Sunday's visit to RFK Stadium signaled a chance for the Fire to build on their win over the New England Revolution on Oct. 3, and, chiefly, to grab their first away victory of the season.
Following a largely sleepy first half, D.C. United (15-12-6, 51 points) turned on in the second half as three tallies from Bobby Boswell, Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío helped the hosts secure a convincing victory and hand the Fire (8-19-6, 30 points) a heavy, 4-0 defeat in front of an announced crowd of 20,104.
United built on their 2-1 win against New York City FC on Oct. 2 with their second consecutive victory after a previous six-match winless streak that spanned from mid-August to late September, and moved into second place in the Eastern Conference table. Meanwhile, the Fire's 19th loss of the season means interim coach Brian Bliss' group will finish the regular season in last place.
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Bliss rolled out the same starting lineup that defeated Revolution, 3-1, at Toyota Park prior to the international break.
Both sides contributed to a sloppy opening to proceedings until a one-two combination play between Gilberto and Harry Shipp released the midfielder into space in the 18th minute. Shipp created room for himself and forced a diving save from United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
In the 39th minute, the hosts struck first. United midfielder Chris Pontius was the beneficiary of a loose back pass from Razvan Cocis. Pontius accelerated past Joevin Jones, dribbled around 'keeper Jon Busch and dispatched from an acute angle to give Ben Olsen's side a 1-0 advantage heading into the halftime interval.
D.C.'s persistence to begin the second stanza was duly rewarded. The Fire conceded a league-high 11th corner-kick goal of 2015 after Espíndola's inch-perfect delivery found the head of Boswell, who drifted to the near post unmarked and headed to the back post to give D.C. some breathing room.
Four minutes later, Nick DeLeon supplied Espíndola down the left flank. The Argentinian weaved his way past a couple of defenders before unleashing a cross-shot that took a substantial deflection off the foot of Fire right back Lovel Palmer and snuck inside Busch's right post.
Ten minutes from the final whistle, Saborío made matters worse for the Fire. The Costa Rica international pounced on a bouncing ball in the six-yard box and finished past Busch to deliver D.C.'s fourth goal and a damaging defeat to the Fire.
Next up is the regular season finale against the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on Oct. 25.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)
(4-4-1-1) - Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko, Razvan Cocis (Matt Polster, 68'), Michael Stephens, David Accam (Kennedy Igboananike, 78'); Harry Shipp; Gilberto