The Chicago Fire saw their recent run of good form come to crashing halt, failing to hold on to leads twice before a late goal gave D.C. United a 4-3 victory at RFK Stadium on Wednesday night.
Chris Rolfe and Nate Jaqua had given the Fire a two-goal lead late in the first half, but goals from Jaime Moreno (a penalty kick) and Christian Gomez pulled the home side even shortly after the start of the second half. Gonzalo Segares then gave the Fire another lead with his first professional goal, but Gomez levelled the match before rookie Bobby Boswell was the hero, scoring his first career MLS goal in the 86th minute.
Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton was called upon to save the Fire early on, making a a spectacular diving kick save on a Dema Kovalenko shot in the game's third minute, who was all alone on the right side of the goal. But at the other end, Justin Mapp in particular gave the United backline fits with his work on the flanks.
After a busy opening spell, the game settled down as neither dominated play for the opening half hour. United nearly got the game's first tally in the 27th minute later when a streaking Santino Quaranta found himself all alone inside the six-yard box, but put his shot right at a well-positioned Thornton and it was cleared away.
The Fire capitalized on the missed chance immediately. Striker Rolfe made the most of a United defensive blunder in the 30th minute, when he challenged hard on a ball played back in the direction of Brandon Prideaux. Prideaux was falsely calm in front of his own goal, allowing Rolfe to outhustle him to the ball. Rolfe was able to get a foot on it and poke it past a stunned Nick Rimando.
Eight minutes later, Mapp took a ball from Thiago and carried it down the right wing before playing an airborne cross to an eagerly awaiting Jaqua, given too much space by Prideaux. He used his height advantage to definitively head the ball past an oustretched Rimando for his fifth goal in the last three games and sixth of the year.
Referee Baldomero Toledo gave United a chance to cut into the two-goal deficit just before halftime, though, when he whistled a tripping foul on Chicago's Jesse Marsch as Quaranta attempted to turn toward goal at the top of the box. As he has done several times this year for United, Moreno calmly stepped up to take the penalty kick, and put it in the right corner of the goal to bring the score to 2-1 going into the locker room.
Chaos ensued after the penalty as Moreno ran after the ball in an apparent celebration, but was taken down on a hard tackle from behind by Thornton as he did so -- eliciting a smattering of boos and whistles from the RFK faithful. A brief melee and a heated exchange of words between several players broke out, and Thornton was cautioned and lucky not be red-carded.
United coach Peter Nowak made an offensive-minded substitution to start the second half, pulling holding midfielder Brian Carroll in favor of striker Alecko Eskandarian.
The move paid dividends immediately for D.C., as Quaranta took a ball in the 47th minute and played a rolling cross in front of the goal mouth, which Eskandarian dummied and left for an onrushing Gomez. With a defender draping him, Gomez made no mistake as he tucked it to the left of a sprawling Thornton to knot the game.
But the Fire responded against a United backline that was still looking brittle. In the 62nd minute, Rolfe broke free on the left, streaking past second-half substitute David Stokes, and laid the ball back to a solitary Segares, who one-timed a screaming shot with his left foot past Rimando into the top right corner of the goal.
The crowd grew increasingly rowdy as referee Toledo conspicuously allowed several tough challenges, and then erupted in the 73rd minute as Gomez connected again.
Gomez, right in front of Thornton, collected and made good on a lovely feed from barely on-side Kovalenko, who was played a ball forward into acres of space by Moreno.
A deadlock lasted 13 minutes until United won a corner from a Tony Sanneh clearance that bounced off his shin, then his head, in front of an open goal.
The clearance from the corner went just as far as Kovalenko, and his ball forward found Stokes, who crossed it to fellow defender Bobby Boswell. Boswell was surely shocked to find himself with space from point-blank range, but he maintained his composure and one-touched the ball into the corner of the net and over Thornton for an unlikely match-winner.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Christian Gomez (D.C. United)
Omar Garriott 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.