Listless United able to rally late for 1-1 draw in Chicago

On a night away from home when very few things went right for D.C. United, coming away with a point was a minor victory against the Chicago Fire.

Former Fire stalwart Josh Wolff got one back on his former team, scoring in the 73rd minute to snatch a 1-1 draw in a game that saw DC outplayed for significant stretches of the match.

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“This is like home for me as far as being a professional soccer player and being where I started,” said Wolff, who began his pro career with the Fire in 1998. “It feels good to get on the board obviously. Our team needed something at that point.”

Wolff, who came off the bench in the second half, was played in by fellow sub Santino Quaranta on the equalizer. Head coach Ben Olsen’s vital changes in the second 45 shifted the game just enough for DC to steal a point on a night when, for 70 minutes, they looked listless.

That was the story in the first half, as the robust and energetic United side that had been getting results away from RFK Stadium was nowhere to be found. From the first minute, DC struggled to keep up with Chicago’s attack.

Spearheaded by the fleet footed Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro, the Fire caught DC’s back line out on more than one occasion. The post, DC goalie Bill Hamid, and Oduro’s profligacy all played a part in keeping the score level at 0-0 going into the break.

“We didn’t match their intensity in the first half, and were a little flat,” Wolff said. “You’ve got guys like Nyarko, Oduro, [Sebastián] Grazzini that will push the game, but Bill kept us in it.”

Hamid had several nice saves in the first half, and came off his line well to clear danger on more than one occasion. But almost on the stroke of halftime disaster struck, as Hamid came up clutching his hamstring after a routine kick on a dead ball. He had trouble leaving the field and was subbed out for backup goalkeeper Steve Cronin at the start of the second half.

According to the United Twitter feed, Hamid strained his right hamstring and will be reevaluated on Friday.

DC looked a bit more lively in the opening stretches of the second half, but were finally breached when a weak Daniel Woolard clearance bounced straight to Grazzini, who volleyed past Cronin in the 59th minute.

Down a goal, DC showed the same fight as in recent weeks, clawing their way back into the game in the last 20 minutes. Dwayne De Rosario helped start the equalizing sequence in the 73rd minute by tracking down a long ball that looked like it was headed out of bounds.

“That competitiveness and this desire that this team has is still something that will carry us into the next ten, eleven games left,” Wolff said. “Obviously wins are great, but tonight it wasn’t easy, and to come away with something is a positive.”

DC finish the night tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, level on 31 points with the Red Bulls. New York hold the tiebreaker on goal differential, while United still have two games in hand.

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.