Chicago Fire sinking in ties

[MLS SPOTLIGHT] When historians look back at the 2011 MLS season, they’ll note a high percentage of ties as well as a team that seldom did anything else.

Another blown lead, another tie.

The Chicago Fire set a league record by recording its 15th tie Thursday night when it could not hold a lead provided by recent signing Sebastian Grazzini’s second goal for the club. He lashed home a poorly cleared cross in the 59th minute, yet the advantage lasted just 14 minutes.

Substitute Josh Wolff’s equalizer, apparently from an offside position, earned D.C. United what could prove to be a valuable point in its playoff quest and left Chicago ruing another two points squandered at home, where it is 1-2-8.

Chicago applied pressure numerous times in the first half but couldn’t break through United keeper Bill Hamid. Dominic Oduro failed to convert three good chances; Hamid thwarted him twice, and Oduro also reached a back-post cross only to flail a shot wide. Marco Pappa’s long, swerving free kick was tipped over the bar by Hamid, who left the game at halftime with a hamstring injury.

Replacement keeper Steve Cronin stepped into the nets and when a Patrick Nyarko cross was headed to the back post by defender Daniel Woolard in an attempt to clear it, Grazzini volleyed a skipping shot Cronin got a piece of but couldn’t keep out of the net.

United coach Ben Olsen sent on Wolff to replace Charlie Davies, who had struggled through a frustrating, sluggish performance. Despite United’s failure to register a shot on goal, Dwayne De Rosario’s scything runs had posed threat, and the veteran Canadian international triggered the move that earned his team a point.

He ran down a long ball near the corner flag and clipped a deflected cross that Wolff collected and laid back to Santino Quaranta, who played it right back to him. Wolff fired a first-time shot off the underside of the bar and it caromed just over the goal line. Replays indicated Wolff was a foot or so offside yet the goal stood.

United (7-6-10, 31 points) moves into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the Red Bulls; the teams are also tied for 10th place in the overall standings, which is the bottommost playoff spot. Chicago (2-7-15, 21 points) stays at the bottom of the East.

On Sunday, Chicago hosts Toronto FC and D.C. plays at Sporting Kansas City.

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