WASHINGTON, October 15, 2011– It was almost surreal. D.C. United snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a stunning 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
In an unbelievable finish to a game, United gave up two goals in stoppage time after Dwayne De Rosario had converted a penalty kick in the 90th minute to give United the lead after a drab display.
United’s playoff hopes now hang by a thread. The club has lost four straight games and with two games left, will need help from other results.
In a late dramatic flurry, Chicago fought back in a spectacular way to win the game on goals from Sebastian Grazzini and Diego Chaves in the space of two minutes, leaving the United players and most of the 16,548 fans stunned.
“I’m gutted,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “That’s the toughest loss I’ve ever taken.”
Untied must now beat the Portland Timbers at RFK on Wednesday night; hope the New York Red Bulls lose to the Philadelphia Union at home on Thursday, and then beat the high-flying Kansas City Wizards two days later at RFK in the club’s last game of the regular season. If United fail to beat Portland or the Red Bulls earn a point, United’s last game will be meaningless.
Even though Olsen said he was proud of his team, it was a lackluster performance from United. The club’s only shot on goal was the penalty kick.
Santino Quaranta earned the penalty kick after he was fouled from behind in the box by Gonzalo Segares.
De Rosario converted the kick to earn his league-leading 15th goal of the season. It looked certain United had secured the three points. Then the bizarre happened. In the second minute into injury time, Segares passed to Grazzini, getting the ball passed defender Perry Kitchen. Grazzini fired a 20-yard shot beating the helpless Bill Hamid. Two minutes later Segares saved the ball from going out on the end line and passed back to Chaves, who fired from ten yards out passed Hamid.
“The game-plan was to grind it out and we did it,” Olsen said. “We got the PK and then it all fell apart. Everything worked out except the last couple of minutes.”
United, once the flagship team of Major League Soccer, with four MLS titles and more trophies than any club in the league, now faces the prospect of not making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The club has an uphill battle. The D.C. outfit has not won two consecutive games in 78 games.
United came out lively in the early minutes of the game but lacked creativity. The home team was unlucky not to win a penalty kick in the 15th minute when it appeared Jalil Anibaba fouled Josh Wolff just inside the box.
Hamid pulled off a big save in the 24th minute, stopping a shot from Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan again came close, making Hamid nervous with a long-range shot in the 35th minute. Pappa caused havoc for Hamid a few minutes later. The midfielder tried to lob a rebound over Hamid but the United goalie came up big, blocking the shot. Wolff made a good run on the left flank winning a corner, but Perry Kitchen headed Andy Najar’s cross over the bar.
United’s attack was trying to penetrate the Fire’s 18-yard box but was facing a stubborn defense. De Rosario was being forced out onto the flanks to try and find openings in the Fire’s back line. On the stroke of halftime, Wolff had a shot deflected wide. It was scoreless at the break. United had zero shots on goal to the Fire’s five.
Quaranta replaced Austin Da Luz in the 57th minute.
Patrick Nyarko gave United a scare in 65th minute, heading just wide of Hamid’s goal.
Charlie Davies, who has notched 11 goals this season, finally came off the bench with little over ten minutes left to replace Wolff.
Chicago came to RFK with three starters suspended and pretty much no hope of making the post-season. The multinational Fire, had players from 11 different nations on its 18-man travelling roster.
Game notes: Former United midfielder Richie Williams was inducted into United’s Hall of Tradition in a halftime ceremony. Williams was part of three of United’s MLS Cups (1996, 1997 and 1999).
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