Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports
BY COLE KELLOGG
For the first time all season, the Columbus Crew came out on top on the road.
The MLS leaders in goals scored and assists linked up late in the first half as an Ethan Finlay cross was powered home by the head of Kei Kamara, proving to be the difference in a 1-0 victory for the Crew over the Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill on Wednesday evening.
The match was the first of two between these sides this week, but there was no home field advantage at play for a toothless Fire team.
The Crew controlled the match in the field half, sprinting into Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson’s territory seemingly every other minute. If it had not been for Johnson’s six saves on the night, the Crew could have really run up the scoreline on a poor Fire on the night, despite the possession numbers evening out in the second half.
The first chance of the match came for the hosts in the fifth minute, when midfielder Michael Stephens put in a low cross to Kennedy Igboananike, whose shot was deflected out for a corner. That would be the only clear cut chance for the home side in the first half.
The Crew came close in the 15th, but the Fire defenders were bailed out by Johnson. Higuain played a clever ball on the floor to the lefthand side of the pitch for Justin Meram. Meram played a one-time pass to the back post for Kamara, but Johnson came up big with the stop.
Again in the 27th minute, Johnson popped up with an important save. Higuain whipped a dangerous free kick into the penalty area, and Crew defender Chad Barson leapt high to put a header on frame.
The Crew finally hit the net in the 41st minute, with two usual suspects teaming up for the tally. Finlay blazed down the right side of the pitch with Razvan Cocis chasing after him before Finlay slowed his run and curled in a cross in for Kamara to smash home with his head at the far post.
The goal was Kamara’s league leading 13th of the season while Finlay picked up assist number 11 on the season.
After an hour of disappointing play, Frank Yallop went to his bench to bring in speedsters Patrick Nyarko, Jason Johnson, and David Accam.
Finlay could not get himself on the scoresheet despite a decent chance in the 60th minute. In a one-on-one situation with Johnson, the league’s top assist man tried to put the ball in the roof of the net but was brilliantly kept out by the goalkeeper.
Former Crew defender Eric Gehrig kicked out at Kamara just outside the box minutes later to set up a Columbus free kick. Higuain sent a cracker to the bottom right corner of the goal, but Johnson saved his side yet again.
Accam created the Fire’s first and only chance of the second half with a great hit from distance, whipping in a low ball in the 79th minute to force a save from Steve Clark.
Kamara could’ve had a brace in the 88th minute, had Johnson not been in perfect position to keep out the striker’s attempt. Kamara put a blistering header on target but the ball bounced off of Johnson and out of danger.
These rivals will face off again on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN2.