Fire’s defense holds but attack silent in 0-0 tie with DC United

After allowing five goals in their last two games, the Fire earned their first shutout of 2023.

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Jonathan Dean and the Fire were trying for their second straight victory.

Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire’s defense didn’t make the lapses that cost them during the previous two games. There were no scores allowed near the end of halves, opposing attackers were usually marked and Chris Brady became the second-youngest goalie in league history behind Gabriel Slonina to record a shutout.

The problem is the attack didn’t take advantage.

The Fire mustered only two shots on goal in a 0-0 draw Saturday night with DC United. Playing without Xherdan Shaqiri (upper right leg) for the third consecutive week and beginning a three-game homestand, the Fire’s best chance to score came in second-half stoppage time when a Brian Gutierrez cross found Kei Kamara’s head. But unlike last week at Inter Miami when Kamara delivered the winner, his point-blank shot was saved by DC United goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

“It was a poor header from ‘the head master,’ so I’m going to blame myself for that because I could head that anywhere else,” Kamara said. “I know the rule of thumb says head it down, but [Miller] owes me one.”

That stop by the former Northwestern goalie gave DC its first shutout of the season. More importantly for the Fire, it continued a couple trends. First, it ran their home winless streak to three matches. It also was another night when one half of the team was strong but the other lagged behind.

Unlike the 3-3 tie with FC Cincinnati and the 3-2 win over Inter Miami, this time it was the offense that didn’t hold up in front of an announced crowd of 8,621.

One explanation coming from the Fire was DC’s game plan, which involved attempting numerous long passes over the top. Those tries kept the Fire from getting into a flow, limiting their opportunities.

“They came in with a plan and they stuck to it and made it difficult for us to get on the ball and play the way we want to play,” coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “The thing with this game is that we want to win our home games, but this is not like the [FC Cincinnati] game. This is a game where we had to roll up and fight and adjust to the way they were playing, and the guys did that well. We put ourselves in a really, really good position to steal it at the end.”

The Fire did have that chance, but Kamara’s header was stopped by Miller. Even if Kamara should’ve buried the shot, the Fire know they probably can’t depend on winning games if they only have a few true scoring opportunities.

“The best thing for us moving forward is to find ways to win games like that because it won’t be the last,” winger Chris Mueller said. “We’ll take this and we’ll learn. There were some positives. We got the shutout, which is always good. We’re disappointed because we -always want to win at home.”

As Mueller said, there were some positives.

Gutierrez and Kamara continued to form a connection, and Brady made three stops and perhaps should’ve been credited with another when he might have gotten a finger on Taxi Fountas’ 70th-minute drive that went off the post. In front of Brady, the team held firm and generally handled DC when it went forward.

It just wasn’t enough for a victory.

“It’s good that it feels like a loss to us,” Kamara said. “It’s good that we all came into the locker room with our heads down because it shows that we want more. It shows that we feel like we deserve more. We definitely did.”

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