Washington, D.C., June 4 – Jairo Arreita bagged two goals and Fabian Espindola dished out two assists as D.C. United stormed back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to race past the Chicago Fire in last night’s 3-1 victory at RFK Stadium. Conor Doyle added his first goal of the season to complete United’s fourth win of the season after giving up the opening goal. United (8-3-4, 28 points) only won one match last season after giving up the first goal and have extended their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over the New England Revolution.
For what seems to be an alarming trend recently, United started out slowly once again and were in trouble in the 26th minute when Steve Birnbaum inexplicably reached out and handled a ball in the penalty area as United were under pressure. Birnbaum got the start at an unfamiliar left-back as Taylor Kemp and Chris Korb were both unavailable due to injury. Bill Hamid and Chris Pontius also did not suit up for United who were already missing Chris Rolfe due to a suspension.
Jeff Larentowicz stepped up to take the penalty but Andrew Dykstra made an incredible diving save to his right to keep out the goal-bound shot. Bobby Boswell and Markus Halsti both snapped to attention and swept the ball out of play before any Fire player could pounce on the rebound. United thought they were off the hook but just 60 seconds later the Fire would take the lead when Quincy Amarikwa’s pass from the left flank found speedy striker David Accam and the Ghanaian’s one-touch redirect flashed past Dykstra for a 1-0 lead.
United once again failed to create much of anything through the first half and most of it had to do with yet another batch of changes to the lineup as United are at the tail end of a 5-game in 15-day stretch of play. Head coach Ben Olsen though had a few tricks up his sleeve and the biggest and best one was named Fabian Espindola who was making his return back to the team after sitting out a month with a deep bruise to his knee.
Espindola came on after the break the tone of the match changed completely as United seemed more focused and picked up their pace of play. That urgency paid off in the 61st minute when Espindola’s perfectly whipped in cross from a corner kick met the head of Arrieta who snapped a header inside the far post to level match at 1-1. Just eight minutes later United would take the lead for good with a bit a good fortune. Arrieta was attempting a give-and-go with Nick DeLeon deep in the Fire’s penalty area when defender Lovel Palmer seemed to have thwarted the dangerous combination. However, the Jamiacan’s sliding challenge redirected the ball right back to Arrieta who’s one-time right footed blast easily beat Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch. The goal was the fifth of the season for Arrieta who has taken the team lead over Chris Rolfe in scoring.
Not to be undone, Espindola performed one more piece of magic to wrap up the night for United. In the 75th minute Espindola found himself deep in Fire territory hugging the left sideline. The crafty Argentine spotted a far post run from Conor Doyle and unleashed a worm-burner pass that hit Doyle just as he flashed in front of his defensive challenger and right in front of goal. Busch could only get a slight touch on the fall before the shot hit the roof of the net.
With United firmly in control, they saw out the remainder of the match with little difficulty as United cruised to back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Vancouver and Columbus a month ago.
Next up for United is a home match against Toronto FC this Saturday night at 7pm. This will be the end of United’s most grueling stretch of games of the season to date. United will most likely have most of their squad available as the injuries that forced Olsen’s changes tonight were a mixture of precaution and knowledge of another Eastern Conference game just three days away.