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United ends long road drought with massive effort in 1-0 win in Chicago

D.C. United got a much needed road win and snapped the team right back into a playoff position with a tough fought 1-0 win in the Windy City over the Chicago Fire. Bryan Namoff’s second headed goal of the season was all the Black and Red needed on a night that saw United pull off their second consecutive league shutout. United has been MLS’ worst defensive road team this season and perhaps their visit to Chicago was exactly what they needed to snap themselves out of a bad patch of form. United has now won three consecutive matches at Toyota Park and they have jumped back over Toronto FC help their playoff positioning. United only has two road matches remaining this season with five home matches sandwiched in between them.

United got the scoring started in the 11th minute with a rare headed free kick goal. Christian Gomez lined up a free kick from about 40 yards out on the right side of the field and the ball whipped into the box and met the head of Bryan Namoff who skimmed it easily to the far post and a 1-0 lead for United.

Chicago continued to pour forward throughout the remainder of the first half but while they presented some dangerous and nervy moments for United in their barely used 4-4-2 formation, they rarely challenged United netminder Josh Wicks. A header from CJ Brown and a wayward Cuauhtemoc Blanco free kick from 19 yards were the only serious challengers for United. United managed to hold on and get to the locker room with the 1-0 lead.

With United’s penchant to give up leads and goals throughout the MLS season, United went from their familiar 3-5-2 to a more defensive 4-4-2 to start the match. After the goal in the first half, that actually morphed into a 4-5-1 when it was clear that Ben Olsen couldn’t hack playing on the right side of midfield . As the second half progressed, it seemed United was more interested in bunkering down than settling the ball and counter attacking. It seemed obvious the goal was to frustrate the Fire and try to hold on to the lead for as long as possible. But somewhere along the way United figured their best defense could be their best offense.

United almost doubled their lead in the 63rd minute when a sustained period of possession resulted in a near goal from Ben Olsen. March Burch sent a driving ball to the far side of the penatly area where Santino Quaranta one-timed his volley to Olsen who’s toe-poke just narrowly went wide of the far post. Chicago nearly equalized a minute later but Wicks dove to his right to smother a Marco Pappa drive. Amazingly, the Black and Red came right back down to the other end of the field and Luciano Emilo forced Jon Busch off his line and he made a jumping reaction save to Emilio’s attempted chip over the diminutive goalkeeper to keep the scoreline at 1-0 for United.

United continued to gain more traction in the match and actually carved out a number of decent chances but couldn’t put anything behind Jon Busch. Marc Burch might have had the best opportunity on a rare counter attack in the 75th minute when substitute Jaime Moreno fed him down the left flank and the left-footer with a hammer for a peg hesitated when an open look on his preferred left foot was available. He instead chose to fake his oncoming defender and eventually sent in a cross that caused a few defensive problems for the Fire but was eventually cleared out of danger.

Chicago nearly got the game-tying goal in the 85th minute when a Blanco cross was met by Mike Banner who headed  it into the middle of the United goal area. Julius James and Josh Wicks nearly collided but the Jamaican defender managed to get the ball over the bar to keep the shutout intact.  Chicago nearly had another chance to tie in the 90th minute when James fouled a Chicago attacker right at the top of the box, but Blanco misfired for the third time in the match and United knew at that point that the win was in the cards. The match had a very unusual conclusion which saw Josh Wicks nearly come to blows with his own teamate Marc Burch. Wicks was complaining about the fact that Burch seemingly was lax in his defending a Chicago onslaught. Cooler heads prevailed however and United got back to finishing off the match.

 

 United now will face the Seattle Sounders FC in the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. United will have the opportunity to win their 13th major trophy in their existence. For anyone keeping score, that’s 13 more than Metrostars/Red Bull have ever gotten, should United win the match.

 

United Notes

– Danny Szetela and new signing Ty Shipalane were left back in DC. Andrew Jacobson (ankle) was out injured and also left back in Washington.

– Big thumbs down for Fox Soccer Channel when at halftime, their 6 in 60 segment (a series of questions in one minute) included a question for Santino Quaranta about “your preferred choice of adult beverage”. Apparantly no one at FSC bothered to realize that the youngster is in the throws of substance abuse recovery. Nice job.

– Thanks to results across the league, United is still out of a playoff position in 9th place. They could drop even further if the Colorado Rapids win on Sunday afternoon.

– Dejan Jackovic is now suspended for United’s next match at Dallas next Saturday when he got a late yellow card during the Wicks/Burch bust up.

Moreno, Gomez ignite second half rally in United’s 3-1 win over Colorado

There will be a day in the very near future when D.C. United will have to survive without Jaime Moreno. Until that day comes, United can always rely on their wily veteran striker to give the team a boost when they need it most. Last night at RFK, United was indeed in need of that boost as a lackluster first half gave way to some old United magic as MLS’ all-time leading goal scorer scored a penalty just two minutes after coming on and United was on their way to an easy 3-1 victory over the visiting Colorado Rapids before 18,248 at RFK Stadium.

United, coming off of a 35 day break between league home matches, came out strong and should have been up early when Boyzzz Khumalo missed a breakaway in the 6th minute. Just eight minutes later the visitors had a shock lead when Bryan Namoff misplayed a long goal kick and inexplicably sent the ball over Josh Wicks and into the net for an own-goal and 1-0 lead for Colorado. The rest of the half saw United growing increasingly frustrated at their poor play and went into the locker room down by a goal.

That lasted all of about two minutes. Jaime Moreno subbed in for Khumalo at the break and made an immediate impact when his through-ball to Christian Gomez resulted in a clumsy Pablo Mastroeni tackle in the penalty area and a resulting PK. Moreno thundered his shot just under the crossbar to tie the match at 1-1. A bit of luck came United’s way in the 51st minute when United midfielder Fred was fortunate not to be sent off for a tackle that ended the evening for Colorado defender Cory Gibbs. The Brazilians late tackle saw the bottom of his cleat make contact just below the kneecap of Gibbs. Neither referee Ricardo Salazar or any of his assistants saw the rash challenge as it was after Gibbs had cleared the ball away.

United’s luck continued in the 56th minute when they scored a rare goal off of a corner kick. Christian Gomez whipped in a low line-drive that was met at the near post by a parallel to the ground Bryan Namoff who’s rocket header gave Mastroeni no chance on the post. The game-winner was sweet justice for Namoff as his own-goal had soured his first half performance. United was not done there and pure hustle and skill supplied the third and final goal of the evening for the Black and Red. In the 61st minute, Christian Gomez battled Rapids defender Scott Palguta to the end line and somehow managed to poke the ball towards the penalty spot just before the ball went out of bounds. Fred pounced on the loose ball and with his back to the goal, held onto the ball  long enough for Luciano Emilio to run into the box and easily slot the ball into the empty net for one of the prettiest and skillful sequences of the season for United.

United, now with a rare two-goal lead this season, played out the remaining thirty minutes without conceding any real threatening chances save for an 87th minute shot that deflected off Marc Burch and off of the crossbar and over the goal.

 

D.C. United’s next league match is the start of another three game road trip beginning with a match in San Jose next weekend. Before that however, United will play their U.S. Open Cup semi-final match against the Rochester Raging Rhinos (USL-1) at the Maryland SoccerPlex this Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm. If United advances against the Rhinos, they will host the final at RFK Stadium on September 2nd against either the Houston Dynamo or Seattle Sounders FC