The Fire had it all to fight for on Sunday afternoon against the Columbus Crew. First place in the East, a shot at the Supporter's Shield, home field advantage in the playoffs, you name it and the Fire had it in their grasp this afternoon at Toyota Park but in the end it all slipped away as the two sides played to a very controversial 2-2 draw.
The Fire opened the scoring in the 6th minute of play when midfielder Peter Lowry one-timed Brian McBride's back pass off of the far post and into the back of the net.
"It was just a good ball across and Brian put it in a good spot," said Lowry. "I just wanted to make a play at it and thankfully I was able to hit the far post and [put it in]."
The Fire didn't stop attacking after going ahead and they really started to control the game, creating numerous chances that culminated in Lowry scoring for a second time in the 35th minute. Lowry's second goal - which was scored in an almost identical fashion to his first - took the sides into halftime.
After the break, the Fire continued their strong play and they almost scored a third in the 50th minute, but Chris Rolfe took a little bit too long on the ball after being slipped through and he saw his shot blocked by a sliding Crew defender. Rolfe's near-goal seemed to spark the Crew though, and they didn't wait very much longer to get on the board, halving the Fire's lead in the 55th.
Reigning MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto put the Crew on the board, but it was Robbie Rogers that created the opportunity as he beat Brandon Prideaux to a loose ball, turned on the Fire defender and hit an inch perfect cross to Schelotto, who flicked it home.
"We didn't do well with that play," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett. "I think it starts with the ball out wide with Brandon and then... when the cross comes in we have Mike Banner, Logan Pause and C.J. Brown all within a foot of Schelotto and nobody really attacks the ball."
After Schelotto's goal the game slowed down a bit, but it erupted again in the 78th minute, when defender Wilman Conde was whistled for a foul on Steven Lenhart in the box, giving the Crew a penalty kick. Schelotto lined the PK up for the Crew and he smashed it right down the middle, beating Jon Busch and knotting the game at 2.
The Fire didn't just accept the penalty call though, and the team had quite a bit to say about it after the game.
"It's just very disappointing that it goes down to a play like that," said Fire goalie Jon Busch. "I guarantee when they look at it again they're going to say that it was the wrong call. It's very disappointing for the players because tonight we were all on the same page. We played very good soccer and we got done in by something that should have never done us in."
After the Crew equalized the Fire tried desperately to find a winner but were ultimately unable to. The closest they came to regaining the lead was in stoppage time but Patrick Nyarko blew his 1 v 1 chance with Hesmer, knocking a weak shot right at him.
So, that's all for the match recap, but (as always) I wanted to pose a few questions to you guys before heading out.
**1 - What did you think of the penalty call?**
For me this one is plain and simple - it was a bad call. The referee should not have given it and he likely cost the Fire a shot at first place in the East, home field in the playoffs, and the Supporter's shield with the call.
**2 - Taking away the result, what did you think about the Fire's performance?**
I thought the Fire did very well today -- especially in the first half. They looked good in possession and they were really combining well throughout. I think that the team deserved to get all three points but in the end they got victimized by a bad call and they were unable to finish one more of their many, many chances.
**3 - Who was your Fire Man of the Match?**
A lot of players on the Fire did well, but for me the player who deserves MOTM the most is Peter Lowry. Neither of his goals were easy and he did very well to put both of them away. I thought Blanco also played well but I can't give it to him since he was subbed off in the 63rd (and on that note, the Fire had no update on Blanco's condition).