Chicago Fire 0, DC United 1 | MLS Match Recap
D.C. United stretched their sizable lead atop the Eastern Conference with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over basement dwelling Chicago Fire on Wednesday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
Conor Doyle’s sensational 73rd-minute strike proved to be the difference between the two sides in a game short on back-and-forth action.
With second-place New England Revolution falling to Columbus Crew SC on the same night, United’s 34 points from 19 games gives them a 10-point cushion in the table. The Fire, meanwhile, complete the month of June without an MLS win, losing all four ties to find themselves rooted to the bottom of the East with 14 points from 15 games.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop returned to a mostly first-choice lineup after their US Open Cup win last week over Louisville FC, although they were still without the injured Shaun Maloney (back) and David Accam (hamstring) and the suspended Matt Polster.
Opposite number Ben Olsen made wholesale changes to his starting lineup from Sunday’s 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Revs, with only goalkeeper Bill Hamid, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum and Doyle retained.
The first half took a while to get going as both sides struggled to find any cohesion or penetration.
Chicago’s Kennedy Igboananike shot horribly wide in the 10th minute, while Facundo Coria enjoyed D.C.’s best early opportunity when he drove past a couple of defenders and let fly with a left-footed belter that Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson did well to palm behind in the 19th minute.
Five minutes later, Jairo Arrieta, who netted twice in D.C.’s 2-1 win over the Fire three weeks ago, broke in from the left and his dipping, swerving shot was again well turned away by Johnson.
Johnson, who was imperious all night, turned away another United chance in the 49th minute, going down brilliantly to his right to turn away Boswell’s goal-bound header.
Doyle finally broke the deadlock with a thunderbolt from 25 yards. Capitalizing on a block down by Eric Gehrig, Doyle connected beautifully with a stinging right-foot drive that gave Johnson no chance in the Fire goal.
The strike was the 15th of 23 second-half goals from D.C.
The introduction of Mike Magee brought a little more energy to the Fire attack, but the United defense held firm to close out the match.
D.C. continue their four-game road swing with a visit to Toronto FC on Saturday, while the Fire close out a disappointing June with next Tuesday’s visit of the Charlotte Independence in the US Open Cup.