It had all the attitude and well, fire, of a playoff match.
But, for DC United to gain, and then use, any home field advantage through to the MLS Cup, it will need to give Troy Perkins a little more support.
Perkins flailed and kicked his way to a nine save performance in a tense, 0-0 draw with the Chicago Fire before 25,404 – United’s second 25,000-plus crowd in as many home matches.
“We didn’t adjust to how they were playing,” said United coach Tom Soehn, later noting that “they were pressuring us, but we weren’t sharp.”
Soehn and United (16-6-7, 55 pts.) were disappointed not to clinch the Supporters Shield, but could do so with a Chivas USA loss tomorrow, as United has the tiebreaker.
It was a physical, tense match befitting the playoffs – the Washington Capitals, by the way, might want the crowd and some of the checking going on last night – and that’s exactly what the Fire was playing for.
And it showed.
The Fire, using three forwards – with Cuautemoc Blanco pushing forward – and pinching in their midfielders – kept United on its heels throughout, as it seemed United’s back four was in constant backpedal.
Perkins denied a dangerous Chad Barrett – with five of the Fire’s nine first half shots – multiple times, including a point-blank save in the 4th minute and a reaction save in the 37th minute where Perkins straddled the top of the box. Fortunately, his hands were inside where his feet were out.
Mere inches kept Perkins from getting a red card and changing the complexion of the match.
For United, Christian Gomez had United’s best chance two minutes after the close play by Perkins.
Fred raced to the endline and sent a pass to the middle of the box. Guy-Roland Kpene let the ball go through him to Gomez, whose effort forced Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens into a one-hand punch save over the crossbar.
In the second half, the quality of the chances diminished, as United adjusted to the Fire’s pressure. The two teams combined for just four second half shots, and United’s didn’t come until the first minute of second half stoppage time.
United’s addition of Brian Carroll for an ineffective Kpene shored up the midfield, but MLS goalscoring leader Luciano Emilio couldn’t find service all evening.
“We didn’t provide him with good enough service,” Soehn said.
United closes out the season against Columbus next Saturday.