for this game

United 2, Fire 1

Jun 14, 2009 - 3:17 AM By KEVIN HILGERS STATS MLS Correspondent

WASHINGTON (STATS) - Brian McBride's second-half penalty kick for the Chicago Fire was accepted by both clubs as a makeup call for D.C. United's earlier chance on another borderline call. But United goalkeeper Josh Wicks had the last say.

With McBride 12 yards away, Wicks planted his feet, then dropped to his right to punch away the would-be game-tying goal to preserve a 2-1 win over the Fire and overtake them for first in the Eastern Conference.

"That usually happens in soccer, a makeup call," said United's Santino Quaranta. "But Josh came up big for us and that was the end of that."

Christian Gomez scored the decisive goal early in the second half on a free kick, and Jaime Moreno gave United (5-2-7) a 1-0 first-half lead with a penalty kick on a call that steamed Chicago.

Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch incurred the penalty on a yellow card for a reckless foul in a collision with Chris Pontius at the corner of the goal area. Moreno then beat Busch on his free shot in the 24th minute.

The loss was Chicago's first on the road and added to the club's recent woes. The Fire (5-3-6) had one of the longest starts in MLS history without a loss but have now dropped three in a row.

Coach Denis Hamlett said the calls spoiled an otherwise solid game.

"It's a disappointment," Hamlett said. "I thought we played a pretty good game. I thought there were three calls in my opinion that were bad calls that affected the outcome of the game."

Chicago had drawn even in the 33rd minute. Tim Ward caught up with a long ball from John Thorrington, then sent a cross along the top of the box to Marco Pappa, who stutter stepped and scored from 17 yards.

Gomez put United back ahead when he unleashed a free kick past Busch from 20 yards to the top right corner in the 41st minute, but Chicago quickly appeared to be on the brink of tying the game once more.

In the 49th minute, Wicks came to the middle of the box to challenge McBride, and the two collided. That sent McBride to the 12-yard spot for a prime chance, but Wicks had other plans as he made the most crucial of his five saves.

"I chose my right to dive to, and I wanted to just hold my ground as long possible so I didn't give it away," Wicks said. "As soon as he's ready to plant and kick, I just dove and I was fortunate to get a hand on it."

Both teams were missing key offensive players for the pivotal conference meeting. Chicago's Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who played in Mexico's World Cup qualifier Wednesday, was resting and United's Luciano Emilio was serving a red-card suspension.

But United will carry a one-point lead over Chicago in the East as they begin a three-game stretch away from home.

"Tonight we beat the conference leader so we're feeling good about ourselves to go on the road and play these next games coming up," Gomez said.

Moreno left the game in the 39th minute with muscle spasms. He is expected to be evaluated Monday.