The Fire have finished the 2012 campaign in fourth place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of yet another disappointing result during this stretch run to close the regular season. The club is hardly going into post season play on a high note, sporting a 1-3-1 record in the last five games. A victory in this match would have secured a second place finish so it's not difficult to understand why this draw felt like a loss to many. The Fire will now face the Houston Dynamo in a one-game playoff at Toyota Park this Wednesday night.
"I want a week to prepare for sure, it would be a lot better than a quick turn around like this," said Frank Klopas after the match when asked about the difference in playoff positioning. "The good thing is that we are at home and don’t have to travel. We have to get ready to play a very good team. They are a very different team to the one we played today. So we have to get ready and organized," he continued. The team the Fire played today finished in second place and needed nothing more than a draw to secure their spot in the standings. DC United had 64% of the possession in the first half but didn't necessarily threaten very often during the first forty-five minutes. After taking the lead the Fire appeared to sit back waiting for a counter but a missed opportunity in the 20th minute (on a counter attack) proved to be the crucial play in the match.
After Patrick Nyarko scored in the 16th minute to give the Fire a lead, the Ghanian winger started another attack four minutes later springing Chris Rolfe into the penalty area. Rolfe drew the defense and fed Sherjill MacDonald who was stopped in a 1v1 chance by goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The Fire capitulated to DC United again to start the second half as the visitors capitalized on their best chance of the game in the 50th minute to level the score at 1-1. "I’m not sure how we put this game behind us, I guess we just have to prepare like we always do. We prepare the same way every week and sometimes the ball bounces the other way. We just have to forget it and look forward to the game later in the week," said MacDonald in the midst of a subdued locker room.
"We have to keep our heads up because we are still in the competition. Everybody is disappointed for sure but we have to push now," said Arne Friedrich. "It's not over but we have to kick our a$$ and we have to stay positive."
GK Sean Johnson (5) - Registered 4 saves with the best being a 42nd minute stop on a long distance Pajoy attempt. Outshone by his national team counterpart, Hamid who registered 8 saves and somehow kept the Fire from finding a second goal.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Did a good job of containing Najar out of the back for DC United but it took away from his support going forward.
D Arne Friedrich (6) - Very good in the middle of the defense again in this match and continues to look to press the offense going forward when he sees an opportunity or feels the additional help is needed. Friedrich is class and he's always entertaining in post game. Check out his full comments here.
D Austin Berry (5) - Pretty good game for what should be the MLS Rookie of the Year but he did get beaten to the near post by Pajoy on the lone DC score. It took an excellent run, a pin point cross, and a good finish to tie it but the Fire can't afford even the slightest hint of error now.
D Jalil Anibaba (5) - Okay match. A good cross or two but he continues to provide the occasional misadventure at right back defensively.
M Logan Pause (5) - The Fire held their ground for most of the match although DC enjoyed the possession advantage. You'd like to see the center of the pitch do more to disrupt that.
M Pavel Pardo (5) - Played in his first match in several weeks after missing the last 6 games with a calf injury. The middle of the field needs to be stronger in playoff competition. A 7th minute free kick from a dangerous spot was easily handled by Hamid.
M Alvaro Fernandez (4) - Very frustrating to watch because you expect and know that he's better than he's played for most of his tenure in Chicago. With several turnovers and a completely muffed shot with a good look at goal in the 66th minute, he continues to provide head-scratching moments that undermine his DP status.
M Patrick Nyarko (7) - A gorgeous move and a fantastic strike in the 16th minute gave the Fire the lead. Nyarko came to play and provided almost all of the offensive highlights in the first half. May have registered an assist or two if teammates could finish a shot on this night.
F Chris Rolfe (5) - DC used five midfielders to crowd the Fire attack limiting his touches. Rolfe needs to play higher up the field closer to MacDonald to be effective.
F Sherjill MacDonald (5) - Should have scored in the 20th minute after the pass from Rolfe but he was denied by Hamid. The DC 'keeper came up huge again stoning MacDonald in the 63rd. Had another good look at goal in second half stoppage time but his one touch shot sailed over the net. An excellent cross to Oduro in the 76th probably should have been in the net too.
M Dominic Oduro (5) - Entered the match for Fernandez in the 68th and forced Hamid into a nice save two minutes later. Should have scored into an open net in the 76th but his running one-touch shot sailed over the crossbar. Hit the post after a scramble in the 92nd minute. If he would have scored the situation would have been interesting since the play was questionably whistled offside.
M Alex (5) - Came into the match for Logan Pause in the 68th as Klopas played to push the game. Had a dangerous shot in the dying moments as his long distance blast was tipped over the crossbar by Hamid.
F Guillermo Franco (5) - Subbed in for Rolfe in the 82nd. Drew a foul in a dangerous area and helped set up MacDonald's attempt in the 91st.
C Frank Klopas (5) - A draw at home wasn't disaster but it was a letdown. Has Klopas gotten all that he can out of this roster? Or is there another run in the tank? The team created plenty of chances with 16 attempts and 9 shots on goal but somebody's got to finish.
The Fire will host Houston on Wednesday night at 8pm. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
If the Fire are victorious they will host Sporting Kansas City next Sunday at 2:30 pm in the first leg of the second round series.
Rolfe was named the club's season MVP and Friedrich was announced as Defender of the Year.