CHICAGO, Ill. – The Chicago Fire (7-5-3; 24pts.) received first half strikes from Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro before a red card ejection to Gonzalo Segares forced the team to battle out a gutsy 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew (5-5-4; 19pts.) Saturday night at Toyota Park.
For the second match in a row the Fire tallied inside the first five minutes when Marco Pappa intercepted an errant pass from Crew midfielder Tony Tchani near the center circle. The Guatemalan international went unchallenged through midfield before unleashing a rocketing 30-yard blast past Andy Gruenebaum and into the top right corner to give the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 2nd minute.
Things settled down with both sides playing a lot of possession before the Fire came close in the 20th minute. A series of headers from Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro saw the ball fall for Sebastian Grazzini. The Argentine collected the ball before slotting Oduro through behind the backline and in alone on Grunebaum, but the Crew ‘keeper did well to cut the angle and force Oduro’s effort wide left of goal.
The Ghanaian attacker came close two minutes later when a long throw-in from Dan Gargan bounced towards the back post. Dominic Oduro nodded a looping header across goal and off the opposite post before the ball was eventually cleared by Crew defender Josh Williams.
Oduro would finally breakthrough in the 26th minute as Crew defender Sebastian Miranda headed a ball into the path of Grazzini. The Argentine playmaker strolled towards goal before slotting Oduro through and this time he made no mistake, sliding his effort under Gruenebaum to take the score to 2-0.
Just when it looked like the Fire had put a dominant mark on the match, defender Gonzalo Segares intercepted a pass from Meram out of midfield and followed the ball before making a late tackle on Tchani. Without hesitation, referee Armando Villareal went to his back pocket to show the Fire left back a straight red card, taking the Fire down to 10 men in the 29th minute.
The Crew found new life with the man advantage almost immediately. Meram collected a pass out of midfield and took the space in front of him before firing a hard, bouncing effort that Johnson did well to hang onto in the 33rd minute.
The visitors would pull one back as Eddie Gaven played a quick pass to Chris Birchall on the right. The Trinidad & Tobago international played the bal square to Tchani into the box where he slid his effort under Johnson in the 36th minute.
Despite the disadvantage the Fire nearly restored the two-goal lead in the 41st minute when a whipping corner from Grazzini picked out a charging Jalil Anibaba at the near post but the second year defender nodded his effort inches wide.
Tchani came close to a first half brace just before the break. Winning a 50/50 challenge with Pavel Pardo, the Crew midfielder drove towards goal and unleashed a rocket that Johnson tipped just over the bar to take the Fire into the half with a 2-1 lead.
Just like he ended the first half, Tchani almost equalized to start the second. Nemanja Vukovic’s swung-in corner kick found the head of Julius James but was blocked by Pardo. After the ball bounced around the box, the Cameroonian midfielder pounced but fired his blast over goal in the 48th minute.
The best chance of the half came in the 57th minute when a Vukovic free kick from 30 yards away was flicked by Williams to the back post but Johnson again denied the Crew with a diving reaction stop to his right.
Playing compact, the Fire didn’t cause much danger in the second half but did threaten in the 61st minute. Vukovic misplayed a ball in the back that Oduro ran onto, cut past James into the box before the Crew defender tackled him in the penalty area but Villareal signaled for play to continue.
The home side did well to kill the game through the waning moments with the last chance for the Crew coming in the 85th minute. Second half substitute Ethan Finlay sent in a quick cross which found Tchani but the midfielder could only get a slight touch to the ball which looped straight to Johnson to give the Fire a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
The Fire return to action on Friday, June 29 when they visit Sporting Kansas City at 7:00 p.m. CT live on NBC Sports Network and ESPN Deportes 97.5 FM.
- The Fire extend their unbeaten run against the Crew at Toyota Park to eight matches, going 4-0-4 since last falling 4-1 to Columbus on October 7, 2007.
- Marco Pappa’s second minute strike is his fourth of the season and the 24th goal of his Fire career. The Guatemalan international also moved past former Fire defender Evan Whitfield into 14th on the club’s all-time MLS appearance list with 104 games played for the Men in Red.
- Dominic Oduro’s 26th minute goal is his team-leading fifth of the season and 17th since joining the Fire via trade from Houston at the beginning of the 2011 season.
- Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made a career high eight saves to earn Man of the Match honors. The mark bests the third-year goalkeeper’s previous high of seven which he achieved twice in 2010.
- With his 29th minute red card, Fire defender Gonzalo Segares will serve a one-match suspension during next Friday’s match at Sporting Kansas City.
- Fire defender Arne Friedrich made his first appearance for the Men in Red since suffering a hamstring injury in the first half of the Fire’s May 12 match against Sporting Kansas City. The two-time World Cup veteran and German international missed five games while injured.
Chicago Fire 2 – 1 Columbus Crew
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Dan Gargan, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Logan Pause © Pavel Pardo; Patrick Nyarko (Arne Friedrich 72’), Sebastian Grazzini (Chris Rolfe 59’), Marco Pappa; Dominic Oduro (Rafael Robayo 80’)
Substitutes not used: Jay Nolly, Hunter Jumper, Federico Puppo, Orr Barouch
Columbus Crew: Andy Gruenebaum; Sebastian Miranda, Josh Williams, Julius James, Nemanja Vukovic (Ethan Finlay 78’); Tony Tchani, Chris Birchall, Kevan George, Justin Meram (Aaron Schoenfeld 58’); Eddie Gaven, Emilio Renteria (Olman Vargas 75’)
Substitutes not used: Matt Lampson, Shaun Francis, Eric Gehrig, Cole Grossman
CHI – Marco Pappa (unassisted) 2’
CHI – Dominic Oduro (Sebastian Grazzini) 26’
CLB – Tony Tchani (Chris Birchall) 36’
CHI – Gonzalo Segares (ejection) 29’
CLB – Kevan George (caution) 66’
CHI – Dan Gargan (caution) 85’
CLB – Aaron Schoenfeld (caution) 94+’
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistants: Craig Lowry, Adam Garner
Fourth Official: Ramon Hernandez