The Columbus Crew continued their winning run on Saturday night as they beat the Chicago Fire 2-1 at Soldier Field.
The away side jumped in front following a strong spell to start the second half, but Chicago found an equalizer late on. It wasn’t enough, though, as Lucas Zelarayán scored from midfield in stoppage time to snatch all three points for Columbus.
Chicago were the better to start, carving out a few half-chances in the opening stages. Columbus had an opportunity on the break, but the eventual shot was blocked by a defender.
The first real highlight came midway through the half. Some sloppy defending allowed Kei Kamara to break through on goal, and even though he was at a tight angle, he ripped a low shot on target. It looked good, but he was denied thanks to a superb save from Patrick Schulte.
There would be one final chance before halftime. Lucas Zelarayán did well to spin by his marker, but his shot was a disappointing one since it was hit right at the goalkeeper.
Columbus came out hot to start the second half, and they really should have jumped in front. Cucho Hernández broke free past the backline, but he made a mess of the finish, hitting a tame strike down the middle to the keeper.
They had another huge chance minutes later. Some good work from Hernández set up Aidan Morris, who was unmarked from just a few yards out. He couldn’t convert, though, and his first-time effort flew way over the crossbar.
Another opportunity then came, with this one falling to Christian Ramirez. He did the same as everyone else, squandering the opportunity with a woeful shot.
The Crew kept pushing forward, and their goal finally came at the hour mark. Hernández found space in the final third and decided to have a go from distance, and fortunately for him the strike took a massive deflection, wrongfooting the goalkeeper before rolling into the back of the net.
Things died off for a while, but Chicago nearly sparked the match back into life. A Rafael Czichos header was saved brilliantly by Schulte, and then Kacper Przybyłko blasted the rebound off the crossbar from close range. The sideline official’s flag did go up following the play, though.
The hosts would have their goal soon after, though. Miguel Navarro hit a superb cross right into the path of Xherdan Shaqiri, and he did the rest, slotting the ball into the far corner.
Just as it seemed like we were destined for a draw, Lucas Zelarayán pulled off one of the darndest things I’ve ever seen. A loose ball rolled to him in midfield, and he decided to shoot from there. It’s a good thing he did, as his ludacris effort flew over the keeper and into the back of the net.
That was the final highlight of the matchup, which was a superb way for it to end.
What it means
Columbus continued their climb up the standings with another win here. They’ve been on a roll, and it’s clear that they can be a real threat in the East if they play to the best of their abilities.
This was another punch in the gut to Chicago. They’ve fallen further from the playoff picture, and things are not looking great at the moment. Fortunately for them they’ve got a bit of a break, so hopefully they can hit the reset button during this time.
Notes and observations
The whole environment at the stadium was off tonight. There wasn’t much of a crowd, and those in attendance didn’t make much noise. The action on the field lacked that spark early on as well. Even the press box was quieter than usual. The vibes weren’t there.
This was the second game in a row Chicago fans threw stuff onto the field at opposing players. That is unacceptable.
Brian Gutiérrez has not been the same ever since the club blocked him from going to the U20 World Cup. Maybe it’s a case of correlation and not causation, but it’s still been a concern for all involved.
The Fire has to stop using the 3-4-3. Their attack isn’t as dangerous as it used to be, and they’re not even any better at the back. It may have gotten some points for them early on, but it’s time to return to the 4-2-3-1.
Columbus were poor to start the contest, but they deserve credit for kicking themselves into gear following the break. They dominated proceedings, and they eventually broke the deadlock after creating a bunch of chances. They needed a moment of magic to steal a late winner, but it was a result they deserved.
Chicago did it again. This team just keeps shooting themselves in the foot time and time and time again. It’s simply a part of their identity at this stage.
Man of the match – Lucas Zelarayán
A 90th minute winner from beyond midfield.
That’s all I need to say, really.