The Chicago Fire needed a win to clinch the second seed and the third best record in MLS. The rewards would be avoiding the knockout round, and an almost guaranteed birth into the CONCACAF Champions League. Instead, the Fire let opportunities pass them by and left points on the table. In an exciting and frustrating game broadcast on NBC Sports Network, the Fire and DC United played in a back and forth, up and down affair, quite different than the cagey defensive affair that most experts predicted. In the end, both teams were even in the only stat that counts- the scoreboard.
The first scoring opportunity went to the Fire. Jalil Anibaba received a long ball from and shot it into the low left corner but it was not to be.
In the 11th minute, Alvaro Fernandez was given a golden opportunity to score. Played through on a ball of the outside of Patrick Nyarko's right foot, El Flaco's first touch let him down, as he failed to knock the ball on to a comfortable shooting position.
Just 4 minutes later, the Fire would strike first. In a bit of role reversal, Patrick Nyarko received a pass with his back to goal. And then, he flicked it to a running Sherjill MacDonald. The Dutchman cut the ball back, but a little behind Nyarko. Patrick then danced around DC Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, and buried it past a diving Bill Hamidinto the back of the bottom right corner.
The Fire's best goalscoring opportunity (including the actual goal itself) came in the 19thminute. Patrick Nyarko intercepted a pass and then was off to the races, playing the ball to a sprinting Chris Rolfe who in turn, laid it off to a sprinting Sherjill MacDonald. However, to his credit, Bill Hamid read the play correctly, and managed to get himself in position in order to block the shot into the path of a trailing DC United defender.
The best opportunity for DC came late. After a tackle at midfield, Nick DeLeon laid the ball off to Pajoy, who because of a lack of pressure from Austin Berry, fired an absolute rocket towards the right corner, making the ball trail away from Sean Johnson. The Milkman dived and got his hands onto it, then pushed it out for a corner that didn't go anywhere.
D.C. United got the goal back in the 50th minute. Pajoy got his head onto a cross from Boskovic at the near post, then headed it far post away from Sean Johnson, and in the net.
In the 65th minute, the summation of Alvaro Fernandez's career with the Fire was witnessed in front of the Harlem End. Sherjill MacDonald did his best Patrick Nyarko impression, dancing around his defender, then laying off the ball to Chris Rolfe, who in turn delivered it to Fernandez. Unfortunately, Alvaro pushed it wide right. The laces must have been in...
The scariest moment in the second half came in the 70th. A Gonzalo Segares clearance deflected off Pajoy's shoulder, and into the net. However, before the ball could completely cross the endline, It was snatched by Johnson, saving a goal and a potential road trip to Houston for the Fire.
Dominic Oduro next missed an opportunity on frame, hitting it into Hamid. However, there was a handball that wasn't called, so it equaled itself out. He missed an open net as well in the 76th. He was played in on a Sherjill MacDonald cross, then skied it over the crossbar.
If this wasn't already enough action for you, a fight broke out. After a rare miscue fromAndy Najar, Dominic Oduro gained possession and while fighting on the endline withBrandon McDonald (it should have been a penalty), Bill Hamid took the ball off Oduro's foot, making him fall in the process. It was a gutsy bit of goalkeeping to be sure. If he screwed that up, a penalty would have been warranted. Chris Rolfe came in to protect his guy, and it was on from there. The antics resulted in a free kick for DC, as opposed to a corner for the Fire, but no one was sent off or booked.
The last 10 minutes plus stoppage time belonged to the Fire. After Pajoy shot it wide in the 81st, Sherjill MacDonald bumped a Gonzalo Segares cross over the crossbar.
Redemption almost came for him, as his shot to the near post was saved by Hamid and was eventually whistled offside after a scrum in front of goal. Alex's effort from 40 yards was tipped over the bar in the 90+5. And that was that.
Because of the tie, the Fire finished 4th in the East and will play Houston at Toyota Park on Halloween Night.