Draw specialists the Chicago Fire had to dig deep to earn a record-equaling 16th tie of the season as they held Eastern Conference pacesetters D.C. United 3-3 in a rip-roaring contest at Toyota Park on Saturday evening.
The Fire (5-7-16, 31 pts) raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Quincy Amarikw and a Jeff Larentowicz penalty, but a Luis Silva spot-kick hauled D.C. (14-9-6, 48 pts) back into the game just before half-time.
However, the visitors emerged with renewed intent after the break and went ahead through goals from Silva and Bobby Boswell, before Matt Watnson claimed his first of the season to ensure the Fire equaled their own league record for most regular season ties, set in 2011 by themselves and the New York Red Bulls.
The draw means D.C. stretch their lead at the top to three points over Sporting Kansas City, while the Fire remain ninth with a place in the playoffs looking remote with just five games to go.
The hosts dominated the first half, and went close through Amarikwa and Harry Shipp -- starting his first game since Aug. 23, in place of injured Sanna Nysassi -- in the opening stages before opening the scoring in the 16th minute.
The visitors struggled to get into the game and failed to offer anything of substance in the final third, with Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson a spectator for much of the opening 35 minutes.
Lovel Palmer and Amarikwa went close again before the latter was taken down by Davy Arnaud in the 32nd minute, although referee Fotis Bazakos made the Fire fans wait for his decision to call a penalty. And captain Larentowicz drilled the ball to Hamid’s left and gave the Fire a 2-0 lead.
However, Ben Olsen’s side clawed their way back into the game in confusing circumstances when Bazakos pointed to the spot in the 39th minute after Johnson punched clear from a Silva free-kick. Silva kept his nerve to reduce the deficit, although his right-footed effort was almost kept out by Johnson.
Shipp went close from distance in the opening minutes of the second half, but the visitors drew level in dramatic circumstances in the 54th minute when Silva found the top left corner with a stunning free-kick after a foul by Razvan Cocis on Perry Kitchen.
The Fire were undone by their third set play of the night in the 68th minute when Kitchen latched on to Silva’s dangerous free-kick and lobbed the ball goalwards before being cleared. While his effort looked to have crossed the line, Boswell was credited with the goal after following up the rebound to give the visitors a sensational 3-2 lead.
The Fire then struck for a sensational 78th minute equalizer when Amarikwa teed up Watnson and the English midfielder’s well-struck shot deflected off Steve Birnbaum to give Hamid no chance.
Next up for D.C. is the visit of the Philadelphia Union to RFK Stadium next Saturday, buy your tickets here.