“We played with a big heart,” Coach Hernán Losada said. “Once again, if we start to put all those situations in the back of the net, this team will earn six, seven more points. That’s the difference between playoffs or no playoffs.”
Kevin Paredes, an 18-year-old homegrown player, started the comeback with his second career goal. After Andy Najar drew a penalty kick, Ola Kamara converted for his team-best sixth goal.
“It felt like the goal was coming,” Kamara said. “The energy coming from the team, we really believed we could score at least one goal. And when Kevin does it and we still have time to go, we felt that we could score another one.”
Paredes, who entered at halftime, accepted Yordy Reyna’s pass and scored on a 15-yard shot that caromed in off the right post. Later, Jonathan Bornstein took down Najar just inside the box, resulting in Kamara’s equalizer.
Both goal-scorers had missed Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Philadelphia, Paredes with an injury suffered at U.S. national team camp and Kamara for family reasons.
United’s late uprising reversed a trend of late collapses on the road: D.C. conceded two goals down the stretch in a 2-1 defeat at New York City FC on June 27 and allowed Philadelphia’s game-winner in the 83rd minute.
United earned the point despite missing seven regulars, though it could have been worse. Three players who were questionable (Najar, Kamara and Nigel Robertha) ended up starting and another (Paredes) was in reserve.
The injury absences were Brendan Hines-Ike, sidelined three to four months with a hip injury; Edison Flores (hamstring); Steven Birnbaum, who twisted an ankle last weekend; and Adrien Perez and Russell Canouse, who suffered undisclosed injuries Saturday.
United was also without Paul Arriola and Donovan Pines, members of the U.S. Gold Cup squad.
At the start, United was full of energy and ideas, much like in the Philadelphia game. But again chances did not translate into goals. Robertha tested Bobby Shuttleworth from 18 yards and, on the subsequent corner kick, the keeper made a reaction save on Frédéric Brillant’s header.
The hopeful start faded, though, and Chicago went ahead in the 32nd minute.
Boris Sekulic floated a high ball into the penalty area. Gastón Giménez seemed too far away to score with a header, but from 15 yards, the Argentine midfielder won an aerial challenge with Najar and generated a tremendous amount of power to beat goalkeeper Bill Hamid to the right side.
Yamil Asad should have tied it in the 41st minute, but after being set up by Julian Gressel’s cross, he drove an uncontested, 17-yard bid wide. Asad put both hands over his face.
Reyna, who entered at halftime, had a terrific chance to level it in the 53rd minute, but on a seven-yard one-timer set up by Kamara, Shuttleworth made a superb reflex save. The second ball fell to Júnior Moreno for a smash that, if not for defender Wyatt Omsberg’s deflection, probably would have found the net.
“Those aren’t shots from 30 miles,” Losada said of the array of chances. “It’s really big opportunities.”
Eight minutes later, disaster struck for United. Miguel Angel Navarro collected Przemyslaw Frankowski’s pass on the left side and eyed Robert Beric making a run at the back post. HIs low cross struck Najar and caromed into the near corner for an own goal, the fourth conceded by United this year.
All seemed lost, what with United missing chances and the hosts performing with composure. Then United struck once, then again.
“We have 10 to 15 minutes where the heads go down and we’re a little bit empty, but we keep on pushing and don’t give up,” Losada said. “You never have to stop believing.”
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