CHICAGO, Ill. (Oct. 27, 2012) – The Chicago Fire (17-11-6; 57 points) received an early marker from Patrick Nyarko but D.C. United (17-10-7; 58 points) equalized just after the break and held off a late barrage to take a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park. With the result, the Fire finish the regular season fourth in the Eastern Conference and will host the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park in an MLS Knockout Game on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 8:00 p.m. live on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and 97.5 ESPN Deportes.
Needing a win to avoid the knock out game, the Fire attacked early, threatening United goalkeeper Bill Hamid in the first minute. With loads of space at midfield, Pavel Pardo laid off a ball for Jalil Anibaba streaking up the right. The second-year Fire defender took a touch before firing a low blast that Hamid did well to get behind.
The Fire would get the goal they needed 15 minutes later. Defender Gonzalo Segares began the play with a forward ball that Sherjill MacDonald dummied for Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian attacker flicked the ball to MacDonald in stride before receiving it back from the Dutchman and firing a scorching blast that beat the outstretched Hamid to the right post to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
The hosts nearly went ahead 2-0 four minutes later when Nyarko picked off Chris Pontius’ pass at midfield and strolled forward before playing a quick ball for Chris Rolfe. The 2012 Chicago Fire MVP saw he had numbers on United’s defense and slid the ball left for MacDonald who saw his right-footed effort saved well off the line by Hamid.
United would come close in the 23rd minute when striker Lionard Pajoy settled a bouncing ball outside the box before laying off for Pontius but the D.C. midfielder fired just over the bar.
D.C. nearly grabbed the equalizer in the 41st minute when Marcelo Saragosa dispossessed Logan Pause at midfield. Nick DeLeon ran onto the ball in space and laid off for Pajoy who hit a right-footed effort that saw Johnson push the ball out for a corner kick.
After the ensuing corner kick, the ball bounced around the Fire penalty area before Pajoy collected it on the right and laid off for Branko Boskovic who hit a low, hard drive that Johnson got down to, taking the Fire into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The Fire’s advantage wouldn’t last long after the half however when Pontius played a ball on the left for Boskovic who held up and crossed to the near post finding Pajoy who his header over Johnson’s reach and inside the back post in the 50th minute.
United came close to taking the lead in the 59th minute when Najar circled through midfield before playing a quick combination with DeLeon on the right. The D.C. rookie chipped the Honduran international in alone up the right but Najar chopped his effort wide of Johnson’s goal.
With United needing only a draw to secure second place, the Fire began to push forward after the hour mark. Again it was Nyarko collecting the ball on the right before seeing his deflected shot fall for Segares at the top of the area. The Costa Rican international flicked forward for MacDonald whose one-time effort was thwarted once again by the onrushing Hamid in the 63rd minute.
Three minutes later, Segares played a forward ball for MacDonald again. This time the Dutch international maneuvered past D.C.’s Brandon McDonald before centering for Rolfe. The veteran Fire striker then laid a soft pass back for Alvaro Fernandez but the Uruguayan international put his first-timer wide right in the 66th minute.
D.C. nearly took the lead again in the 70th minute when Pontius was chipped into the box on the left before hitting a quick shot that Johnson turned away with a reaction save. On the rebound Segares’ attempted clear hit Pajoy and the ball deflected towards the back post but Johnson was quick to make the save.
Second half Fire substitute Dominic Oduro would make his presence known three minutes later when MacDonald sent him in on goal with an overhead flick. The fleet Ghanaian battled off the heavy challenge of Dejan Jakovic but saw his right-footed effort saved by Hamid.
The pair would link up again in the 76th minute when MacDonald beat his mark down the left and whipped in a heavy, low cross for Oduro at the six but the Fire striker pushed his first-time effort over goal.
Into the 85th minute, Hamid would come up huge again when Pavel Pardo’s swinging 35-yard free kick picked out the diving head of Anibaba but the second year Fire defender’s effort was held once again by the United backstop.
The Fire would find three more opportunities in stoppage time.
First in the 92nd minute as Segares’ forward ball was healed ahead by MacDonald and eventually chased down at the end line by substitute Guillermo Franco. The veteran forward held up and pushed it back for Segares who quickly crossed for MacDonald but saw his first-time shot go over the bar.
Seconds later, MacDonald would be played back in towards the end line before cutting back and hitting a sharp-angled shot towards the near post that Hamid dove to save. Segares dug out the rebound and put it back across where Oduro’s heeled effort came off the post before falling for Anibaba who saw his first-time shot saved off the line by DeLeon.
Deep into stoppage time, substitute midfielder Alex received a forward ball into space from Pardo and unleashed a blistering effort that forced Hamid to push the ball over the bar for a corner kick.
On the ensuing take, Pardo found Fanco at the near post but his header glanced high over the net, ending the match at 1-1.
- The 1-1 draw means the Fire finish fourth in the East and will host the Houston Dynamo in the Conference’s Knockout Game on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 8:00 p.m. CT.
- Should the Fire come away victorious at midweek, they’ll advance to take on #1 seed Sporting KC in a two-game aggregate series with the first match coming on Sunday, November 4 at 2:30 p.m. CT (NBC) at Toyota Park.
- With the result, the Chicago Fire finish the 2012 MLS Regular season campaign with a 17-11-6 record. The 57 points the team earned is the highest point total in club history.
- Patrick Nyarko’s 16th minute strike pushes his goal total to a career high four on the 2012 campaign. The Ghanaian winger also led the team in assists with seven in 34 matches. Nyarko has tallied 11 goals and 28 assists in 130 regular season appearances for the Fire since 2008.
- Sherjill MacDonald’s helper on Nyarko’s goal was the fourth since joining the team in July. The Dutchman also has four goals in 14 regular season appearances for the Fire.
- Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made four saves on the night and moves his all-time MLS record to 29-23-19 since 2010.
- After six games away due to hamstring and calf injuries, Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo returned to the field, logging 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw.
Chicago Fire 1-1 D.C. United
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Alvaro Fernandez (Dominic Oduro 68’), Logan Pause © (Alex 68’), Pavel Pardo, Patrick Nyarko; Chris Rolfe (Guillermo Franco 82’), Sherjill MacDonald
Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Dan Gargan, Daniel Paladini, Wells Thompson
D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius © (Robbie Russell 86’), Marcelo Saragosa, Branko Boskovic (Maicon Santos 80’); Lionard Pajoy
Substitutes not used: Joe Willis, Emiliano Dudar, Raphael Augusto, Stephen King, Hamdi Salihi
CHI – Patrick Nyarko (Sherjill MacDonald) 16’
DC – Lionard Pajoy (Branko Boskovic) 50’
CHI – Arne Friedrich (caution) 47’
DC – Brandon McDonald (caution) 56’
DC – Dejan Jakovic (caution) 82’
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Assistants: Eric Boria, Anthony Casoli
Fourth Official: Abbey Okulaja