The Columbus Crew SC built a 2-0 lead on Friday night, then watched it slip away en route to a 2-2 draw with the visiting Chicago Fire. The equalizing goal came in the fourth minute of stoppage time, leaving the players to rue missed chances and dropped points.
Coach Gregg Berhalter made a pair of changes from the lineup that started the previous game in San Jose. With holding midfielder Mohammed Saeid suspended after last week’s red card, Kevan George was chosen to pair with Tony Tchani. The other change was at right back, where Chris Klute joined the starting lineup in place of Hector Jimenez.
Across the field, two former Crew SC players awaited their former teammates. Eric Gehrig, an offseason departure during the expansion draft, started at right back for the Fire, while Jon Busch took the place of Sean Johnson in goal. This was Busch’s 300th career start in Major League Soccer.
Columbus grabbed the game’s first goal early in the first half. Kei Kamara scored his eighth goal of the season from close range on a pass from Ethan Finlay. Justin Meram started the play with a run through tight quarters in midfield, giving home fans a positive sign that the attacking quartet was firing on all cylinders.
This promising start tapered off, however. Chicago repeatedly tried to exploit the Crew’s right flank, pushing David Accam into space around Chris Klute. They also applied significant pressure throughout the Columbus back line, and even intercepted a pass from Steve Clark in the 26th minute. The chance from Kennedy Igboananike went out of bounds for a corner kick, however.
Kamara had a late chance to double the Columbus lead when he split the Fire defense to latch on to a pass from Waylon Francis, but his controlling touch saw the ball skip off his toe with only Busch in front of him.
Columbus finally scored their second goal early in the second half. Federico Higuain’s corner kick from in front of the Nordecke found the run of Kevan George at the near post, whose glancing header sent the ball to the far post and an unmarked Kei Kamara. Kamara made no mistake from there, heading the ball just under the crossbar and over the desperate lunge of Jon Busch.
Moments later, however, the Fire struck for their first of the night. Once again coming down the Crew’s right flank, the Chicago attack unbalanced the Columbus back line. Kennedy Igboananike drew Michael Parkhurst out to challenge for the ball, but chipped his pass to David Accam – whose glancing header left Steve Clark and Emanuel Pogatetz stranded before nestling into the far side netting.
Through the final half hour, the Columbus game plan deteriorated as Chicago increasingly added attacking substitutes. Jason Johnson, Quincy Amarikwa, and Guly all entered the game as the Fire played at times with four or five forwards. The Crew countered by replacing attacking players of their own in a like-for-like manner, sending Kristinn Steindorsson on for Ethan Finlay, Ben Speas for Higuain, and Aaron Schoenfeld for Kamara.
Chicago outshot the Crew 13-6 in the second half, and finally were rewarded deep in stoppage time. Eric Gehrig, overlapping down the Crew’s left flank, found the ball on his foot above the penalty area in a bit of space. He picked out his target, substitute forward Jason Johnson, and floated a cross that Johnson headed just inside the far post.
Moments after the ensuing kickoff referee Fotis Bazakos blew his whistle, leaving the thirteen thousand assembled fans in largely stunned silence at the blown Columbus lead.
What it means
The draw leaves the Crew with a record of four wins, four losses and three ties. Their 15 points leaves them in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the New York Red Bulls and six behind leaders DC United.
Kei Kamara’s two goals leave him with nine on the season, and make him the leading scorer in MLS heading into the weekend. He has, individually, scored as many goals as three other teams: New York City, Montreal, or Colorado.
Columbus is entering a congested portion of their scheduled, with four games in the next 14 days. An exhibition against Spain’s Valencia CF comes on Wednesday, followed by consecutive road games against Orlando next weekend and Philadelphia the following Wednesday. The stretch concludes with a home game against Montreal on June 6th.
Timeline of events
8′ 1-0 Kei Kamara (Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram)
15′ Corner kick, Chicago (right side – cleared)
15′ Corner kick, Chicago (left side – headed clear by Columbus defense)
16′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – cleared)
21′ Caution, Kevan George (dangerous tackle on Kennedy Igboananike)
27′ Corner kick, Chicago (right side – saved by Clark)
27′ Corner kick, Chicago (right side – short, shot blocked)
42′ Caution, Eric Gehrig (professional foul on Justin Meram)
54′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed clear)
55′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – goal by Kei Kamara)
55′ 2-0 Kei Kamara (Kevan George, Federico Higuain)
58′ 2-1 David Accam (Kennedy Igboananike)
61′ Corner kick, Chicago (right side – punched by Clark)
62′ Corner kick, Chicago (left side – headed over crosssbar)
67′ Jason Johnson replaces Harry Shipp
71′ Quincy Amarikwa replaces Razvan Cocis
75′ Kristinn Steindorsson replaces Ethan Finlay
79′ Corner kick, Chicago (right side – cleared)
83′ Guly replaces Igboananike
87′ Ben Speas replaces Federico Higuain
91+ Aaron Schoenfeld replaces Kei Kamara
92+ Caution, Justin Meram (delay of game)
94+ 2-2 Jason Johnson (Eric Gehrig)
Columbus Crew SC
Steve Clark, Chris Klute, Michael Parkhurst, Emanuel Pogatetz, Waylon Francis, Kevan George, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay (Kristinn Steindorsson 75′), Federico Higuain (Ben Speas 87′), Justin Meram, Kei Kamara (Aaron Schoenfeld 91+)
Brad Stuver, Chad Barson, Tyson Wahl, Romain Gall
Jon Busch, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz, Adailton, Joevin Jones, Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis (Quincy Amarikwa 71′), Harrison Shipp (Jason Johnson 67′), David Accam, Shaun Maloney, Kennedy Igboananike (Guly 83′)
Sean Johnson, Chris Ritter, Lovel Palmer, Michael Stephens