United Sees Yellow, Fails to Douse Fire

By Jack McCarthy
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, September 18, 2006

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill., Sept. 17 -- The D.C. United-Chicago soccer rivalry may be running the risk of turning into a blood feud.

The host Fire scored a 1-0 Major League Soccer victory on Sunday in a physical match in which United was issued seven yellow cards and closed the game with just nine players following two late ejections.

Chicago forward Andy Herron, meantime, played spoiler with the game's lone goal in the 61st minute.

"There's a transition coming between us," said United goalie Troy Perkins, who turned back the only other Fire shot on goal. "It's not just a rivalry, it's more of an arch-rivalry now. It's not really going to be a soccer game anymore between us, it's going to be throwing fists and elbows."

Chicago (11-9-8, 41 points) became the first Eastern Conference team to beat United this season and secured its hold on second place in the East. United (14-4-10, 52 points) already owns the conference title, but needed a victory or tie to secure home-field advantage through the playoffs.

The meeting was the first since a controversial U.S. Open Cup match 11 days earlier that featured four yellow cards and an apparent United goal waved off at a critical point in that game. The Fire went on to claim a 3-0 victory.

United Coach Peter Nowak maintained there was no bad blood carried over.

"Not really, not from our part," he said. "It was a good game to play [Sunday], but all these yellow cards early in the game [made it] difficult. . . . But I'm pretty proud of the way we played today."

Chicago Coach Dave Sarachan said: "It's always going to be a competitive battle because you have two teams that are prideful. We can beat D.C. and they come in wanting to beat us. It's always a hard game [but] they're the ones with two red cards today, so maybe they're a little frustrated with us."

Sunday's game, which drew 16,713 fans to Toyota Park, started out under sunny skies. And officials wasted little time issuing cards as play quickly turned rough. Four yellows were called in the first half, including a pair in the first 10 minutes after defender Bobby Boswell ran into Fire midfielder Thiago.

Boswell was cited for reckless play despite loudly and visibly proclaiming his innocence. And when captain Jaime Moreno rushed over to back up Boswell, he also earned a card.

In the 44th minute, Chicago midfielder Brian Plotkin was carded after a violent collision with United midfielder Stephen deRoux. That led to United's only first-half shot on goal -- a free kick by Christian Gomez that sailed into the hands of Chicago goalie Matt Pickens.

Gomez had another try as the second half opened, with the same result.

United also had a pair of chances in the 60th minute when midfielder Josh Gros sent a cross toward Freddy Adu, sprinting toward the goal. Unfortunately, he was a step shy of picking up the pass.

Adu regained possession off a deflection and fired nearly point blank, but his shot went just right of the goal post.

Chicago surged back and broke the shutout as Herron took a long feed from Plotkin and sent a successful shot past Perkins.

Weather conditions worsened throughout the second half as a storm front dumped heavy rain. Lightning observed near Toyota Park forced a 25-minute suspension.

More yellow cards were issued after the delay.

Defender Bryan Namoff picked up his second of the game in the 74th minute after a collision with Chicago's Herron. Namoff was ejected and United was forced to play shorthanded through the final 15 minutes.

The lineup was cut to nine in the 88th minute when Gros was tossed after a run-in with Thiago. Gros came into the game facing a suspension with his next yellow card.

"We're really disappointed in ourselves," said Perkins. "We came in wanting to win and we thought we should have won. Obviously two red cards at the end don't help us with numbers especially when you're trying to push."

United Notes: United's newest acquisition -- forward Robert Ssejjemba -- was on hand for Sunday's game and played 25 minutes off the bench. A member of the Ugandan national team, the 26-year-old has been on loan from the Richmond Kickers and played as part of the United reserve team.

· DYNAMO 0, CHIVAS USA 0: Alejandro Moreno's apparent goal on a header in the final seconds of stoppage time for host Houston was wiped out by an offside call, leaving Dynamo and visiting Chivas USA in a scoreless tie. Dynamo is 10-8-8 and Chivas 9-7-12.

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