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What Good Is Holding On: DC United 2, Chicago Fire 1, MLS Game Recap

The Fire regress to the mean against a resurgent DCU squad

MLS: Chicago Fire at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

DC United 2 Rooney 62’, 81’ (PK)

Chicago Fire 1 Edwards 51’

Remember those heady late summer days of last month? When the Fire only lost one game? And were looking pretty good, all things considered? Remember when they beat LAFC?

How young and carefree we all were.

Anyway this is still 2018 and we’re still the Chicago Fire. Today went about as well as you’d expect.

The first half began stridently for the hosts, with DCU dictating the terms early on. They did well to clamp down on the Fire’s passing game— such as it is— and generally prevented the visitors from pushing their ideas forward. But DC also struggled in the beginning to get something going of their own. Wayne Rooney’s attempted chip from midfield had more than a whiff of early desperation. The Fire, for their part, were content to hang in there and wait it out.

DCU’s day was going to come down to the combination of Rooney and Luciano Acosta. Sure enough, they teamed up for an excellent counterattack that ended with the former putting the ball in the back of the net. But the referee called the goal back after a VAR review, giving the Fire a not-totally-deserved break.

The game sort of deflated after that VAR call. Both teams played sloppier, their attacks more haphazard. Acosta was still making plays and creating chances, but the hosts took their time shaking it off. Toward the end of the half DCU started asserting themselves more. Ulises Segura was played through alone against Stefan Cleveland on 39’, but his close-range shot hit the bar.

Ultimately DCU couldn’t get their shit together to grab an early (legitimate) lead, and the Fire did just enough to survive and maintain a goalless scoreline at the break.

The second half began in much the same way as the first, with DCU controlling the game from the kickoff. They held dominion over the passing lanes, they set the pace of play, and only failed to score seemingly out of dumb luck. DC were clearly the better team in the early minutes of the second half, as they were for much of the first.

Which made Raheem Edwards’ goal in the 51st minute such an emotional rollercoaster.

The tone and tenor of the game hadn’t fundamentally shifted. DCU went right back to dictating the terms. Nothing had been changed, except for the scoreline, which meant everything had been changed.

For about ten minutes, anyway. This is still the Chicago Fire, and they can’t have nice things. Rooney was able to drift into the box to collect a cross and, kept onside by Jorge Corrales, as able to finish from close range. 1-1.

That goal was arguably a blessing in disguise. Where much of the game saw DC as the better team and the Fire just hanging in there, things became more even after Rooney’s equalizer. Neither team played particularly well, but the Fire started to find ways to take advantage of DC’s weak points in the back. Chicago could’ve mounted a rally late. But Pauno’s decision to replace Nemanja Nikolic with Yura Movsisyan, and then Edwards with Nico Hasler, signaled that he had given up on trying to get a win here.

Whatever hopes Pauno had for hanging on for a point did not last long. DC were awarded a penalty late in the game, Rooney converted, and that was that.

Fire fans have become accustomed to seeing individual wins or strong performances as mirages. It doesn’t make the thirst sting any less.

The Chicago Fire (8W 7D 17L, 31pts, 10th in the Eastern Conference) are off next weekend. They’re back at it in two weeks when they face Atlanta United on the road in their penultimate game of the season.