What began as another relatively stalwart defensive display from the Chicago Fire ended in a fourth straight defeat in MLS play, as Frank Yallop's side fell 1-0 to Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United Wednesday night in front of 11,833 at Toyota Park.
A rocket from Conor Doyle in the 73rd-minute secured a second win on the trot for the Men in Red's conference rival, as the Fire remained at the bottom of the standings.
"We should be good enough to win games," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "We work hard in the training field, the guys are committed it seems, you don’t know if it really is real deep within them, but I think it is. I have been around awhile, I kind of feel for the guys right now."
Yallop made a trio of adjustments to the side that experienced a 2-0 defeat in Foxborough at the hands of the New England Revolution.
Sean Johnson, earning his first start since the 2-2 draw against New York City FC on May 15, replaced Jon Busch in goal, who appeared in the last five MLS regular season fixtures. Joevin Jones - making his return from international duty with Trinidad and Tobago - occupied the left midfield position in place of Greg Cochrane, who retreated to left back for his second consecutive league start. Chris Ritter also stood in for suspended rookie Matt Polster after putting in 120 minutes against Louisville City FC last Tuesday.
The opening stages were hardly reflective of some of the sparkling first half performances demonstrated earlier this season as the Fire offered little going forward. The Eastern Conference sides exchanged blows in the early minutes as Jeff Larentowicz, Kennedy Igboananike and Adailton were caught on either side of some chippy fouls, with the Men in Red registering 12 fouls against their counterparts.
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In the seventh minute, Igboananike was released down the right flank by Harry Shipp, only to slice his effort high and wide of Bill Hamid's goal.
D.C.'s Facundo Coria sidestepped Larentowicz at the top of the 18 in the 20th minute and unleashed a stinging, left-footed shot aimed at Sean Johnson, who did well to palm the Argentinian's effort up and over the bar.
Six minutes later, the Men in Red attempted to carve out a meaningful opportunity of their own, but saw a Greg Cochrane cross in the 24th minute easily dealt with by the D.C. defense. The visitors subsequently stormed down the pitch with Jairo Arrieta, who scored the second and third goals to sink Yallop's side three weeks earlier, nearly converting at the other end, forcing another alert save from Johnson.
Igboanaike again struggled to translate his commendable work rate to any profit at the half our mark, as the Designated Player did well to beat Kofi Opare inside the opposition's box before failing to trouble Hamid once again.
The second 45 saw the visitors bring on Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to help muster more than just a solitary point away from their visit to Toyota Park.
Sustained pressure eventually paid dividends for Ben Olsen's outfit when, with just over a quarter of an hour remaining in the encounter, Conor Doyle hit a rifling first-time shot from 25 yards in the 73rd minute to grab all three points and help D.C. remain atop the Eastern Conference.
"It’s probably the best goal he is going to score and I think tonight that was one of the better goals we have seen here," Yallop added. "It is just frustrating when that happens, it would be nice for one of those to go in for us. Then we can get the ball rolling and the effort from the group tonight was there. We didn’t want to lose the game, the fellows gave me everything they have, they give themselves and the team, the club, and the fans a right good go trying to win the game."
The Fire return with a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the Charlotte Independence next Tuesday, while D.C. face Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)
(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Adailton, Greg Cochrane; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Chris Ritter (Mike Magee, 73'), Joevin Jones (Jason Johnson, 46'); Guly do Prado; Kennedy Igboananike.