Fire ties D.C. United, will host Dynamo in play-in game
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media October 27, 2012 9:06PM
Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo (left) battles for the ball with D.C. United midfielder Marcelo Saragosa at Toyota Park. | Tasos Katopodis~Getty Images
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:59AM
Weeks ago, midfielder Chris Rolfe warned his teammates that heading into October and the thick of a playoff race, there would be few scoring chances, so the Fire couldn’t afford to be wasteful.
In the regular-season finale Saturday against D.C. United at Toyota Park, the Fire blew numerous chances and the opportunity to clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With the 1-1 tie against D.C. United, the Fire dropped to fourth in the East and will host the Houston Dynamo at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a play-in game.
The winner of that one-game playoff will face Sporting Kansas City in the conference semifinals.
The tie helped D.C. United hang on to second place in the conference.
The New York Red Bulls jumped ahead of the Fire in the standings and avoided the play-in game by beating the Philadelphia Union.
“We had four chances that you’re lucky if you get in a month of games,” Rolfe said.
“This time of year, like we said, if you’re not finishing your chances, you’re in trouble.”
Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko scored the first goal in the 16th minute.
After controlling the game for much of the first half, the Fire started the second half slowly. That lull resulted in the equalizer from D.C. United forward Lionard Pajoy in the 50th minute.
The Fire still had plenty of opportunities in the second half to run away with the game.
Striker Sherjill MacDonald missed two volley opportunities — in the 63rd minute and in stoppage time — with only goalkeeper Bill Hamid to beat.
In the 66th minute, Uruguayan international midfielder Alvaro Fernandez had a clear shot on goal after a perfectly placed pass from Rolfe, but he missed wide by several yards.
Fire substitute Dominic Oduro missed an open net in the 76th minute, putting the ball over the crossbar.
On one of the Fire’s last scoring opportunities in stoppage time, it had three clear chances in one sequence. One was saved by Hamid, another was blocked and another hit the post.
“The opportunities you create, you’ve got to put them away,” Fire coach Frank Klopas said. “If you don’t, games like this are going to be tight.”
Throughout October, the Fire had games against teams that were out of the playoff picture, but it failed to capitalize offensively. It has been an issue all season.
“It is disappointing,’’ Nyarko said. ‘‘It stinks, especially because we had the opportunity to win this game, and we’ve had opportunities in the past.
“But I always have that belief that no matter where you start from, if you play your cards well, you can come back and win an MLS championship.”