WASHINGTON -- With their playoff hopes hinging on acquiring every possible point, the Chicago Fire aren't about to overlook anyone -- even the worst team in MLS. So when D.C. United, coming off a stunning Open Cup championship victory on Tuesday, started aggressively in the opening minutes of the match on Friday night, the Fire knew they'd have to weather the storm. "They were still on a high level of play during the first 15 minutes," Chicago keeper Sean Johnson said. "It was tough." Slowly but surely, however, the Fire fought their way through D.C.'s initial burst to grind out a critical 3-0 victory over the woeful United for just their third road victory of the season. With the win, Chicago moved into the the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at 43 points, one ahead of Philadelphia and two in front of Columbus and New England -- all of whom play Saturday. "We knew regardless of what their record is, they've got a lot of quality players on their team," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "We knew it was going to be a difficult match, and the key to the game was that we were able to finish our chances." In the 24th minute, Chicago's Juan Luis Anangono weaved his way through traffic with a series of impressive moves before dropping off a short pass to Jeff Larentowicz, who chipped in a goal to give the Fire a 1-0 advantage. It was Larentowicz's first goal since April 20. "Juan had the ball wide and took a couple of guys on," Larentowicz said. "My job is to get in the box when I see a play develop, the ball came to me and I was able to finish it. I think that Juan did all the work and I just cleaned up at the end." Just two minutes later, the Fire were at it again. Mike Magee lasered a free kick into the box that deflected off United keeper Joe Willis and right onto the foot of Bakary Soumare, who deposited the first goal of his MLS career to give Chicago a 2-0 cushion. Quincy Amarikwa capped the scoring in the 89th minute, driving through the box to finish a picture-perfect cross from Dilly Duka and register his second goal of the year. Johnson played one of his better games of the season, making eight saves for his 10th victory and fifth shutout of the year. "We knew this was a big game for us," Klopas said. "We needed to get points. It's never easy, but it's great that we got the three points here and you watch the games a little more relaxed (Saturday)." D.C. was coming off an emotional Open Cup championship victory over Real Salt Lake on Tuesday, but the United have been dreadful in MLS, and their woes continued against the Fire. Despite controlling possession for a large majority of the games, D.C. (3-22-6) could not find the net and missed several good opportunities. Jared Jeffrey hit the post in the 25th minute and Nick DeLeon just missed sneaking a shot through in the 75th minute as the United remained winless in their last nine games (0-7-2). "They won and we lost," Jeffrey said. "But I thought we played OK in stretches. But, you know, there's no consolation prizes or moral victories. We've got to play better and we've got to score more goals and fix the things at the back. When we play like that, we shouldn't be losing 3-0." NOTES: The Fire's victory broke a tie in the all-time regular-season series. Chicago is now 18-17-11 in 46 MLS games against D.C. ... United captain John Thorrington left the game in the 43rd minute after suffering a calf strain on a hard tackle by Anangono. Thorrington was on crutches after the injury. ... Magee was credited with two shots, increasing his MLS-leading total to 103.
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