BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – In the postgame locker room, the answer to what would have saved the first D.C. United goal – and possibly the game – in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss was obvious to Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
When Luis Silva bumped Johnson in the 44th minute as both looked up at the ball, which had been popped up high in the air by a Bakary Soumare deflection, all of the backstop’s training and years of experience went for naught as he attempted an ill-fated basket catch.
It was the wrong move.
“Looking back at it, I probably should have just punched through it, but I thought I got a good jump,” Johnson said. “There was a little bit of contact maybe, him, me and the ball. I should have just punched it away, I should have done better.”
Johnson's error set the tone as, in the second half, Chicago’s bad luck got worse. Just over two minutes into the second half, Joel Lindpere lunged in as Nick DeLeon shot, sending Johnson the wrong way before the ball rolled into the lower corner to put DC up 2-0.
“The deflection caught Sean going the other way,” defender Austin Berry told MLSsoccer.com. “It's just unfortunate. Both goals were pretty unfortunate, pretty soft.”
Chicago pressed in the second half, firing off nine shots and coming close a few times. Coach Frank Klopas brought in two forwards, and Berry almost brought the Fire to within one with a deflected shot that was cleared off the line.
But an offense that has been scoring practically at will since Mike Magee arrived in May was stifled.
In the end, the gaffe and the deflection ended the Fire's run at a fifth US Open Cup title.
“It was frustrating,” defender Gonzalo Segares said. “The first one, and then the second one was a deflection that went in the near post … We had a couple of chances that were on the line and they were able to clear and it comes out of their goal. Some days, they go in. Today, it wasn't on our side. It's tough to be 1-0 down and then early in the second half, to concede another goal. That definitely put the nail in the coffin.”