DC United defeats Chicago Fire to boost its MLS playoff.jpgw1440

DC United defeats Chicago Fire to boost its MLS playoff hopes – The Washington Post – The Washington Post

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DC United’s playoff prospects improved Saturday night with a resounding 4-0 win over Chicago that not only ended a three-game losing streak but also clinched Wayne Rooney’s team for the final postseason spot in MLS’s Eastern Conference brought the top.

With United desperately needing points at the start of the season, they opened up a three-goal lead in the first half. Christian Benteke scored for the first time in nearly three months, 21-year-old Ted Ku-DiPietro continued his breakthrough and a bizarre own goal all but secured the win at Audi Field. Benteke scored in second-half injury time, giving United their highest-scoring game of the year.

“It was a result we needed,” Rooney said. “We know that it is up to us to continue to perform as well as we did tonight and win games. Where we are, tonight’s game will give us a lot of confidence.”

DC (9-12-6, 33 points) rose to ninth place, one point ahead of Chicago (8-11-8) and two points behind No. 8 Montreal (11-14-2) with seven games remaining. Three others are also in the running.

Aside from climbing up the table – and boosting their hopes of qualifying for the post-season for the first time in four years – United needed to play well after a string of uninspiring performances. From the start they acted with new energy and determination, orchestrated by new playmaker Gabriel Pirani. United also made progress at Audi Field, where a 4-4-4 record made them one of the worst home teams in MLS before Saturday.

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Ahead of the game, Rooney stressed the importance of starting strong against an opponent who played on Wednesday.

Benteke, United’s $4.25 million-a-year striker, had played eight straight league games and 11 overall without scoring. But in the ninth minute, Mateusz Klich played a flawless long ball from midfield. Benteke chested the ball down in the penalty area, deflected the ball past defender Rafael Czichos and then hit an eight-yard throw.

“When you don’t score for a few games it can be frustrating,” he said. “But I was just thinking about doing the right thing. If you do the right thing, it leads to goals.”

Benteke was the moderator in the 20th minute. With his back to the goal, he fended off Cristian Dájome’s long ball. With two defenders occupied, Benteke put the ball into a gaping channel for the hard-working Ku-DiPietro to score his fifth goal of the season.

Captain Steven Birnbaum called Ku-DiPietro a “field dumpster for us.” His runs backwards, his creativity in the penalty area were great for us.”

In the 40th minute, the strikers combined again, Benteke setting up Ku-DiPietro, who stormed into the penalty area. Chicago defender Carlos Terán raced over Ku-DiPietro from behind, which would have resulted in a penalty. But in the course of his action, the falling Terán accidentally hit the ball with each foot, resulting in an own goal.

United lost control in the second half but were not penalized for it. In stoppage time, Benteke added his tenth goal of the year, effortlessly placing Chris Durkin’s cross.

DC goaltender Alex Bono made his second start of the regular season, replacing Tyler Miller, who will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a rib injury. Bono, an MLS veteran in his first year in Washington, made a save on Kei Kamara’s dangerous shot in the 38th minute and parried a deflected shot in the 75th minute.

“We have to get a lot of wins in the home stretch,” said Bono. “It was a good start for us and should give us confidence to keep going until the final section.”

Here’s what else you should know about United’s win:

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Kristian Fletcher, an 18-year-old attacker in his first full professional season, has been loaned to Swansea City of the English second division until December 31, people familiar with the deal said. (United and Swansea share the same ownership.) The Bowie native and Landon School graduate played 10 regular-season games for DC, starting once and providing two assists.

Three international assignments

United’s two full-backs, Eric Davis and Andy Najar, as well as reserve striker José Fajardo, have been called up for international duty and will miss next Saturday’s home game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Davis and Fajardo will travel with Panama for Concacaf Nations League games against Martinique and Guatemala, while Najar will travel to Honduras for Nations League games against Jamaica and Grenada.

MLS has five games scheduled in this FIFA window, a time when premier league teams around the world typically take a break.

Citing salary cap issues, Rooney said it was unlikely United would sign any free agents before the MLS roster deadline on September 13. (The transfer and trade window closed on August 2nd.)

Rooney wanted to win back midfielder Ravel Morrison, who had recently trained with the club. “He was brilliant,” Rooney said. The club cut Morrison from the roster earlier this year and bought out his guaranteed contract for $850,000 this summer.

United also held talks with Ghana World Cup striker Andre Ayew and Jesse Lingard, the former Manchester United winger, who was seeking a long-term guaranteed contract, according to a person familiar with the situation.