BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire set the all-time MLS record for ties in a single season Thursday night, giving up a late goal to draw D.C. United 1-1 in front of 15,818 at Toyota Park.
Former Fire forward Josh Wolff scored for DC, hammering a close range shot over Chicago goalie Sean Johnson in the 73rd minute to steal a point for United and hand the Fire their 15th draw of the year.
Midfielder Sebastian Grazzini scored the Fire’s goal, side-volleying a close range shot off of DC backup ‘keeper Steve Cronin – who came in for an injured Bill Hamid at halftime – in the 59th minute.
Though United came into the contest with momentum and form on their side, it was Chicago that dominated most of the game. But struggles in front of net, particularly from forward Dominic Oduro, left the door open for DC to come out with a point.
The Fire had their first chance in the ninth minute when Oduro collected a long ball on the right wing, cut into the box and slipped DC defender Brandon McDonald before hitting a shot straight at Hamid at the near post.
Chicago came agonizingly close to going ahead in the 14th minute, when Oduro again beat a static United backline. He ran onto a Grazzini through-ball in the left side of the box and hit the inside of the far post with a curling 15-yarder.
DC started settling in after Oduro hit the post, getting a bit more of the ball and spending a little more time in the Fire’s half. Still, it was Chicago that had the next opportunity, with midfielder Marco Pappa forcing Hamid into a fine save with a curling, 35-yard free kick in the 30th minute.
Oduro missed an absolute sitter in the 42nd minute. Attacker Patrick Nyarko put a cross on Oduro’s foot just two yards from goal, but the Ghanaian striker couldn’t even hit the target, sending a right-footed shot high and wide at the left post.
Oduro’s stunning miss was the last chance of the first half, but it wasn’t the end of the drama. Hamid went down with an strained right hamstring as he was running into the locker room at halftime and couldn’t continue. That forced Cronin, who let in three soft goals on August 6th against Toronto in his last outing, into the match.
Cronin had his first action in the 52nd minute, comfortably saving Fire midfielder Logan Pause’s long-distance volley, but didn’t do as well the next time he was called upon.
It was an attack that once again started with Nyarko. He rounded Dejan Jakovic on the right flank and sent in a curling cross that DC defender Daniel Woolard could only flick toward the path of a wide open Grazzini at the back post. The Argentine midfielder took full advantage, side-volleying the ball off of Cronin’s hands to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
But DC weren’t behind for long, finding the equalizer in the 72nd minute.
Talismanic attacker Dwayne De Rosario dug a long-ball out of the corner, then found substitute midfielder Santino Quaranta at the top of the box. Quaranta played cleverly to an open Wolff in the right side of the box and the veteran forward did the rest, squaring his shoulders and hitting a powerful shot into the roof of the net. Wolff’s goal was DC’s only shot on goal of the night.
Both teams had a couple of decent efforts in the final minutes, but neither came too close to finding a winner.
The draw pulls DC (7-6-10, 31 points) into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the Red Bulls. Chicago, meanwhile, (2-7-15, 21 points) stay at the bottom of the Eastern table.
Both squads return to action this Sunday, with Chicago hosting Toronto FC and DC traveling south to take on surging Sporting Kansas City in a contest rife with playoff implications.
CHI -- Sebastian Grazzini 2 (unassisted) 59
DC -- Josh Wolff 5 (Santino Quaranta 3) 73
D.C. United -- Bill Hamid (Steve Cronin 46), Perry Kitchen, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard, Andy Najar, Clyde Simms, Stephen King (Santino Quaranta 71), Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Charlie Davies (Josh Wolff 60).
Substitutes Not Used: Blake Brettschneider, Marc Burch, Austin Da Luz, Ethan White.
Chicago Fire -- Sean Johnson, Dan Gargan, Yamith Cuesta, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares, Logan Pause, Sebastian Grazzini (Daniel Paladini 72), Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa (Diego Chaves 86), Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko (Orr Barouch 86).
Substitutes Not Used: Baggio Husidic, Josip Mikulic, Cristian Nazarit, Jon Conway.
DC -- Clyde Simms (caution; Tactical Foul) 38
DC -- Dejan Jakovic (caution; Tactical Foul) 70
CHI -- Logan Pause (caution; Tactical Foul) 83
CHI -- Yamith Cuesta (caution; Tactical Foul) 93+
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Peter Manikowski
4th Official: Niko Bratsis
Time of Game: 1:53