It was the Crew's third game in 8 days after a west coast cross country trip. The team might have been due a letdown in the sweltering heat and humidity of late May. However, they continued their winning ways with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire behind goals from Eddie Gaven and Emilio Renteria.
Columbus got out to an excellent start behind a 9th minute goal from Eddie Gaven. Shaun Francis drove up the left sideline and dropped a ball into Gaven. Gaven then cut in and found space from 19 yards and beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson at the near post. It was Gaven's 3rd goal of the season.
The Fire were almost gifted a goal as an errant Shaun Francis back pass fell into the path of Patrick Nyarko. Nyarko broke in on Andy Gruenebaum, but he pushed his shot wide.
Renteria would fire the Crew into a 2-0 first half lead with a 43rd minute goal. Gaven tracked down a ball in the left channel and then whipped in a cross. Renteria took it and turned on Austin Berry. He had a clear shot from close range on
Johnson and put it in the side netting for his second goal in two games.
Renteria nearly got another two minutes later as Kevan George forced a Fire turnover at midfield and Gaven slipped a ball behind the defense. Renteria ran onto the ball but forced his shot wide.
The Fire would use the break to retool and try to get back in the game with a double substitution. They brought in Dominic Oduro and Orr Barouch to replace Frederico Puppo and Marco Pappa. Chicago would immediately go on the attack.
While Chicago kept up the pressure, the Crew would have another chance early in the half as Renteria's hold up play gave Duka time to come across for a pass. Duka then got to the top of the 18 yard box and unleash a shot that rang off the crossbar. Johnson grabbed the loose ball before it could be knocked home.
The Fire substitutions, coupled with cramping and fatigue in the extreme heat, forced Coach Robert Warzycha to replace Shaun Francis with Nemanja Vukovic in the 50th minute and bring in Eric Gehrig to spell Carlos Mendes four minutes later.
The Fire's pressure in the 2nd half paid off as Chicago would pull a goal back in the 72nd minute. The Fire got another corner to start off the sequence. Daniel Paladini sent in a corner that Austin Berry headed. Gaven cleared the ball of the line. The rebound found Paladini who crossed the ball in to a free Berry who buried the second chance.
The Fire would continue to pressure, but Columbus would get a few chances on the counter. Renteria got just the chance in the 79th minute as he took a long pass and turned his defender. Johnson was up to the task as he parried the ball away for a corner.
Vukovic would send in the corner that was initially cleared, but Gehrig would send a pass across the field to Vukovic. His left footed rip forced yet another save out of the active Johnson.
Chicago's push for an equalizer started to peter out and the Crew were able to kill off the game and finish of a 2-1 win in front of over 16,000 fans anticipating a Crew/Flogging Molly concert double header.
Columbus ended a busy week with a 2-0-1 record and 7 of 9 points. They recorded win number five on the year and now have 18 points, good enough to share fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Crew have not lost in the month of May and made a big move up the standings. They now have a three week league break for international soccer. Their next game is at the New England Revolution on June 16th.