The Columbus Crew swept the Chicago Fire aside on Wednesday night, beating them 3-0 at Lower.com Field.
The night was over before it really began, with Cucho Hernández scoring three goals in the opening 23 minutes. From that point it was rudimentary, with Columbus holding on to the ball to secure the win, the clean sheet, and all three points.
Story of the match
We had a goal in the opening few minutes. Diego Rossi snuck past the backline, and he was clipped by goalkeeper Chris Brady. Following a VAR review the referee chose to point to the spot, and Cucho Hernández stepped up to bury the resulting spot-kick.
Columbus controlled possession afterwards, but Chicago nearly equalized in stunning fashion. Forcing a turnover, Xherdan Shaqiri tried to chip the keeper from close to midfield, but he hit his effort wide.
It was 2-0 moments later. Remarkably enough the referee had to give another penalty in the 15th minute when Arnaud Souquet brought down Yaw Yeboah in the box. Hernández took it again, and he slotted home once again.
Hernández had his hat-trick before we even got to the half-hour mark. A corner whipped into the area picked him out, and he lept highest to head the ball into the bottom corner.
At that point the game was effectively over, and Columbus already went into a more tactical approach in order to see the match off. They held onto the ball, and they still managed to create some chances, they just couldn’t take them.
Chicago didn’t completely give up, to be fair to them. The ball sat nicely for Gastón Giménez on the edge of the area, and his strike was a clean one, but it flew a bit off target.
The rest of the first half came and went, and the second half nearly kicked off with a bang. Remember earlier when Shaqiri tried to chip the goalkeeper after a turnover in midfield? The same thing happened, but this time his effort was way too weak, which led to an easy save.
Hernández seemingly had a fourth soon after, but his first-time strike hit the outside of the side netting, much to the surprise of the home crowd who thought it went in at first. It should have been 4-0 seconds later, but Diego Rossi rolled a shot wide of the frame.
The night somehow got worse for Chicago when Xherdan Shaqiri was sent off midway through the second half. He was already on a yellow, and he committed a late challenge, which led to a foul and pretty simple second yellow for him.
What it means
This win keeps Columbus near the very top of the Eastern Conference standings. They likely won’t be able to catch up to FC Cincinnati, but the Crew very well could end the season as the 2nd seed. That’d be crucial considering their form at home, and it’d make them a real threat in the postseason.
Chicago, meanwhile, continues to slide down the table. This particular loss won’t hurt too much since they were such heavy underdogs anyway, but it will put a future emphasis on their next few games. If they can’t beat the New England Revolution or the New York Red Bulls, their campaign will be done for.
Notes and observations and whatever
For context, I made the drive from Chicago to cover this game at the stadium, so that explains the first few notes here.
The drive is pretty nice, not going to lie. Indiana is a lot of corn, though.
Columbus’ stadium looks like it was just plopped down in the middle of a city block. You turn a corner and it’s right there. There’s not a lot of space around it. That’s the price you pay for a prominent location I guess.
The Crew do get a lot right in terms of their pregame traditions and how they conduct gamedays in general. They’re a serious club, and it shows.
Some Fire fans drove about 350 miles to support their team in this contest. They deserve financial compensation.
Chicago didn’t even start this game off too badly, but they made two mistakes early on, and it cost them. The message going into the match would have been to stayed solid and tried to steal one on the counter, but those penalties through that plan out the window, and they had no other option.
It was clear to see how frustrated Xherdan Shaqiri was during this game. He was still trying, but things just weren’t coming off, and the team’s general poor play had an effect on him. Although he could do more to help fix that, it’s not all his fault. However, it is entirely his fault that he let his frustrations get the best of him, and now he’s going to miss a crucial home match as a result. Does Chicago move on from him in the summer? They’ll worry about that later, but they’ll certainly have some worrying to do.
Columbus are legit MLS Cup contenders if they’re front three of Hernández, Rossi, and Ramirez continue to play at a high level down the stretch. They will score goals against anyone on any field.
I know he’s a short term signing, but it’s still a shame to see the Fire playing the same even after the arrival of DP Ousmane Doumbia. He’s not been particularly bad, but he’s not made the team any better.
Columbus and Chicago used to be bitter rivals. That’s not the case anymore.
Man of the match – Cucho Hernández
A hat-trick in 23 minutes? That’s not bad.
It was a dream night for Cucho Hernández, who was at his best on the night. He calmly slotted two penalties in the opening stages, which is easier said than done, and then he headed home a corner to seal the contest when it was only one-fourth over.
He stuck around and helped Columbus create some more chances, and even though they didn’t add another to their tally while he was on the pitch, the forward was still deservedly applauded off the field.
Go Diego, go.