When DC United’s talisman Dwayne De Rosario was crocked with injury back in early September, the doubters were out in their droves ready to promote debates and articles. But no-one expected Ben Olsen’s troops to silence each and every doubter, by bulldozing their way through to an unbeaten record, five wins and one draw prior to kick off at Toyota Park. DC were keen to navigate towards a healthy second place conclusion to their regular season.

From the first whistle, intentions were recognisable from both Head Coaches and players alike. United situated a possession patient plan to orchestrate a clear opening in and around the danger areas. However the home side Chicago Fire reeled to what they knew best allowing teams more of the soccer ball, then capitalising on the opponents lapses and springing counter attacks when possible.

Within a matter of sixty seconds Chicago’s prodding of Hamid’s goal was inevitable, right back Jalil Anibaba struck a grass cutter from way out, the DC stopper routinely barricaded the lack lustred effort.

Six ball playing minutes later the returning Mexican veteran Pavel Pardo was next to test Bill Hamid with a perfectly executed set piece, the strike however starved any lavished pace, allowing the American keeper to play pat-a-cake and under no pressure grasping at the second time of asking.

A foothold was finally being grappled by the visitors, who administered full backs Chris Korb and Andy Najar further afield to create and force the hosts into becoming a little disjointed. As well as this, specialist ball playing Perry Kitchen was using his renowned passing philosophy to keep the game ticking over.

Chicago Fire did exactly what they intended to do, possession was overturned in the blink of an eye with Nyarko bursting from the middle. The winger come striker found ex West Brom forward Sherjill MacDonald, – running into a crowd of white – MacDonald wriggled the ball back to the Ghanaian. Expertly Nyarko dragged the ball back, around an outstretched defenders limb and out of his feet in one slick movement. With the necessary blade of grass created, Patrick Nyarko let fly into the bottom corner. Head Coach Frank Klopas entered into fitting applause celebrating an individual piece of brilliance.

Minutes later the DC backline was under threat once more, this time it was the glove wearing Chris Rolfe’s turn to calculate an opening. Again from a sloppy United interchange, the influential play maker broke down the right. Peering out the corner of his eye was the masculine number 7, who was fed, Hamid stood big and thwarted the Dutchman’s destined net buster.

After some neat touches and consecutive triangles DC accomplished their first meaningful chance, midway through the opening forty five. Stand in skipper Chris Pontius peeled efficiently off his marker, Columbian Pajoy spotted the opportunity to pay the way for a strike. Pontius lent back slightly scooping the ball high into the crowd.

Lionard Pajoy visibly catapulted into conducting more attacks that would prove pivotal for his sides play-off standing opportunities. Whether it was to prosper from deep or in behind, the Fire defence continued to ripple uncertainty.

Although one potential stand out moment led to a blushing conclusion. Clean through on goal Pajoy pulled back to thunder the ball goal-wards, to the Columbians dismay the ball failed to unstick from his boots, conveniently steering the striker to the turf.

Eventually the game was level, five minutes into the second period, Branko Boskovic manoeuvred the ball onto his favoured left foot. With magic in his boot the Serb was alerted by a near post spurt by Pajoy. Intent into reality, the ball found the head of the forward, who used the required neck muscles to provide a glancing header past the heavy heeled Sean Johnson. Since making the move from Philadelphia the much travelled South American has found the net three times in twelve appearances for Olsen’s men.

The game was now how DC wanted it, a point was going to be enough for them to lock down 2nd spot and a much preferred play-off scenario.

2011 Rookie Of The Year Kitchen was keen to make the score-line look more defendable however his 20 yard drive continued to bend away from goal and Fire keeper Johnson witnessed it head out of bounds.

Fire failed to let this affect them. Firstly Nyarko saw his effort blocked, the strength of the ricochet engineered Segares to extravagantly flick the ball towards MacDonald once more. And not for the first time Bill Hamid damaged his hopes of glory by using his body to shun away danger.

The tying goal game promptly forced Frank Klopas into showing his hand and putting into the game all three attacking options at his disposal. Oduro, Franco and Alex were all thrown on to help turn one point into three.

An ever frustrating Sherjill MacDonald was adamant his attacking exploits were not going to fizz away into the Illinois sky. Brandon McDonald was the main victim for his surge, on a number of occasions. The dependable defender buckled under pressure to the physical demands of the recently added DP. Ten minutes from time Sherjill MacDonald opened up the DC gateway to cannon the ball across goal, Oduro saw the morning headlines prematurely, an open goal in the offing but the Ghanaian diverted over.

The Oduro, Macdonald combination was nagging at United throughout the latter stages. Deep into added time, a ticking time bomb entered the fray, sparking a goalmouth scramble. Fire’s Designated Player annoyingly found the right hand of Hamid AGAIN. Gonzalo Segares barraged through to smash robustly to an unmarked Dominic Oduro. However his flick found the post, Nyarko was first to react, halting any advances was rookie Nick DeLeon who stood tall to take one in the midrift.

A point shared for both, with the one being more precious than the other. DC United will now face fierce rivals New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The first leg at Red Bull Arena will take place on 3rd November, with the return at RFK Stadium being played four days later. On the other hand the play-off picture is not set out so clearly for Chicago as of yet. They host two time MLS Cup winners Houston Dynamo in a one off wildcard game at Toyota Park on 31st October. With the victors facing Conference winners Sporting KC.

Chicago Fire

25. Sean Johnson, 6. Jalil Anibaba, 23. Arne Friedrich, 22. Austin Berry, 13. Gonzalo Segares, 4. Alvaro Fernandez (68), 12. Logan Pause (C) (68), 17. Pavel Pardo, 14. Patrick Nyarko, 18. Chris Rolfe (82), 7. Sherjill MacDonald


70. Paolo Tornaghi, 3. Dan Gargan, 15. Wells Thompson, 71. Alex (68), 10. Guillermo Franco (82), 8. Dominic Oduro (68), 11. Dan Paladini

Yellow Cards: Arne Friedrich (47)

Goals: Patrick Nyarko (16) (Assist: Sherjill MacDonald)

DC United

28. Bill Hamid, 14. Andy Najar, 4. Brandon McDonald, 5. Dejan Jakovic, 22. Chris Korb, 18. Nick DeLeon, 23. Perry Kitchen, 11. Marcelo Saragosa, 8. Branko Boskovic (80), 13. Chris Pontius (C) (86), 26. Lionard Pajoy


31. Joe Willis, 3. Robbie Russell (86), 19. Emiliano Dudar, 20. Stephen King, 12. Raphael Augusto, 9. Hamdi Salihi, 29. Maicon Santos (80)

Yellow Card: Brandon McDonald (56), Dejan Jakovic (82)

Goals : Lionard Pajoy (50) (Assist: Branko Boskovic)