WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before a raucous crowd at RFK Stadium, D.C. United and the Chicago Fire netted goals on either side of halftime before the Eastern Conference rivals settled for a 1-1 tie on Saturday night.
Mike Petke struck first for United just before halftime, but the Fire evened things up early in the second half with a goal by forward Chris Rolfe.
The "Men in Red" had the run of play from the opening whistle, challenging well in the midfield, and breaking down the D.C. United defense to get forward. The Fire won four corner kicks in the game's first 10 minutes, and tested United goalkeeper Nick Rimando early and often.
Chicago's best chance of the first half came in only the fourth minute, when Rolfe, making his first MLS start, nearly connected on a low line drive that forced Rimando to make a breathtaking reaction save.
As United eventually settled in and began to string passes together, the Fire continued to go on the offensive and counterattack, finding their way on several occasions deep into United territory.
A mistake by Fire 'keeper Zach Thornton in the 14th minute nearly put the Fire down a goal, as some clever ballhandling by United forward Jaime Moreno led to a cross right in front of the goal -- which Thornton blocked away for a corner, but not before it caused some tense moments as it nearly entered the goal.
Thornton redeemed himself in the 26th minute by getting a finger on a screaming 30-yard shot from United midfielder Josh Gros and knocking it just over the crossbar, and then again with a diving save on a point-blank header from United forward Alecko Eskandarian in the 37th minute.
In a physical first half that saw both teams regularly on the attack, United seemed more content to work the flanks and cross the ball in, while the Fire played a more direct style, utilizing over-the-top balls and quick combinations up the middle of the field.
But the Fire defense, minus starter Leonard Griffin, serving a one-game suspension for accumulating two yellow cards last week in the loss to FC Dallas, finally succumbed to the United attack in the 40th minute.
A cross by United's Christian Gomez on a set piece from 40 yards out found defender Mike Petke all alone on the right side of the goal and he knocked it home as a frozen Thornton could only watch, putting United in front going into the locker room.
The Fire didn't have to wait long to get the equalizer, however. In the opening minutes of the second half, a perfectly-placed cross from the left foot of defender Mario Ivan Guerrero was brought down by Rolfe and masterfully tucked away just out of Rimando's reach. It was the first goal of Rolfe's young MLS career.
Matt Pickens opened the second half between the pipes for Chicago, with Thornton suffering from a strained oblique muscle.
D.C. United had the bulk of the chances in the second half, with substitute Freddy Adu sparking the attack and bringing the crowd to its feet several times.
A curling 20-yard shot by Moreno eluded an outstretched Pickens in the 60th minute, but hit the crossbar, preserving the 1-1 deadlock. And in the 77th minute, a blunder in the back by Fire defender Jim Curtin left two United players dangerously alone in front of the net, but they were unable to convert.
D.C. United make their first weeknight appearance of the season on Friday as they head to Columbus to face the Crew on MLS Primetime (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Chicago will not be in action until Saturday when they Fire host the San Jose Earthquakes at Soldier Field (8:30 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire)
Chicago Fire (0-1-1) vs. D.C. United (1-0-1)
April 9, 2005 -- RFK Stadium
DC -- Mike Petke 1 (Christian Gomez 1) 40
CHI -- Chris Rolfe 1 (Ivan Guerrero 1) 50
Chicago Fire -- Zach Thornton (Matt Pickens 46), C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Ivan Guerrero, Kelly Gray, Chris Armas, Thiago (Chad Barrett 76), Jesse Marsch, Justin Mapp, Andy Herron (Nate Jaqua 55), Chris Rolfe.
Substitutes Not Used: Samuel Caballero, Logan Pause.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Chris Rolfe 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Chris Rolfe 2); FOULS: 15 (Jesse Marsch 5); OFFSIDES: 5 (Chris Rolfe 2); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Justin Mapp 8); SAVES: 4 (Zach Thornton 3)
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, David Stokes, Bobby Boswell, Mike Petke, Joshua Gros, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez (Freddy Adu 62), Ben Olsen, Steve Guppy (Jamil Walker 87), Alecko Eskandarian (Santino Quaranta 69), Jaime Moreno.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Shawn Kuykendall, Troy Perkins, Eliseo Quintanilla, Clyde Simms, Nick Van Sicklen.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Jaime Moreno 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (5 tied with 1); FOULS: 15 (Mike Petke 4); OFFSIDES: 4 (4 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Steve Guppy 6); SAVES: 2 (Nick Rimando 2)
DC -- Brian Carroll (caution; Reckless Foul) 80
CHI -- Nate Jaqua (caution; Reckless Foul) 85
CHI -- Chris Rolfe (caution; Delaying a Restart) 92+
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: George Vergara; Jorge De la Bandera
4th Official: Andrew Chapin
Time of Game: 1:50
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.