Columbus Crew SC clawed back from a deficit twice to tie 2-2 in dramatic fashion in Bridgeview, Illinois against the Chicago Fire. Goals from Gyasi Zardes and newcomer Romario Williams gave the team their first points since the beginning of June.
The Crew made wholesale changes to the lineup following Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Orlando City, moving back to a 4-2-3-1. David Guzman, Jonathan Mensah, Gaston Sauro and Josh Williams were held out due to injury. Pedro Santos, Waylon Francis and Artur were rested. Aboubakar Keita, Alex Crognale, Hector Jimenez, Ricardo Clark, Eduardo Sosa and David Accam came into the lineup.
The changes made an impact as the Crew struggled to find a rhythm early. Both team struggled to connect passes and build through possession, but the visitors were able to create a couple of goal scoring opportunities with the Fire’s sloppiness.
Sosa put the ball in the back of the net in the seventh minute after receiving a cutback cross from David Accam, but he was called for a foul against Brandt Bronico before the ball crossed the line.
Columbus got another chance in the 18th minute when Wil Trapp bent in a corner kick that Gyasi Zardes headed towards goal. It appeared to be drifting just wide and was cleared off the line by a Chicago defender.
The Crew attack started to sputter and the Fire took a deserved lead in the 28th minute after a solid 10-minute spell. Przemyslaw Frankowski tracked down a ball in the left channel and swung in a cross to the top of the box. Djordje Mihailovic met the cutback cross, took a touch and finished from 20 yards out to put the home side up 1-0.
After taking the lead, the Fire continued to push their advantage and it took two excellent Joe Bendik saves to keep Columbus in the game. He parried away a Fabian Herbers shot in the 39th minute and punched a CJ Sapong shot away minutes later to keep the Crew in the game and only down 1-0 at halftime.
The Black & Gold started the second half better than the first, getting a goal within two minutes of kickoff. Sosa sloughed off a foul and took the referee’s advantage to drive into the attacking third. He sent a direct ball into the box to Luis Argudo on the left. The winger pushed into the penalty box and sent the ball across goal. Zardes finished off the move with a strong run and a sliding shot to tie the score at a goal a piece in the 47th minute.
Chicago responded, methodically holding onto the ball and pushing the Crew defense deeper into their own end. The result was a couple of great chances and a Fire lead.
Nicolas Gaitan attempted an athletic overhead kick in the 62nd minute from 15 yards out. The shot beat Bendik but rang the post. The Fire collected the rebound and continued to push. Herbers sent in the secon ball to Gaitan who looked for Sapong, but was unable to connect. The Crew weren’t able to clear the blocked pass and Sapong finished as Bendik was wrong footed.
With the lead, the Fire dropped men behind the ball and allowed the Crew possession. Columbus tried to add offense, bringing on Designated Player Luis Diaz and Romario Williams for their club debuts, but faced a stout Chicago defense.
Diaz nearly forced an own goal in the 74th minute with a cross that wrong footed a Bastian Schweinsteiger interception and was cleared inches from the line. But it was the Fire that had the best chances in the closing minutes before stoppage time, firing four shots at the Crew goal, only one testing Bendik.
With Chicago pushing but failing to close out the game, the Crew were able to counter quickly, push in transition and find a tying goal. Jimenez collected the ball deep in the left corner and in a space of 10 seconds Trapp, Argudo and Diaz linked the length of the field leaving the new DP in space on the right. He drilled an early cross and found the head of the newly acquired Williams who powered a header home to tie the game in the 90th minute and complete the second comeback of the evening.
The Crew closed out the remaining five minutes of stoppage time as the Fire pushed for an equalizer, peppering Columbus with four more shots before time was called.
25 minutes of Diaz
The Crew’s new key acquisition came on in the 65th minute and nearly made an instant impact almost creating an own goal. He made a lasting impact on the scoreline with his assist on the game-tying goal. Diaz didn’t find the ball much during his 25 minutes on the field but made his moments count. He showed off some explosive speed and a desire to take on defenders one on one. Plus that cross. He shows signs of being a difference maker on offense on a team that is desperate for one.
The Crew were a dismal 1-8-0 on the road this season. The team’s only points came in the 2-0 win against New England on March 9, match day 2. Columbus proceeded to lose eight straight road games before coming back to tie the Fire. The Black & Gold’ four away points is still 22nd worst in the league, better than Chicago and Houston’s three.
The Crew move to 5-14-3 on the season to stay out of the basement of the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of FC Cincinnati. They have a short turnaround as they host the Montreal Impact on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium. The game kicks off at 7:30 pm.