WASHINGTON, March 19, 2014 — D.C. United produced its best soccer of the season in the first 25 minutes against the Chicago Fire before the allowing the visitors to score on their first attempt on goal in Saturday’s soggy game at RFK Stadium. Unlike in recent games, United’s players kept their heads up and continued to apply pressure on the opponents. It paid off. The team was rewarded with a free kick, which Fabian Espindola excellently converted it to tie the game in the 35th minute. United took the lead on a scrappy goal from Perry Kitchen in the second half, but once again, allowed the Fire to get back into the match in the 82nd minute from a Quincy Amarikwa shot to make it 2-2.
“We did enough to get a win,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s still a step forward. We quadrupled the crosses and chances”
It was certainly a much better performance from United, but defensive errors still plague the team. Below we rank the players.
Bill Hamid (6) – A little shaky on a cross in first half. He couldn’t do much about the opening goal. He made a couple of fine saves, including stopping Amarikwa’s shot past the hour mark. A number of his ball releases were suspect.
Sean Franklin (7) – The speedy defender made a number of nice crosses and worked well with Nick DeLeon on the right side. He took his eye of Amarikwa at one point and allowed the striker to produce a good shot on goal.
Bobby Boswell (6) – Did well to keep an eye on Chicago striker Amarikwa and kept him quiet in the first half. He helped set up the United’s second goal. His initial shot hit the post and rebounded back to him. The ball found its way to Perry Kitchen, who fired it home.
Jeff Parke (6) – Made some smart calls feeding the ball to the left flank and looked steady all through the game.
Cristian Fernandez (4) – It was not a good game for the defender who must take some blame for both goals. He failed to mark Jhon Kennedy Hurtado on the Fire’s goal in the 28th minute. Hurtado was allowed to beat him in the air and head the ball into United’s upper left corner. Then he was easily beaten by a nutmeg from Patrick Nyarko who went on to set up Amaikwa for the Fire’s tying goal.
Nick DeLeon (7) – As usual the speedy midfielder worked very hard setting up a good pass for Eddie Johnson’s chance in the 16th minute. In the second half he helped clear ball off the goal line. He could have won the game in the dying seconds but his effort was stopped. Seconds later he came up with a huge defensive effort to stop a last gasp Chicago counter-attack. It was a good night all around for the midfielder.
Perry Kitchen (7) – The United veteran had a great header on target, connecting with Fabien Espindola’s corner kick that forced a huge save from Sean Johnson. He spread a number of good passes and in the second half scored the go-ahead goal in a goalmouth scrabble as he bungled the ball across the line. It wasn’t pretty but he worked hard for it.
Luis Silva (6) – He brought down a good pass from Franklin and had a nice shot in the 26th minute but needed to get the ball in at the far post. He did his best to try and head Hurtado’s header off the line but the ball was too high. He then suffered a bad injury on the half hour mark when Harry Shipp stood on his foot and was replaced by Davy Arnuad.
Lewis Neal (5) – He made his first home start of the season and put in a good sixty minutes. Coach Ben Olsen brought him in to give more width to the United attack. He showed a lot of vision on a number of his passes.
Fabien Espindola (7) – Converted a free kick in the 35th minute on the top of the 18 yard box and fired home a low shot for United’s first goal of the season. He produced some excellent work on the right flank with a number of good crosses. His delicate free kick in the 52nd minute was wasted. No one was at the back to but the ball in the net. Probably United’s best player on the night.
Eddie Johnson (7) – Got in an early shot in the 5thminute and had a good game all round. Produced another close-range shot in the 17th minute, forcing Sean Johnson to make an important save right on the goal line. He tested the Chicago goalie a number of times in the first half and set up a good cross for Espindola. He made a fine run on goal and won the important free kick on the 18-yard line, which Espindola converted to tie the game in the 35thminute.
Davy Arnaud (5) – With a bandaged head, he came on for Luis Silva. Had a good give-and-go passing sequence with Eddie Johnson that had goal potential.
Jared Jeffrey (5) – Came on for Lewis Neal in the 63rd minute. He looked a little rusty at times and wasted a good opportunity late in the game.
Conor Doyle (4) – Came on for the hard working Espindola in the 81st minute and immediately wasted a good chance. Rather than try a shot he should have pasted to Johnson. United’s bench is clearly weak.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email [email protected]