The Columbus Crew could not win the third consecutive game of their midseason resurgence, but they did rally from a halftime deficit on the way to earning a 1-1 draw on the road to Chicago. The single point was their first positive result of any kind in the Windy City since 2009.
Mike Magee opened the scoring for Chicago late in the first half. Tyson Wahl was flagged for handling the ball in the 37th minute, unable to pull his arm out of the way in time when defending a cross. Magee duly dispatched the spot kick to Steve Clark's left.
Columbus, which was only sporadically dangerous in the first half, adjusted well after falling behind. Although they nearly found an equalizer a minute before the break, it took Federico Higuain just nine seconds in the second half to draw level. Ethan Finlay received a long bouncing ball and nodded it into the area, where Higuain touched sideways and fired home.
The Crew had two additional chances to score denied by superb goalkeeping from Sean Johnson. Ben Speas saw his goalbound effort from the top of the area snagged in the 53rd minute, capping buildup from Ethan Finlay and a dummy from Federico Higuain. Ethan Finlay was then himself robbed in the 61st minute, his header at the far post improbably stopped by a desparate lunge from Johnson.
A set of substitutions after the Finlay chance changed the dynamics of the game, to the benefit of the home team. The Fire inserted recent signing Razvan Cocis in place of Alex, whose left flank had been dismantled consistently by the pressure of Michael Parkhurst and Ethan Finlay. Cocis proved more capable than Alex at defensive pressure, and the Crew's offense sputtered.
For the visitors, a pair of offensive gambles did not have the desired effect. Aaron Schoenfeld and Justin Meram entered the game in lieu of Adam Bedell and Ben Speas respectively. While both Schoenfeld and Meram have shown well in recent games, they were unable on this night to produce any late-game heroics. In fact, it was the Fire who had two chances in stoppage time, but Cocis was unable to put a clean shot on frame in either instance.
What it means
The Crew's draw stretches their unbeaten run to three games, matching their season long mark. They have sole possession of fifth place, the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. More encouragingly the teams immediately above and below them no longer have significant games in hand, setting up a stretch run with a level starting line.
Columbus now returns home for a three-game home stand. Two of the three games come against Eastern Conference opposition, starting with Toronto this weekend and finished by Houston - with the annual visit from Los Angeles sandwiched in between.
Timeline of events
3' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
17' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - headed clear)
31' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - Larentowicz header saved)
34' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - headed clear)
36' Penalty kick called on Tyson Wahl, handling in the box
37' 0-1 Mike Magee (penalty kick)
46' 1-1 Federico Higuain (Ethan Finlay)
50' Caution, Giancarlo Gonzalez (professional foul on Mike Magee)
57' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - headed clear)
57' Harrison Shipp replaces Grant Ward
58' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - cleared)
61' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - headed off target)
63' Razvan Cocis replaces Alex
66' Aaron Schoenfeld replaces Adam Bedell
66' Justin Meram replaces Ben Speas
66' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - foul called)
69' Caution, Waylon Francis (professional foul on Quincy Amarikwa)
75' Caution, Gonzalo Segares (professional foul on Ethan Finlay)
81' Logan Pause replaces Chris Ritter
91+ Eric Gehrig replaces Michael Parkhurst
Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst (Eric Gehrig 91+), Tyson Wahl, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Ben Speas (Justin Meram 66'), Adam Bedell (Aaron Schoenfeld 66')
Matt Lampson, Chad Barson, Bernardo Anor, Kevan George
Sean Johnson, Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Patrick Ianni, Gonzalo Segares, Grant Ward (Harrison Shipp 57'), Chris Ritter (Logan Pause 81'), Matt Watson, Alex (Razvan Cocis 63'), Quincy Amarikwa, Mike Magee
Kyle Reynish, Bakary Soumare, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Matthew Fondy