The Chicago Fire marched into town to end the season series with Columbus Crew SC on Alumni Night for the Black & Gold. The last time these two teams met, forward Romario Williams helped seal a draw in Bridgeview with a late header which saw the match end 2-2.
Not even 30 seconds into the first half, Chicago was granted a free kick that went through traffic and into the hands of goalkeeper Eloy Room.
Room made another in the 10th minute when Przemyslaw Frankowski ripped a curling shot to the far post, making the Curaçao native go full-stretch to force a Chicago corner.
Columbus had a good run in the 18th minute when Pedro Santos had a clever over-the-top pass to Luis Diaz, but the Costa Rican winger couldn’t keep the ball in play.
At the other end, Chicago nearly had a chance to take the lead. Frankowski had the ball on the wing and centered a ball into the six-yard box, but the header by Nicolas Gaitan was sent just over the cross bar.
The Black & Gold came alive for a bit during the 22nd minute, having multiple chances, but couldn’t convert. Forward Gyasi Zardes came close to a goal after Kenneth Kronholm nearly gave the ball to the forward, who decided to make a pass instead of taking a shot. Santos got into the action with a shot from just outside of the 18-yard box, but Kronholm made the save. Finally, the best chance out of the flurry of opportunities came when Luis Argudo ripped a shot inside of the penalty area, but Kronholm made the kick save giving the Crew a corner kick.
The Black & Gold finally got the breakthrough in the 27th minute. Santos took a shot from 25 yard out and found the back of the net, giving the home team a 1-0 lead.
Columbus nearly doubled its lead just minutes after the goal when Connor Maloney dug deep into his Penn State days and took a shot from far that just missed the near post.
It was after the goal by Santos that the Black & Gold started to look alive, as Chicago started to fall apart as the half went on.
Dax McCarty was whistled for a questionable foul on Harrison Afful who was airborne, going for a loose ball went he went up and over the Fire midfielder just outside of the 18-yard box. The ensuing free kick found the Fire wall and back into play.
Columbus began the second half still giving Chicago a rough time, with a free kick in a similar spot as the Fire early in the game.
Chicago nearly leveled the match in the 51st minute when Nico Gaitan sky rocketed a shot from inside the penalty area over the cross bar. Instead of taking a shot one-time, the Fire midfielder took his time, allowing for the Crew defense to take away the space for a goal.
Youness Mokhtar almost doubled the lead for the Black & Gold just seconds after replacing Diaz, dribbling the ball into the 18-yard box and taking a shot, but Kronholm held his ground to make the save, keeping the score 1-0.
Hardly ever do you see a defender attempt to chip the opposing goalkeeper from near midfield, but Harrison Afful did his best. The right back’s shot was just missed by the Ghanaian defender.
Both teams merely had limited chances during the duration of the second half. The possession based game saw Columbus have the upper hand on those created, but neither team could find the back of the net.
Eloy Room came up huge in the 83rd minute with a point-blank save that came inches from finding the back of the net. After a scrum in the penalty area, the Crew was able to eventually clear the danger, but the Fire continued knocking on the door in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Chicago continued to knock on the doorstep of Columbus in the six minutes of stoppage time that was added to the second half.
David Guzman came close to putting the icing on the cake when Santos found the Costa Rican midfielder wide open. His shot got past Kronholm but was just wide of the far post.
In late stoppage time, the Fire finally found the equalizer from Frankowski who curled his shot past Room and into the back of the net, stealing three points from the Black & Gold.
Pedro Santos is a scoring machine
The Portuguese winger has come alive this season under head coach Caleb Porter. Now sitting at 10 goals for the season, it’s clear that Santos has the knack for scoring that he didn’t have when he first arrived in Columbus. Since playing the No. 10 role after Federico Higuain underwent on the season-ending injury list, Santos has more freedom to be a playmaker and a top scorer for the Black & Gold
The Crew needs to be more ruthless
The Black & Gold have to be “mentally and physically stronger late in games” according to Caleb Porter. Columbus has done a bad job at finishing games, and being able to maintain a lead. “We have to be better in the latter stages of the game.” The killer instinct has been there for quite sometime, but now they need to grind harder, especially in times like this where they hold only a one-goal lead.
Columbus travel down south to take on Atlanta United. This meeting will be the first time Justin Meram faces the Crew on the opposition side this season. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sept. 14.