Tampa Bay Sports Day

DC United holds off Fire 2-1

DC United’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire is a harbinger of things to come. The game could have gone either way as both sides met aggressive, focused attacks with resolute, organized defenses. In the end, 18,369 fans were treated to a thrilling game and a pleasing result.

Throughout MLS this season the norm has become close games with many more ties than usual. Factoring in games in hand, standings in the Eastern Conference show that any one of the top six of seven teams are two rounds away from either the conference’s top spot or playoff exclusion.

The dawn of the age of parity places a premium on the players’ understanding of just how the game is developing and what they must do to influence it favorably for their team. Coach Tom Soehn appears to have learned that lesson well.

He also seems to have his players on board with a vision consistent with his own. That value of that mutual understanding is best realized when the players exchange roles on the fly in order to keep team shape.

Thus, Tino Quaranta, normally described through his attacking skills, can calmly describe his own early contribution, “In the first half I played a right back mostly. There was so much defending because they cheat. When they play four in the back he (their wing midfielder) can stay as a left winger.”

As the game first developed, he did indeed find himself in that role. However, he and Fred later switched sides as they now seem to do every game, “Tommy does that every game at about thirty minutes. I’m just waiting. It’s all about matchups too. It seemed to work out.”

Although the timing of that switch has begun to establish a pattern, it can still upset an opponent’s balance, “You try to be unpredictable. That’s what I try to do and Fred too.”

Chris Pontius, who has become comfortable trading places with Quaranta and others, observes that, “I think Fred and Tino, they’re different players. Tino runs at pace and Fred’s looking to connect, so if they have to switch roles to get them going, then that’s what we do.”

Throughout the game, each side probed for weaknesses and was forced to adjust. DC sought to play compactly but was unable to compress the field as much as they normally do. Clyde Simms, whose defensive midfield role demands that he be the first to adjust and cover for teammates, explained that Brian McBride was a major reason why United played slightly deeper.

The Fire players have speed to run off McBride’s controlling play, “I feel like if we give too much, they have too many options. He can either flick it on or drop it down for someone running on to it. So we were trying to stay compact but he’s so good in the air that it’s tough.”

Coach Soehn agreed, “As a team, I thought defensively we did a pretty good job. Obviously, Brian is a handful. Tactically, they loft a lot of balls into him. He’s not an easy guy to win balls on and he made it hard for them.”

United will be challenged with three consecutive games on the road, followed by one at home and another three away. In that time, the simple trend to ties way and wins at home which mature leagues foster may well see them sink to a level of discomfort.

Soehn believes that DC has prepared well, “It’s obviously a relief to finish off a game and be in first place, but it’s short lived. We have to turn around and go back to work. The sign of a good team is the ability to go and perform on the road.”

The cliché’ does apply, and the players know it and have come to appreciate the value of the variety of experiences that the players have had this year, “It’s going to be tough, especially on the road, traveling all the way to the west coast”, said Chris Pontius.

“Our depth on our team is going to be huge for this road trip. I think you’ll see a lot of players in these next coming games who haven’t gotten much time. We should put out a good team in both games.”

Scoring Summary:
DC — Jaime Moreno 5 (penalty kick) 24
CHI — Marco Pappa 4 (Tim Ward 2, John Thorrington 1) 33
DC — Christian Gomez 2 (unassisted) 41

Lineups:

Chicago Fire — Jon Busch, Tim Ward (Stefan Dimitrov 83), C.J. Brown, Wilman Conde, Gonzalo Segares (Mike Banner 86), Chris Rolfe, Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Marco Pappa, Brian McBride, Patrick Nyarko (Justin Mapp 68),

Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Baggio Husidic, Brandon Prideaux, Daniel Woolard

D.C. United — Josh Wicks, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Fred (Thabiso Khumalo 78), Christian Gomez (Avery John 85), Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Jaime Moreno (Ange N’Silu 39), Chris Pontius, Santino Quaranta,

Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Jacobson, Greg Janicki, Milos Kocic, Devon McTavish

Statistical Summary

D.C. United / Chicago Fire
Total shots: 15 (Rodney Wallace 3,
Ange N’Silu 3) 12 (Brian McBride 3)
Shots on goal: 4 (4 tied with 1) 6 (5 tied with 1)
Fouls: 15 (Dejan Jakovic 3) 9 (John Thorrington 4)
Offsides: 2 (Santino Quaranta 1,

Ange N’Silu 1) 1 (Patrick Nyarko 1)
Corner kicks: 3 (Christian Gomez 2) 4 (Marco Pappa 3)
Saves: 5 (Josh Wicks 5) 2 (Jon Busch 2)

Misconduct Summary:
CHI — Jon Busch (caution; Reckless Foul) 22
CHI — John Thorrington (caution; Reckless Tackle) 27
CHI — Wilman Conde (caution; Dissent) 40
CHI — Logan Pause (caution; Reckless Tackle) 70
DC — Christian Gomez (caution; Tactical Foul) 74

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: Paul Scott; Thomas Supple
4th official: Andrew Chapin
Time of game: 1:51
Attendance: 18,369
Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 82 degrees