Wednesday night was a wild night at Audi Field, as D.C. United had to settle for one point in a 3-3 draw against the Chicago Fire. The visitors took a two-goal lead within 14 minutes but then were unable to withstand a comeback from the Black-and-Red, with Luciano Acosta scoring the go-ahead goal in the 81st minute.
For United, that should have been the end of the scoring, but Chicago defender Francisco Calvo headed in an equalizer in stoppage time, splitting the points between the Eastern Conference foes. It was the fourth game in a row in which United has failed to pick up a win, even though they have managed to stay atop the Eastern Conference.
United have one more game before the upcoming Gold Cup break, hosting the San Jose Earthquakes this weekend. But before moving on, here are three talking points from last night's affair.
1. The Offense Was Clicking Again
The Black-and-Red haven't exactly been efficient offensively of late, especially from the run of play. Coming into the game, United had only scored seven goals in their previous eight games, and four of those goals had come via set pieces. And without Paul Arriola manning an attacking midfield position, D.C. has really struggled in the offensive third.
It took going down two goals against the Fire, but United seemed to find some rhythm going forward. All three goals were scored from the run of play, and there were missed opportunities from Ulises Segura and Wayne Rooney in the first half that showed that United might be over their recent slump.
But getting Segura and Luciano Acosta on the scoresheet was a good sign for the Black-and-Red, who have relied a lot of late on goals from Rooney. Coming into the 16th game of the season, Rooney had scored eight of the 19 goals United netted this year. And the striker had helpers on four other goals, giving him direct involvement in 63 percent of United's goals before the 3-3 draw.
D.C. have one more game before the Gold Cup break, this weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes. If United can have another strong offensive game, that might help them find a bit of consistency in attack heading into the second part of the season.
2. Can't Let The Lead Slip Late
The comeback from United was great, but for the second time in three games the Black-and-Red have lost points from a winning position. When United lost against the Houston Dynamo, that was the first time all season that United had not picked up three points when they were winning during a game. It happens every once in a while to all teams around the world, but it hurts when it happens at home.
United had struggled defensively all night long, never really limiting the Fire's chances at any point. Part of that was because United had to chase the game after falling behind by two goals early on, but even after Segura's second goal, the Black-and-Red played fast and loose at the back.
Here's the expected goals model from the game last night. The Fire's 3.75 xG is especially high for a 90-minute game.
United needed to find a way to clamp down defensively at the end of the game, but they never did. That allowed Francisco Calvo, who had a terrible miss at 2-2, to capitalize on a weird play in stoppage time. United have now dropped points in four games at home this year — equaling their total from last year.
3. Best Story From The Night
There were plenty of storylines from this game, but by far the best one was the return of Chris Odoi-Atsem to the starting lineup. The defender, who was drafted by United in 2017, played in one game in 2018 before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last fall. Odoi-Atsem underwent chemotherapy treatments since then and was cleared to return to the field this spring.
But the timeline for his return to the Black-and-Red was accelerated in recent weeks. A couple of weeks ago, the former University of Maryland defender made his professional return by coming on as a substitute for Loudoun United in a 3-1 win against the Charlotte Independence on May 11. Odoi-Atsem expected to get a couple of more games with the USL side, but the next weekend, he was on the bench for United against the Houston Dynamo.
Odoi-Atsem then got a start last Wednesday in a friendly against Real Betis and stayed with United for their trip against the New England Revolution. It was still a surprise last night when he was named to the starting lineup, his first MLS start since September 16, 2017.
And the defender showed well, coming up with a couple of crucial blocks on CJ Sapong early in the game, and making a couple of other timely interventions in the second half. He got fatigued pretty quickly in the second half and had to make way for Jalen Robinson halfway through the second stanza.
But not only does United have someone else healthy that can contribute on the back line, but Odoi-Atsem has officially completed his comeback, after persevering against cancer.