D.C. United defender Rodney Wallace scored in the 27th minute to open the scoring, and Josh Wolff answered for the Kansas City Wizards in the 52nd minute, before the teams settled for a 1-1 tie Wednesday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Wallace's second goal of the season came on Jaime Moreno's second assist and Santino Quaranta's third of the year as he outraced Wizards defender Lance Watson to a ball just inside the top of the box to gain control. Kansas City goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who had come forward to assist Watson, was caught out of position as Wallace avoided a collision with both Wizards and slow-rolled the shot softly past Hartman's right side from about 12 yards into the center of the net.
Wolff answered for the Wizards in the 52nd minute on a sliding shot from about eight yards out on the right, brilliantly connecting on a crisp curling cross from Jack Jewsbury, who earned his second assist of the season on the play.
The result kept Kansas City wedged into the jumbled top of the Eastern Conference, moving the Wizards to 11 points and into a tie with Chicago, two behind D.C. United's 13. United took over the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the tie, one point ahead of Toronto FC.
It was a game pitting evenly-matched, legitimate contenders for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and it played that way, including the chippy play that often accompanies similar talent as five yellow cards were assessed.
Neither team was able to muster much of an offensive attack early on as the squads combined for just two shots on goal in the first half, one apiece, with D.C. United goalkeeper Louis Crayton recording the half's lone save.
Each team earned three corner kicks in the first half, none of which resulted in quality chances.
In the 18th minute, Josh Wolff sent a pass from near the right corner through the box to no avail as the ball found no one as it sailed through to the other side.
That was about as close as Kansas City came to scoring in the first 45 minutes.
On the other side, it was nearly as clean for Wizards goalkeeper Hartman, who didn't receive a touch until almost 15 minutes had elapsed.
The Wizards were spared in the 22nd minute when winger Chris Pontius, who received a pass from Quaranta, missed an opportunity off the back post from short range.
Luciano Emilio, fifth in the Budweiser Golden Boot Award standings entering the night with four goals, and Christian Gomez, did not start for D.C. United in an attempt to rest the players with United beginning a stretch of five matches in 19 days. But looking to spark his team's attack, United head coach Tom Soehn brought on Emilio for Pontius at halftime and then Gomez in the 61st minute.
Kansas City missed a solid chance to take the lead in the 58th minute as Claudio Lopez's attempt from the left side stayed just left and hit the side of the net.
The Wizards were denied again in the 62nd minute as Lopez sent a great cross in front of the goal to Wolff, whose header was close enough that fans began celebrating before realizing the ball had not struck home.
From there, neither side was able to break free for any serious scoring chances.
Both teams return to action on Saturday as United play host to second-place Toronto FC while Kansas City travels to take on defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew.
Curtis Kitchen is a contributor to MLSnet.com.