start as a pair of goals in under three minutes, but they couldn’t hold on as D.C. United methodically picked the Union apart for a 3-2 win. Fabian Espindola missed a penalty on the half-hour mark with the home side still down 2-0, but it seemed to galvanize the Eastern Conference leaders as Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola both proved dangerous. The three points helps D.C. keep pace with Columbus, remaining seven points in front. Philadelphia had points in their grasp, but cannot get any further up the table and remain just three points off the bottom.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 21 ]

Three moments that mattered:

4′ – It would appear the NYCFC defensive line made their way to D.C. quite quickly. A miserable start in front of the home crowd set the tone for the entire first half as CJ Sapong opened the scoring just 22 seconds in, and Sebastian Le Toux followed that up with a second just three minutes later. Sapong’s opener came from the center of the box, where the 26-year-old put Taylor Kemp on his backside and hit the back of the net. Then, Le Toux got the ball on the left flank and completely turned around Chris Korb one-on-one, opening up a cross to the middle that Sapong stepped over, but the ball tucked into the far post anyways.

66′ – Having pulled one back before halftime through Saborio’s first goal for his new club, D.C. United grabs an equalizer through an unlikely source. After a spell of Philadelphia possession, D.C. brought it back down the other end and Espindola ripped a shot from outside the box. Brian Sylvestre saved low, but Nick DeLeon beat Fabinho to the rebound and ripped it home.

79′ – The home side completes the comeback. Just moments after Sapong hit the bar on the other end for Philadelphia, Korb burst down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross – his second assist of the match – to the edge of the six-yard box, and Espindola rose above Raymon Gaddis to power a header into the back of the net.

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Lineups

D.C. United – Dykstra; Kemp, Birnbaum, Korb, Boswell; Arnaud, DeLeon, Rolfe (Aguilar 76′), Kitchen; Saborio (Arrieta 81′), Espindola.

Goals – Saborio 37′, DeLeon 66′, Espindola 79′

Philadelphia – Sylvestre; Edu, White (Aristeguieta 80′), Gaddis, Fabinho; Carroll, Maidana (Nogueria 80′), Le Toux, Mbu, Pheffer (Fred 69′); Sapong.

Goals – Sapong 1′, Le Toux 4′

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 0-0 Real Salt Lake

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One game in 100 words: The Colorado Rapids had the win right there for the taking with a penalty kick, and against any other team–not Real Salt Lake, who have conceded only two of five PKs–this game concludes with victorious outcome. The Rapids had managed to stave off Real Salt Lake for the majority of the match; in fact, both teams really didn’t have much momentum in the attack, spraying shots wide or having threatening endeavors blocked down. Occupying the last two spots at the bottom of the Western Conference table, Colorado and the Royals could’ve really used the three points, especially in the midst of recent form.

 

Three moments that mattered

88’ — Foul, PK miss by Powers — Aaron Maud was faced with Colorado’s speedy Luis Solignac one-on-one, and once the attacker had broken into the penalty area, a little contact followed by a fall to the turf was enough to draw the PK. The Rapids had Dillon Powers take the ensuing penalty kick. A confident Nick Rimando bounced on his feet in the center of the goal but took a dive in the wrong direction. Powers aimed to his right side and luckily missed the post.

24’ — Missing the finishing touch — Javier Morales stood on the ball in Colorado’s half and Sebastien Jaime made a well-executed run forward to have the defense on its heels. However, while controlling the pass was difficult, Jaime kept it in bounds at the end line with a hard touch and header before dishing back to Alvaro Saborio on the edge of the six-yard box. Joao Plata provided the final touch but the Rapids’ back line recovered for the block.

53’ — Right at Rimando — Defender Michael Harrington had his attempted cross deflect back to him off Saborio and immediately found Marcelo Sarvas a few yards to his right. Sarvas advanced the ball to Powers and he knocked it over to Sam Cronin. The wide open lane on net was exposed. Nonetheless, Cronin was forced to volley, and his aim was skewed, nailing the attempt into Rimando’s chest.

 

Lineups

Salt Lake: Sebastian Jaime (Olmes García 63′), Alvaro Saborio (Devon Sandoval 80′), Joao Plata; Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave (Aaron Maund 6′), Elias Vasquez, Kenny Mansally; Luke Mulholland, Javier Morales, John Stertzer

Colorado: Luis Solignac; Clint Irwin; James Riley, Bobby Burling, Axel Sjoberg, Michael Harrington; Sam Cronin, Marcelo Sarvas (Lucas Pittinari 62′), Gabriel Torres (Charles Eloundou 82′), Dillon Powers, Juan Ramirez (Nick LaBrocca HT)

MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-2 Real Salt Lake

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The game in 100 words (or less): The best way to find success against Real Salt Lake when they’re playing in their tried-and-true 4-4-2 diamond midfield, as they have twice now this week, is to spread the field wide and use pace up and down the wings to make the defend against you in space. With an available David Accam (suspension), the Chicago Fire probably could have done that and thus, given the Claret and Cobalt problems on Saturday. Instead, Frank Yallop started Harry Shipp on the wing and striker Guly Do Prado as a No. 10 behind Quincy Amarikwa. If you’re familiar with any of those names/players, Yallop’s gameplan worked out about as well as it sounds on paper. Which is to say, pretty horribly.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 10 ]

Three moments that mattered

13′ — Saborio hammers one past Johnson — Alvaro Saborio absolutely abused this ball from the top of the 18-yard box, but let’s give plenty of credit to 20-year-old Jordan Allen for the preceding run down the left wing and cross into the center. Luis Gil deserves a tip of the cap for the quick dummy and letting the ball run on to Saborio.

56′ — Fire defense falls asleep, Mulholland slots home — The passing sequence in the build-up to RSL’s second goal was practically mesmerizing, but tons of blame has to fall at the feet of the Fire defense, particularly Adailton and Harry Shipp, who chose the wrong time to take a mid-game nap.

88′ — Larentowicz converts from the spot — Nick Rimando saved Juninho’s penalty kick in the 93rd minute on Friday, preserving a 0-0 draw for RSL, but the all-time leader in shutouts in MLS history was unable to get a hand to Jeff Larentowicz’s spot kick in the 88th minute, giving the Fire a glimmer of hope with five minutes of stoppage time still to be played.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jordan Allen — The youngster picked up assists on both RSL goals and showed flashes of huge potential throughout his 65-minute shift. Easily the most impressive player on the field, which he might just have to replicate for the U.S. U-20 at this month’s World Cup in New Zealand.

LINEUPS

Chicago Fire: Johnson, Jones, Adailton (Johnson 84′), Larentowicz, Palmer, Maloney, Polster, Watson (Cocis 53′), Shipp, Guly (Agboananike 58′), Amarikwa

Goals: Larentowicz (88′)

Real Salt Lake: Rimando, Phillips, Vasquez, Olave, Beltran, Beckerman, Mulholland, Gil, Allen (Stertzer 65′), Saborio (Mansally 82′), Sandoval (Garcia 90′)

Goals: Saborio (13′), Mulholland (56′)