The first game of the 2007 MLS Cup playoffs is in the books, and #4 Eastern seed Chicago defended their home turf with a 1-0 win over Supporters' Shield winning DC United. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but the intensity was there. I love these types of games, except when my team is the one taking the loss.
DC looked uneasy from the start. That could have had something to do with both Moreno and Emilio starting the game on the bench and young Guy Roland-Kpene playing as a lone striker. Perkins made one excellent save on Rolfe, but couldn't keep his second chance out. After a mix-up on a long ball out of the back between McTavish and Vanney, Marc Burch watched as Rolfe sprinted in past him and ripped a volley home. Ball watching will get you killed at this level.
The goal snapped DC to life a bit, but they were limited with Kpene as the lone striker. He always looked to play the ball backwards or wide, never going to goal. The attacks were limited and took far too long to build. Moreno coming in at the half for him changed things a bit, but it was only when Emilio came on for Brian Carroll late that DC really looked dangerous. There wasn't enough time for him to get going though. Christian Gomez ended up with the best chance, putting a header right at Pickens.
Generally, the ref was okay as this wasn't an easy one to handle. The kick to the back of Gomez was a really cheap shot, but he couldn't see it. Nice to see Gomez didn't fall for CJ Brown's thuggery and spit at him this time around. I thought more cards should have been thrown to Chicago players for persistent fouls. Every time Fred started to take off, he was brought down. It was an effective strategy by the Fire, because the yellow cards weren't coming out and DC didn't do anything with the restarts.
I expect to see Chicago play very defensively at RFK next week. I just don't know if DC can break them down. I think United is an excellent team playing even up, or when they're ahead. I wonder about them when they have to chase a game. They aren't very direct in style, and that is sometimes needed. They also don't have great team speed. It's going to take all the wiliness and cunning Moreno, Gomez, and Fred have to create chances for Emilio.
I'm expecting to see a war at RFK next week.