After seeing their goalless streak pass the five-hour mark, D.C. United twice came back from deficits before claiming a wild victory against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night in a seven-goal thriller at RFK Stadium.
Christian Gomez scored twice, the second pulling United level for a third time on the night, before rookie Bobby Boswell played the most unlikeliest of heroes with the game-winner -- his first MLS goal -- four minutes from the end and the 4-3 final result.
The Fire had taken a 2-0 lead with goals eight minutes apart from Chris Rolfe and Nate Jaqua, but goals on either side of halftime from Jaime Moreno pulled United even. Gonzalo Segares scored to again give Chicago a lead, setting the stage for the late heroics from Gomez and Boswell.
Dema Kovalenko was energetic from the start and he had a chance to open the scoring against his former team in the fourth minute after a smart combination between Christian Gomez and Santino Quaranta, but Zach Thornton made a deft kick save to deny the Ukrainian-born midfielder when an early goal seemed certain.
Chicago's outside backs were showing no fear in coming forward, however, with Segares and Logan Pause both looking to whip in crosses from the wings. Justin Mapp also posed a threat in his attacking midfield role, floating out to the right channel and cutting back onto his favored left foot as he probed the United defense for openings.
D.C.'s extended goalscoring drought continued past the half-hour mark despite a visionary play by Jaime Moreno, who should've earned his fourth assist of the season when he released Quaranta with a chipped through ball. Quaranta raced into the box alone as the Fire defense scrambled to recover, but he could only shoot directly at a sprawling Thornton and the chance went wanting.
Mere minutes later, United's foul luck took another turn for the worse when Chris Rolfe took advantage of some slack defending to put his side up 1-0 with a classic poacher's goal. Brandon Prideaux tracked back to shepherd a harmless-looking long ball in the D.C. box, but he was a bit too casual as he looked to prod the ball away, and the rookie striker snuck a foot in and poked the ball past Nick Rimando as the D.C. defense looked on in horror.
But United promptly poured forward and should have had a deserved equalizer when Moreno latched onto an angled pass deep in the box. He cut past Thornton and almost ran into his teammate Kovalenko, but still hit an off-balance shot towards the empty net that Samuel Caballero somehow reached to clear to safety.
Then Chicago doubled the home side's misery in the 38th minute with a close-range header from blazing-hot striker Nate Jaqua that capped a swift counterattack. Thiago found Mapp on the right channel, and he beat Wilson to the endline and lifted a precise far-post cross that gave Jaqua full opportunity to use his height advantage and nod past a stranded Rimando, stunning the RFK crowd with his fifth goal in three games.
But the home team threw themselves forward again, and Ben Olsen and Kovalenko began a series of extended possession with some deft passes in tight space, eventually freeing Quaranta to spin past Jesse Marsch at the top of the box. The Fire veteran sensed disaster and stuck out a leg to clip the Baltimore native as he went past, and referee Baldomero Toledo immediately pointed to the spot.
Moreno stepped up to take the penalty kick and coolly slotted it home to Thornton's right, setting off a bizarre sequence that could have ended with the netminder's dismissal. Moreno wheeled away to celebrate his team's first goal in 323 minutes, then stopped suddenly and turned to grab the ball as it rolled away from the net. Thornton saw him and in an apparent fit of pique, hacked down the Bolivian as he went for the ball. Thornton received a yellow card for his action.
Trailing at home to a conference foe, it was clearly gut-check time for United, and coach Peter Nowak showed his priorities by throwing on striker Alecko Eskandarian in place of holding midfielder Brian Carroll.
The move was rewarded almost immediately when Quaranta flew down the right flank and delivered a low cross into the Fire box. Eskandarian got there first but saw Gomez making a late run and dummied the ball, allowing the Argentine to slap home his fourth goal of the year from close range.
But more hustle and skill from Rolfe exposed the United defense and gave the advantage back to Chicago. This time he outran David Stokes, Prideaux's second-half replacement, to a loose ball and ran to the endline before cutting the ball back to Segares, whose first-time blast bulleted past Rimando into the far side netting.
United kept fighting, though, urged on by their passionate supporters, and Kovalenko beat the Fire offside trap in the 73rd minute and dribbled in from the right flank. He waited an extra moment for Gomez to arrive, then smacked a well-placed diagonal cross into the playmaker's path that required the simplest of finishes.
United continued to pour forward, and in the 85th minute won a corner when Tony Sanneh could only awkwardly clear from in front of his own goal. Chicago cleared the initial delivery, but not far enough, and Kovalenko set up Stokes for a cross from the right touchline.
The service dropped in perfectly for Boswell at the far post, who had lingered in the box after coming forward for the corner kick. The rookie center back could hardly believe his luck, but made no mistake in tapping home the game-winner before racing over to celebrate with delirious fans in the northwest corner, flapping his jersey's hem with joy.
United managed the remaining minutes wisely and held on for a sorely needed win, gaining ground on their Eastern Conference rivals and cooling the Fire's streak after they had won four of their last five games.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Christian Gomez (D.C. United)
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Chicago Fire (7-6-1) vs. D.C. United (4-4-4)
June 15, 2005 -- RFK Stadium
CHI -- Chris Rolfe 3 (unassisted) 30
CHI -- Nate Jaqua 6 (Justin Mapp 3, Thiago 6) 38
DC -- Jaime Moreno 5 (penalty kick) 44
DC -- Christian Gomez 4 (Santino Quaranta 1, Jaime Moreno 3) 47
CHI -- Gonzalo Segares 1 (Chris Rolfe 1, Ivan Guerrero 3) 62
DC -- Christian Gomez 5 (Dema Kovalenko 1, Jaime Moreno 4) 73
DC -- Bobby Boswell 1 (David Stokes 1, Dema Kovalenko 2) 86
Chicago Fire -- Zach Thornton, Logan Pause, Samuel Caballero, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares, Ivan Guerrero, Thiago, Jesse Marsch, Justin Mapp (Scott Buete 70), Nate Jaqua (Jim Curtin 83), Chris Rolfe (Lubos Reiter 66).
Substitutes Not Used: Leonard Griffin, David Mahoney.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Nate Jaqua 2, Chris Rolfe 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 15 (Jesse Marsch 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Justin Mapp 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Thiago 2); SAVES: 5 (Zach Thornton 4)
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Brandon Prideaux (David Stokes 60), Bobby Boswell, John Wilson, Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll (Alecko Eskandarian 46), Christian Gomez (Clyde Simms 83), Ben Olsen, Joshua Gros, Jaime Moreno, Santino Quaranta.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Nana Kuffour, Shawn Kuykendall, Troy Perkins, Jason Thompson, Jamil Walker.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Christian Gomez 3, Jaime Moreno 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Christian Gomez 3, Jaime Moreno 3); FOULS: 11 (Christian Gomez 2, Joshua Gros 2); OFFSIDES: 7 (Santino Quaranta 3); CORNER KICKS: 9 (Alecko Eskandarian 4, Christian Gomez 4); SAVES: 1 (Nick Rimando 1)
DC -- Christian Gomez (caution; Dissent) 35
CHI -- Justin Mapp (caution; Reckless Foul) 42
CHI -- Zach Thornton (caution; Reckless Foul) 44
DC -- Santino Quaranta (caution; Reckless Foul) 46
CHI -- Jesse Marsch (caution; Reckless Foul) 47
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: -Bill Dittmar; Corey Rockwell
4th Official: Andrew Chapin
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-87-degrees
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.