The Columbus Crew broke an eight-game winless streak on Saturday night thanks to goals by Ethan Finlay and Jairo Arrieta. The back line, forced to replace three World Cup-caliber defenders, posted an unexpected shutout thanks to composed play from Eric Gehrig and Tyson Wahl.
Ethan Finlay put the home team on top just ten minutes into the game. Federico Higuain supplied the crucial pass, allowing Finlay to break into space and around goalkeeper Sean Johnson. His finish from a tight angle was perfectly placed as Greg Cochrane attempted to cover the open net.
Fifteen minutes later, Jairo Arrieta doubled the Columbus lead. Federico Higuain was again crucial to the play, receiving a pass from Tony Tchani and threading a ball through the Fire back line. Arrieta snuck his shot between Johnson's legs as the former youth international came rushing off his line.
While the Crew were building their lead, the Fire attack was misfiring. The Chicago strike force of Quincy Amarikwa and Juan Luis Anangono combined poorly for much of the night, most visibly in the 18th minute while the visitors were still only down one goal. Amarikwa came down the left flank, drawing Steve Clark out of position in a play eerily similar to Finlay's goal. Yet where Finlay finished calmly, Amarikwa's ball missed connections with Anangono and the Crew defense were able to clear the danger.
Amarikwa had another scoring chance immediately after Arrieta's goal - but this time his headed shot pinged off the far post and away from danger.
Columbus continued their composed performance through the balance of the game, with winger Ethan Finlay putting in a particularly solid evening. The winger from Creighton was only in the lineup because Hector Jimenez had been pressed into duty on the back line, but made several dangerous runs at the left side of the Fire defense. Finlay was voted the man of the match by a fan vote after the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Steve Clark and a new quartet of defenders handed the Chicago Fire their first shutout of the season. Costa Ricans Waylon Francis and Giancarlo Gonzalez were with their national team preparing for next month's World Cup, while Michael Parkhurst - a late cut from Juergen Klinsmann's roster - played only six minutes as a reserve. Beyond the central pairing of Tyson Wahl and Eric Gehrig, Berhalter turned to Jimenez as a right back and homegrown defender Chad Barson on the left.
The victory improves the Crew's record to 4-4-4 on the season, with 16 points from 12 games played. They will finish the weekend in fifth place, seven points behind conference-leading New England. Their next game will be next Saturday in Toronto.
Timeline of events
2' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - short, headed out)
6' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - headed wide)
10' 1-0 Ethan Finlay (Federico Higuain)
25' 2-0 Jairo Arrieta (Federico Higuain, Tony Tchani)
32' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - headed wide)
46+ Corner kick, Chicago (left side - headed clear)
46' Logan Pause replaces Benji Joya
49' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - short, easy cross to Johnson)
54' Caution, Federico Higuain (delay of game)
57' Caution, Quincy Amarikwa (simulation)
61' Grant Ward replaces Dilly Duka
66' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - punched by Clark)
67' Dominic Oduro replaces Jairo Arrieta
69' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - punched by Clark)
69' Corner kick, Columbus (right side)
74' Josh Williams replaces Justin Meram
81' Caution, Patrick Ianni (dangerous tackle on Dominic Oduro)
83' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed shot blocked by Shipp)
87' Michael Parkhurst replaces Chad Barson
Steve Clark, Hector Jimenez, Eric Gehrig, Tyson Wahl, Chad Barson (Michael Parkhurst 87'), Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Josh Williams 74'), Jairo Arrieta (Dominic Oduro 67')
Matt Lampson, Ben Speas, Dan Paladini, Bernardo Anor
Sean Johnson, Steven Kinney, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Greg Cochrane, Dilly Duka (Grant Ward 61'), Jeff Larentowicz, Benji Joya (Logan Pause 45'), Harrison Shipp, Juan Luis Anangono, Quincy Amarikwa
Kyle Reynish, Gonzalo Segares, Chris Ritter, Matt Watson, Victor Pineda