The Crew were winless in eight games, 56 days, nearly a quarter of the season. That ended emphatically tonight as Columbus defeated the Chicago Fire 2-0 behind goals from Ethan Finlay and Jairo Arrieta.
The first goal came early as Federico let the ball to the work of slicing the Fire defense apart with a perfectly weighted pass that beat Greg Cochrane and forced goalkeeper Sean Johnson to steep up. Ethan Finlay streamed down the right channel and sliced a tight angled shot that found the back of the net. The Crew would lead after 10 minutes.
The home side would pad their lead in the 25th minute and it was Higuain again leading the charge. Tony Tchani would take the loos ball deep in Crew territory and slip a pass into Higuain. The captain would make the turn and again drive the perfect pass to a rushing Arrieta. The Costa Rican took a touch towards goal and calmly fired the ball past Johnson to double the lead.
The Fire would nearly grab one back just two minutes later as Juan Luis Anangonó uncorked a bending shot past Steve Clark that rang off the right upright and bounced back through the six yard box until Chad Barson cleared the danger.
Columbus would take back control of the game to close out the first half, limiting Chicago to five shots, none testing Clark.
Both sides started slowly coming out for the second half with neither team creating any chances, but the Crew would suffer a blow early in the second half as Higuain picked up a booking for blocking a quick Chicago restart in the 54h minute.
The yellow card was Higuain's fifth of the year and will force him to sit out Saturday's game in Toronto. After the game, the Argentine commented through a translator that he thought he had an additional yellow card before he earned a suspension.
The pace of the game continued to slow until Dominic Oduro replaced Arrieta in the 67th minute. The Crew shifted to counterattacking the Fire's offensive forays.
Hector Jiminez pushed forward out of his unfamiliar right back spot to feed Oduro in the 73rd minute, but Oduro would zip in a ball that was halfway between a pass and a shot and slipped harmlessly wide.
Oduro again got an excellent chance in the 83rd minute and headed a corner kick driving to the Fire goal. The shot unfortunately would carom off Harrison Shipp stationed on the post and be cleared.
The speedy Ghanaian would have two late chances at his goal from the left side of the Fire box. His 91st minute shot would go wide and Johnson would gobble up his shot just before the clock ran out in the 94th minute.
After the defensive struggles of the last few weeks, it would be the makeshift defense of Eric Gehrig, Tyson Wahl, Barson, and Jiminez that would stymie an offense that had yet to been shut out. The Fire would have the edge on shots 15 to 9, but only put four on target. Gehrig and Clark attributed it to excellent preparation and focus in training.
The game would wind down with a standing ovation. It wasn't for Finlay or Arrieta, but Michael Parkhurst would make a late appearance in the 84th minute. The defender was cut from the U.S. National Team on Thursday and took a red eye flight back to Columbus on Friday. Head Coach Gregg Berhalter held Parkhurst back due to fatigue, but a minor injury to Barson would give Parkhurst the chance to return home to a warm welcome.
The win breaks the team's winless streak and moves them to 4-4-4 on the year. The 16 points vaults them into the 5th spot in the Eastern Conference after 12 games. They head on the road to face Toronto F.C. next Saturday with just a little more confidence in the offense and on the back line.