United snap winless skid, thwart Fire

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Bryan Namoff's first-half header off a free kick from Christian Gomez was all visiting D.C. United needed to defeat the Chicago Fire 1-0 Saturday at Toyota Park.The victory raised United's record to 7-5-11 (32 points), putting them back into the playoff hunt in the crowded Eastern Conference race. The Fire dropped to 10-6-8 (38 points) but remained solidly in second place in the East behind Columbus.In response to his depleted defensive ranks, Fire coach Denis Hamlett put out a back four with only three true defenders -- Austin Washington, C.J. Brown and Brandon Prideaux. Mike Banner, usually a midfielder, played as a right back with attacking responsibilities, as he did late in Sunday's 3-2 win against Colorado.The Fire are missing four rostered defenders due to injury: Tim Ward, Gonzalo Segares, Wilman Conde (who was on the substitutes list Saturday despite continued hamstring problems) and Daniel Woolard. They have also not replaced defender Bakary Soumare, who transferred to the French Ligue 1 earlier in the week.With their midweek match against Toluca in Champions League play affecting his decisions, United coach Tom Soehn went with almost the same lineup he used last Saturday in the 0-0 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy, though starting his team in a 4-4-2 formation instead of his usual 3-5-2. Julius James, who played Wednesday, was inserted again on defense while midfielder Rodney Wallace was put on the substitutes list.United scored on their first decent chance. In the 11th minute, Gomez took a free kick from 35 yards out on the right and connected with Namoff, whose crisp header went past midfielder John Thorrington and into the left side of the net.It was their first goal in MLS play since Aug. 1 against Houston. They failed to score in their previous two MLS games.The Fire's best scoring chance came in the 15th minute when they won a free kick 16 yards out right of the area. Cuauhtemoc Blanco's offering went off C.J. Brown's head but directly into the hands of United 'keeper Josh Wicks.In the 38th minute, Blanco got to set up a free kick from just above the penalty area after Marc Burch tripped Marco Pappa. Blanco's direct kick went over the net.The Fire were credited with one shot on goal in the first half Saturday, despite having several corner kick opportunities. United had just three corner kicks, and their only shot on goal was the scoring one.The Fire had numerous free kick opportunities in the second half but could not generate any real scoring chances out of any of them. They had no real scoring opportunities out of the run of play through the first 20 minutes of the second half.From the 66th to 77th minutes, Hamlett made his three substitutions in hopes of generating some offense. He first brought in Justin Mapp for Prideaux, moving Thorrington to right back and just two traditional defenders on the field. He also replaced Rolfe and Marco Pappa with Stefan Dimitrov and Peter Lowry.United's Soehn made two straight swaps of attacking players, sending Jaime Moreno into the game for Gomez and Chris Pontius on for Santino Quaranta. Wallace entered the game for Fred in the 83rd minute in a wide midfield role.In the 85th minute, Blanco sent a ball across the field from right to left to Banner, who was inside the box. His shot was deflected by James, whose dangerous header went up and over the United goal.In the game's final minute, James tripped Dimitrov just outside the box, but Blanco's free kick went off a United player and out.United survived the final minutes -- which included an on-field argument between Wicks and defender Marc Burch -- but won their first road game since April 26.D.C. United again face two games next week, playing Seattle Sounders FC in the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday at RFK Stadium before traveling to FC Dallas on Saturday in league play. The Fire have the weekend off, their next game Sept. 12 at Real Salt Lake.D.C. United (7-5-11) vs. Chicago Fire (10-6-8) August 29, 2009 -- Toyota Park Scoring Summary: DC -- Bryan Namoff 2 (Christian Gomez 4) 11D.C. United -- Josh Wicks, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, Fred (Rodney Wallace 83), Christian Gomez (Jaime Moreno 62), Clyde Simms, Marc Burch, Ben Olsen, Luciano Emilio, Santino Quaranta (Chris Pontius 72).Substitutes Not Used: David Habarugira, Avery John, Milos Kocic, Devon McTavishChicago Fire -- Jon Busch, Austin Washington, C.J. Brown, Brandon Prideaux (Justin Mapp 66), Marco Pappa (Peter Lowry 78), Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Mike Banner, Chris Rolfe (Stefan Dimitrov 71), Patrick Nyarko.Substitutes Not Used: Calen Carr, Wilman Conde, Andrew Dykstra, Baggio HusidicMisconduct Summary: DC -- Marc Burch (caution; Reckless Tackle) 36DC -- Fred (caution; Tactical Foul) 44DC -- Bryan Namoff (caution; Reckless Tackle) 53DC -- Dejan Jakovic (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 94+Referee: Kevin StottReferee's Assistants: Steven Taylor; Peter Balciunas4th official: Jeff GontarekTime of game: 1:55Attendance: 16,324Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 68 degrees