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DC United 3, Chicago Fire 1 | MLS Match Recap

WASHINGTON – A Jairo Arrieta brace and a Conor Doyle insurance tally washed away David Accam’s opener as D.C. United staged a furious second-half comeback to defeat the Chicago Fire 3-1 at an unseasonably chilly RFK Stadium on Wednesday. 

The win extends United’s home unbeaten streak to 20 games in all competitions and 16 in league play, one short of their club record, but they had to dig deep on this occasion.

Already a bruised and battered bunch, missing key pieces like Taylor Kemp and Luis Silva to injury and Chris Rolfe to suspension, D.C. were dealt a further blow before the opening whistle. Defender Chris Korb and wide midfielder Chris Pontius were ruled out at game time with minor injuries, as was starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Facing an in-form Fire, the prospect of extracting a positive result seemed iffy at best.

It didn’t seem to matter. As they’ve done all year, D.C. found a way to get a result.

United started quickly and would get their first shot on goal in the 10th minute. Midfielder Markus Halsti’s galloping run through the center of midfield led to an excellent, bent service played to the far sideline. Fellow midfielder Nick DeLeon met the ball in stride and raced towards the endline before lacing a low attempt at goal that flashed across the goalmouth in front of Chicago ‘keeper Jon Busch.

Chicago answered with an attempt of their own some nine minutes later. Rookie midfielder Matt Polster collected the ball 25 yards from goal and pushed it towards Accam. The Ghanaian national teamer spun to collect the service and streak in on goal. His right-footed effort from about 10 yards out lacked pace but skipped just wide of the far post, coming within inches of giving Chicago their opener.

The visitors would get an even better chance a few minutes later. Accam swung a cross into the area in the 26th minute and United defender Steven Birnbaum – who started out wide at left back as opposed to his traditional spot in central defense – committed a puzzling handball offense. But on the ensuing penalty kick, United ‘keeper Andrew Dykstra came up huge, getting a hand on Jeff Larentowicz’s driven effort and pushing it into the post before Bobby Boswell arrived to clear the ball out of bounds.

Larentowicz made amends in the 27th, providing a spark on the Fire’s lovely opening goal. Trotting along the sideline, he fed the ball to Quincy Amarikwa down the left flank. Amarikwa pressed closer to the endline before sending in an inch-perfect cross to Accam, who slid in to direct the ball just inside the far post. 

But the Black-and-Red came out of halftime a transformed team, inspired by substitute Fabian Espindola. Seeing his first action in six matches after recovering from a knee injury, the Argentine immediately sparked the United attack and Arrieta nabbed United’s equalizer at the hour mark.

Espindola swung in a dangerous corner kick and Arrieta rose to redirect the service perfectly, his glancing header eluding Busch’s dive.

Arrieta would double his pleasure in the 70th minute with a bit of help from Chicago defender Lovel Palmer. About 10 yards from goal, DeLeon looked to combine with the Costa Rican at the top of the box. Arrieta did his best to return the service to him with a one-time pass, but it deflected off of Palmer and directly back to Arrieta.

The former Columbus Crew SC man pounced on the deflection, striking a low effort into goal.

D.C. finished the match off in the 75th via another goal crafted by Espindola, as Doyle got on the board for the first time since August 2013. The former Derby County striker found himself on the end of a pinpoint Espindola cross to the top of the six-yard box. Fighting off a defender, Doyle hit a chip that spun over Busch’s fingertips and under the crossbar.

D.C.’s current run of schedule congestion won’t end after Wednesday’s victory: they’ll welcome Toronto FC to RFK on Saturday, while Chicago will return to the Windy City to welcome Orlando City SC later that same evening.

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