- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

After taking an early lead and playing a strong first half, D.C. United fell victim to some lax goalkeeping and was forced to settle for a 1-1 tie against the Chicago Fire in its home opener Saturday night.

United striker Luciano Emilio scored an early goal. Ben Olsen, making his second start after managing just 15 minutes last year, played the entire game.

“We started the game very well, and I think we put a heck of a lot into it and denied them all over the place,” coach Tom Soehn said. “I wish we hadn’t put so much into the first half because it showed, and our legs were a little heavy [coming] out in the second half and the tide changed.”

United (0-0-2) did many things right, but a shaky stretch in the nets early in the second half from backup goalie Josh Wicks allowed the Fire to steal a point.

The home team got off to a dream start with Emilio’s goal in the seventh minute. Olsen won the ball on a brave tackle, and the rebound found the Brazilian. United’s leading scorer the past two seasons beat two defenders and fired a low left-footed shot past goalie Jon Busch from the top of the box.

“After the goal, we had more confidence to play,” Emilio said. “It was a good first half, but we panicked in the second half and lost that confidence.”

Rookie Chris Pontius had a good chance to earn his second goal in as many games for United but fired over the bar. Olsen earned a yellow card in the 30th minute but responded with a fine header that Busch stopped.

United had a scare in the 52nd minute when Wicks allowed a soft shot from Patrick Nyarko to go through his legs, but he retrieved the ball before it crossed the line. It got worse a minute later when Wicks, who was making his second start in place of the injured Louis Crayton, rushed off his line in an attempt to stop Nyarko. The Ghanaian slipped the ball past Wicks to tie the score at 1.

Late in the game, Wicks made up for his error by making two fine saves on Chicago’s Chris Rolfe to preserve the tie.

“[Wicks] should have stayed in his goal, but he did a lot of positives for us, too, especially the save at the end [on] Chris,” Soehn said. “Unfortunately, the one decision he made to come out, he got punished for.”

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