Oduro's Header Off The Post Left Gruenebaum In No Man's Land
A man advantage over the last hour of the game still wasn't enough help for the Crew to come back from an early deficit against the Fire on Saturday night.
Columbus started the game lined up in their now familiar 4-4-1-1 formation. Julius James earned his first league start of the season in center defense after long suffering from injuries and a collapsed lung earlier in the year. However, he was not at his best, and one has to wonder if Eric Gehrig would have been a more suitable replacement for the time being. Chris Birchall and Kevan George started in the middle of the field. Eddie Gaven lined up as a withdrawn forward, sitting behind Emilio Renteria. Chicago lined up in a 4-2-3-1.
The sloppiness that consumed the Crew's play for the entirety of the game started early. About 90 seconds in, George gave away a bad pass in midfield. The ball went directly to Marco Pappa, who took a few touches before absolutely drilling a shot with his right foot. It was a laser, but Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum was still able to get his fingertips on it. However, the power behind the shot was too much, and the ball ended up in the top-right corner after the slight ricochet.
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Over a span of six minutes, Fire forward Dominic Oduro had three prime opportunities to add his name to the scorers list, yet he was only successful on one of them. In the 20th minute, Sebastian Grazzini played Oduro clean in on goal. However, Oduro dragged his shot wide after Gruenebaum cut down his shooting angle significantly. Minutes later, after a Fire throw in and a missed defensive header, the ball found Oduro at the far post. He headed the ball toward the back post, looping it just on frame. The ball hit the inside of the post and bounced out before being cleared.
In the 26th minute, Grazzini ran down a loose ball in midfield. He slotted another though ball along the ground to Oduro, whose pace was too much for James. Oduro passed the ball into the net, avoiding Gruenebaum's sprawling efforts to save.
Three minutes later, the game turned on its head. Chicago was enjoying much more of the ball and was taking full advantage of the Crew's poor clearances and bad giveaways. Left back Gonzalo Segares was just a tad late on a slide tackle he committed on Kevan George. However, his studs were up when he entered the tackle, and his left leg rode up all the way to George's knee. The tackle resulted in a straight red card, and gave Columbus the hope they needed.
It wasn't long before the Crew took control of their man advantage. In the 36th minute, Birchall, located on the right wing, passed to Tony Tchani near the top-right corner of the box. Tchani's first touch was magnificent, taking him past a Fire defender and in on goal. He slotted the ball past Chicago goalie Sean Johnson, beating him at the near post and allowing the Crew to go into the halftime break only down by one after a shaky start.
The Crew's two best opportunities to equalize in the second half came from set pieces. In the 47th minute, Nemanja Vukovic's corner found the head of George. Johnson saved the header, but the ball to fell to Tchani. Unfortunately, Tchani skied the chance over the bar. Ten minutes later, a Vukovic free kick found defender Josh Williams, whose header forced a diving save out of Johnson.
Chicago had a very good chance for a penalty in the 61st minute, but the referee ruled that James made a fair tackle on Oduro. Replays show that James did win the ball, but he was extremely close to going through the man to win the ball. A no call was probably the best decision for the play.
Coach Robert Warzycha used all three of his subs in an attempt to pull level, but the players he took out and the times at which the subs were used still lead to many Crew fans questioning his tactical knowledge and willingness to go all out for points. As it is, Columbus was unable to score a second goal in the half, ending the team's six game unbeaten run and also the game, 2-1.