The Columbus Crew took a shorthanded group of players to Chicago on Wednesday night, and very nearly knocked off the Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup. Leading 2-1 with less than ten minutes to play, the Crew conceded a late equalizer and two demoralizing goals in added time to finish with a 4-2 loss.
Chicago advances to the tournament quarterfinals, where they will travel to Atlanta for a game with Eric Wynalda's Silverbacks.
The Crew entered Tuesday's game with a skeleton squad. Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis are still with the Costa Rican national team at the World Cup, new signing Alvaro Rey was unable to play because the international transfer window hasn't opened yet, while Adam Bedell and Dan Paladini were suspended after being ejected against Indy last week.
In response, coach Gregg Berhalter shifted formations and set out a five-man back line. Rookie Ben Sweat got his first professional start on the left, with the trio of Tyson Wahl, Eric Gehrig, and Chad Barson was tasked with holding down the center. Hector Jimenez manned the right flank. Kevan George and Tony Tchani held down the defensive midfield while Bernardo Anor assumed a more offensive posture, and Ben Speas and Justin Meram started as forwards.
Perhaps as a result of these changes, the first half was a lopsided affair. The first 20 minutes were played almost entirely in the Columbus defensive half, and the Fire held a 6-1 edge in corner kicks at halftime. Quincy Amarikwa had a close-range header saved acrobatically by Clark in the 15th minute.
The Crew gained a foothold in the game for the middle portion of the half, but were still unable to convert their advanced possession into a clear scoring chance. Chicago took a deserved lead in the 34th minute as Harrison Shipp lofted a delicate free kick behind the Crew back line for Patrick Ianni to touch past Steve Clark.
Jairo Arrieta replaced the largely ineffective Justin Meram at half time, and the team's fortunes improved. Unfortunately for the Costa Rican forward, however, his first look at goal is one he'd just as soon forget. Chad Barson released Ben Speas with a searching ball up the right flank, and Speas found Arrieta trailing the play on the opposite side. With the goal yawning before him, however, the ball caromed off Arrieta's foot and wide of the target.
Arrieta's redemption came ten minutes later through a much more difficult sequence. Ben Sweat, overlapping up the left side, chipped a cross to the right post where Arrieta scored with an awkward bicycle kick from a tight angle.
The Crew took a deserved lead in the 70th minute as Bernardo Anor ran onto a loose ball in the Fire penalty area after Ben Speas initial shot was blocked. Sean Johnson was able to get a hand to the ball, but could not parry the shot away.
In an attempt to ice the game, Berhalter made a pair of fateful substitutions. First team regulars Wil Trapp and Michael Parkhurst came on for Hector Jimenez and Tony Tchani, but neither matched the performance of those they replaced. The Fire equalized via a substitute of their own when Juan Luis Anangono capped a sequence of headers in the penalty area in the 83rd minute.
Wil Trapp nearly restored the Columbus advantage immediately, but his shot from a solo run on goal slammed into the outside of the near post and harmlessly out of play.
Two plays early in the first session of added time effectively sealed the Crew's fate. Quincy Amarikwa scored from confusion in the Columbus defense just two minutes after kickoff, while Michael Parkhurst was deservedly ejected for a cynical kick to the back of Anangono's legs in the 97th minute.
Ananogono added an insurance goal in the 108th minute, but the Crew had lost the spark and intensity that had initially earned them a lead.
Columbus returns to league play this weekend with a game against FC Dallas. Parkhurst, along with Rey and Higuain, should be available for selection for that contest.
Timeline of events
11' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - headed clear)
11' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - headed clear)
20' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed clear)
23' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - shot missed)
29' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - short, no shot taken)
30' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - caught by Clark)
34' 0-1 Patrick Ianni (Harrison Shipp)
39' Corner kick, Chicago (right side)
45' Jairo Arrieta replaces Justin Meram
54' Caution, Logan Pause (reckless tackle on Jairo Arrieta)
55' 1-1 Jairo Arrieta (Ben Sweat)
59' Jhon Kennedy Hurtado replaces Bakary Soumare
61' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - headed clear)
69' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed out)
70' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed clear)
70' 2-1 Bernardo Anor (unassisted)
71' Wil Trapp replaces Tony Tchani
71' Michael Parkhurst replaces Hector Jimenez
71' Alex replaces Logan Pause
74' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
77' Juan Luis Anangono replaces Mike Magee
78' Caution, Kevan George
83' 2-2 Juan Luis Anangono (Matt Watson)
88' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - cleared)
90' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed clear)
92' 2-3 Quincy Amarikwa (Harrison Shipp, Juan Luis Anangono)
97' Ejection, Michael Parkhurst (serious foul play on Juan Luis Anangono)
100' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - no shot taken)
108' 2-4 Juan Luis Anangono (Alex)
112' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - short)
114' Corner kick, Chicago (right side - short)
116' Caution, Grant Ward (persistent infringement)
118' Corner kick, Chicago (left side - short)
Steve Clark, Hector Jimenez (Michael Parkhurst 71' (sent off 97')), Chad Barson, Eric Gehrig, Tyson Wahl, Ben Sweat, Tony Tchani (Wil Trapp 71'), Kevan George, Bernardo Anor, Ben Speas, Justin Meram (Jairo Arrieta 45')
Sean Johnson, Matt Watson, Patrick Ianni, Bakary Soumare (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 59'), Greg Cochrane, Harrison Shipp, Logan Pause (Alex 71'), Jeff Larentowicz, Grant Ward, Mike Magee (Juan Luis Anangono 77'), Quincy Amarikwa
Kyle Reynish, Steven Kinney, Marco Franco, Chris Ritter