FINAL: Fire 1 - 0 Crew
Late substitute Cristian Nazarit scored in stoppage time for Chicago’s first goal in three games as the Fire stunned the Columbus Crew, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon.
Orr Barouch, who also came off the bench, set up the play with his dribble on the right side of the box that turned around Julius James. He then split the defender and Josh Gardner before firing a shot that went between the legs of Chad Marshall.
Goalkeeper William Hesmer made the save but Nazarit, who entered in the 79th minute, was there for the rebound.
Chicago (2-4-8) ended a 0-4-7 streak by the controlling play and they became the first team in 13 games to outshoot the Crew (18-8). They almost produced the winner in the 79th minute when Barouch nailed the crossbar from 18 yards.
The Crew had been used to giving up the early lead – allowing a goal before the 10-minute mark in four of the previous six games – so they were the aggressor but the lack of finishing put a damper on that effort.
First it was Eddie Gaven taking a service in the middle of the box in the second minute, but he fired left despite having plenty of time and space. Then Andres Mendoza couldn’t redirect a Gardner pass a moment later.
Columbus had only one more shot before the break, a long turf-hugger by Emmanuel Ekpo in the 18th minute. They couldn’t get anything working with Jeff Cunningham as he looked to tie the MLS career goal mark.
He had few touches and only 10 passes for the match as he and Mendoza failed to click. Midfielder Kevin Burns subbed for him in the 73rd minute.
The Fire’s best chance of the first half was a cheeky shot from 30 yards close to the right touchline that curled just over the left corner of the goal.
Otherwise, it was an ugly display of poor combining that meant much of the match was played in the middle of the field with few deep forays.
The best Chicago could do was try use their speed on the slower Crew back line, and they had some success on the right side with Dominic Oduro challenging Josh Gardner, but even those runs were quickly snuffed.
Chicago had five shots in the first 45 minutes but, like the Crew, they could not get a single one on frame.
Columbus got their first shot in 38 minutes when Sebastian Miranda spotted Cunningham running toward the near post but the first touch by Cunningham was off the mark in minute 56.
Gaston Puerari had a look from 15 yards for Chicago in the 62nd but his strike sailed near where some 400 Fire supporters had gathered in the south bleachers.
Six minutes later Patrick Nyarko beat Sebastian Miranda down the left and sent a short ball to Puerari. His shot was headed for the goal but James jumped in front for the goal line block.
Chicago made four changes from Thursday’s tie at Chicago: Jalil Anibaba replaced Bratislav Ristic on the defense; Baggio Husidic and Patrick Nyarko took over for Daniel Paladini and Corben Bone in the midfield and Diego Chaves was selected over Cristian Nazarit.
The Crew made only one change with rookie Justin Meram inserted for midfielder Kevin Burns in his first career start. Meram played on the left side and Emmanuel Ekpo moved from the wing to the center.
The Crew are at Houston and Chicago visit New England on Saturday.
CHI – Cristian Nazarit 1 90+
CLB – Emmanuel Ekpo (caution: reckless tackle) 40’
CLB – Justin Meram (caution: reckless tackle) 50’
CHI – Patrick Nyarko (caution: reckless tackle) 54’
CHICAGO – Sean Johnson – Jalil Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares – Dominic Oduro, Baggio Husidic (Daniel Paladini, 85’), Logan Pause, Patrick Nyarko – Gaston Puerari (Orr Barouch, 67’), Diego Chaves (Cristian Nazarit), 79’).
COLUMBUS – William Hesmer – Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner – Rich Balchan, Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven, Justin Meram (Dejan Rusmir, 53’) –Andres Mendoza, Jeff Cunningham (Kevin Burns, 73’).
Referee: Hilario Grajeda.
Referee's Assistants: Kermit Quisenberry, Bill Dittmar.
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
Weather: 71 and sunny