Bridgeview, Illinois, June 24, 2015 – Conor Doyle’s sure to be goal-of-the-week blast in the 73rd minute was all D.C. United needed in their 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire tonight at Toyota Park. The win extend United’s lead in the Eastern Conference to ten points after the New England Revolution fell to Columbus in Columbus earlier in the evening. The shutout for United (10-5-4, 34 points) was the first for the Black-and-Red in 12 league games.
Head coach Ben Olsen once again made numerous changes to his lineup after Sunday’s 2-1 win at home against the Revolution in the face of four matches in ten days. Facundo Coria made his first start in MLS for United and got the first chance to score when his dipping bid from 22 yards was saved by Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson early in the first half. Johnson was called up again just a few minutes later when he parried away a goal-bound effort from Jairo Arietta, making his first start in two weeks.
On the other end of the field Bill Hamid had precious little to do aside from a few slight scares but was not called upon for any save opportunities. United clearly came out of the game with a purpose and even though the squad was almost completely rotated out, the formation change put forth by Olsen put the team in a different mindset and although they didn’t score in the first half, the effort put forth was different from what has been seen lately when United had fallen behind in 8 of their last 9 league matches.
Olsen employed a three-man midfield tucked in behind the front runner Arietta with Luis Silva and Coria playing side-by-side with Markus Halsti protecting underneath. Doyle and Miguel Aguilar manned the flanks and Luke Mishu got a start at his preferred left-back with Steve Birnbaum playing on the right with Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare patrolling central defense.
The change worked as the home side had no clue how to penetrate United’s disciplined defense. As the game wore on United got even stronger in the back as the Fire were forced to try and dump the ball over the United defense to no avail. Either United cleaned up nicely or the Fire were caught offside as United played their trap to perfection all night long.
United’s hard work paid off in the 73rd minute when Conor Doyle came up a with a goal that will not be forgotten any time soon in D.C. Fabian Espindola floated a free kick from the left flank into the penalty area where Birnbaum kept the ball alive at the back post. The ball ricocheted around the area for a second before landing at the feet of Boswell who’s toe-poked effort rebounded back outside the penalty area and into the path of Doyle who unleashed a 25-yard blast that flashed past Sean Johnson before he could even raise his hands to attempt to deflect the shot.
The goal sucked all the air out of Toyota Park and United easily saw out the remainder of the match in true first-place fashion. With another match just three days away in Toronto, United is already playing with house money thanks to the three points collected this evening when a draw would have been more than satisfactory for Olsen. With key starters getting rested tonight, United will most likely be at full-strength heading into their match in Canada save for the nagging injuries for Chris Pontius and Sean Franklin.
United’s match against TFC will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet at 5pm on Saturday afternoon. TFC easily put away their rivals the Montreal Impact at BMO Field 3-1 earlier this evening and United will definitely have revenge on their minds as it was TFC who snapped United’s 20-game unbeaten run at RFK two weekends ago.