For Streaking United, It's a Best-of-Seven

Luciano Emilio
Luciano Emilio celebrates his second goal of the game against the Chicago Fire on Saturday. (Lawrence Jackson - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 17, 2007

D.C. United will probably never score two easier goals. Nor, perhaps, will the club have an easier time with the usually troublesome Chicago Fire.

Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio continued his resurgence with a pair of goals and Rod Dyachenko scored the first of his MLS career last night as United surged to a three-goal lead and defeated the badly depleted Fire, 3-1, before 20,161 at RFK Stadium.

United (5-3-2) extended its unbeaten streak to seven games, but unlike most of the encounters during this fine stretch, D.C. was never seriously challenged in recording its fourth consecutive victory at home. Chicago (4-6-2) had gone 4-1-2 in its previous seven meetings in all competitions against United, but with so many absences, it could barely mount a resistance.

United, which routed an undermanned New York club last weekend, has scored seven times in the last two games and will head to winless Real Salt Lake next weekend.

"That's not the full Chicago Fire team and the good thing is that we took advantage," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "There have been times where we have played down to competition that hasn't been that great. The last two games we took advantage of it. That's a good sign."

United also received help from Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens, whose bumbling save efforts resulted in Dyachenko's goal early in the first half and Emilio's second early in the second half.

United Coach Tom Soehn had two critical decisions to make in the absence of defender Bobby Boswell (red card last weekend) and forward Jaime Moreno, who has begun Bolivian national team duty and will miss four to six MLS matches.

The choice in the back was clear -- Devon McTavish, fit after recovering from a hip flexor -- but he had to weigh three candidates for the frontline. He chose Dyachenko, a lanky, Russian-born attacker with a long stride and natural passing instincts.

Chicago Coach Dave Sarachan did not have such options. Missing six regulars, including Chris Armas, Chris Rolfe and Justin Mapp, Sarachan had little choice but to start second-year flank players Floyd Franks and Jordan Russolillo (21 career minutes combined) and a pair of former local college players with two starts apiece -- Georgetown's Jeff Curtin and Virginia's Bakary Soumare.

United exploited Chicago's inexperience from the opening whistle and went ahead in the sixth minute. Fred's service from the left side took a bounce in the center of the box. Pickens failed to control it, allowing Dyachenko to deposit it for his first goal in 12 all-time regular season appearances.

"I had to work for it. It took a lot of skill," Dyachenko joked. "Usually they cover it up, but today I got fortunate."

Midway through the half, United struck again. Christian Gomez dropped a perfectly weighted ball from the center circle over the Chicago defense. At first glance, Emilio appeared offside, but TV replays showed a defender had kept him honest. With no obstructions, he cruised in alone and chipped the ball over the advancing Pickens.

The match was quickly unraveling for the Fire, and United sensed it. One more goal and the outcome would be all but decided. Six minutes after the break, McTavish slid a through ball into the box for Gomez, whose angled shot was blocked by Pickens. Again, though, the keeper failed to secure the ball, and Emilio bumped it across the goal line with his mid-section for his third goal in two games after a six-match scoreless streak.

"Forwards, we make our living scoring goals, and I have had a couple opportunities lately and I've been able to put it in the back of the net," he said through an interpreter.

Fire reserve Jerson Monteiro answered in the 54th minute on an 18-yard drive on which goalkeeper Troy Perkins reacted slowly. He blamed the grass covering the baseball infield, saying, "I got stuck on the side of that hill at third base," he said, "and just didn't go anywhere."

No matter. Chicago rarely threatened the rest of the evening and United's unbeaten streak remained intact.

"We put 90 minutes together," Perkins said. "There are still little bits and pieces we can get better at, but we are finding a rhythm now. This is a good time of year to find it, going into the summer when teams have to grind it out. You've really got take advantage of teams when players are gone and we're finally starting to do it. We finally have that killer instinct."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company