Offense couldn't bail them out in this one.
The Fire were shut out for the first time this season but continued to give up acres of space, uncontested time on the ball, and play generally sloppy defensively. With Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko missing the offensive display was lethargic, wasteful, and without urgency but that wasn't the most disconcerting aspect of the evening. The back line was picked apart again as Columbus scored two easy first half goals and they probably should have had more.
The second half was just slightly better than the first with the visitors getting a few half chance looks on goal and nothing was conceded to worsen the score line, but there was no sense of urgency as the match wound down and the scoreboard showed them trailing by two. The Crew did a fine job of attacking the Fire where they are the most vulnerable. On the left and up the middle of the defense. Before the match, much was made of denying Federico Higuain time and space for which to operate in and that's exactly what he got. Higuain found Ethan Finlay from the center of the pitch to beat Greg Cochrane and circle around an over committed Sean Johnson.
The second score was even easier.
The Fire had some important pieces missing but so did Columbus. A thoroughly disappointing result has yielded even more of the same questions. Except this time those queries come without an offensive output serving as a deodorant for defensive ineptitude.
GK Sean Johnson (5) - A few saves late and he possibly could have done better with the two goals but once again it's hard to blame the goalkeeper when attackers are running free with uncontested looks.
D Greg Cochrane (4) - He's absolutely been torched over the last month and teams have figured out that the Fire can be beaten on the left and continue to hammer the second year defender. Finlay got behind him for the first goal and he did continued to do so after the score. If Gonzalo Segares is remotely close to fit, he must be inserted into the line up immediately. Cochrane excelled in helping offensively and even played well enough defensively in the early going this season to warrant continued starts even if Segares was healthy, but those days are over.
D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (5) - Better than the other three in the back but that's not saying much. Two consecutive clearances of dangerous balls in the 7th minute were probably the highlights.
D Patrick Ianni (4) - Making nobody forget about Bakary Soumare anytime soon, Ianni was responsible for the second goal when he was outworked by Arrieta and fell down allowing the attacker to turn and face Johnson's goal 1v1. Wholly unimpressive.
D Steven Kinney (5) - His first regular season match in over a year. Contributed some in combination in the first half. Didn't have too much trouble on the right as Columbus was busy burning the left side.
M Jeff Larentowicz (4) - The back line has taken much of the brunt for the defensive issues (deservedly so) but the Fire continued to be bossed in the middle of the pitch and teams constantly find too much time and comfort in controlling possession. As captain and the man playing the "destroyer" role in midfield, Larentowicz has to face some of the heat for this one. Higuain was his mark on the first goal. Getting beat by the Argentine isn't uncommon but there is no pressure coming from the center of the pitch in just about every single game.
M Benji Joya (4) - See above. The central midfielders are allowing teams to ping the ball around unmolested. Joya typically has provided something offensively to make up for his lack of defensive skill but there wasn't any of that in this game. He was subbed out at the half.
M Dilly Duka (4) - Started out decently enough with a few decent combination sequences and a couple of shots on goal but the second half was peppered with bad passing decisions and forced shot attempts. Subbed out in the 61st.
M Harry Shipp (5) - Tried to get things moving for a spell in the second half with a good move to find space in the 55th. Free kicks and service weren't quite as good as they have been in the past but still better than most of his teammates.
F Juan Luis Anangono (4) - Hit the post in the 27th minute in the Fire's best chance of the game. That was it. The rest of the match was a cavalcade of unfinished or late runs and disappearance.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - Forced his way into a few opportunities, such as causing Clark's botched clearance in the 18th, and taking the ball from Gehrig in the 76th to get himself a shot on goal. Earning a reputation as a diver.
M Logan Pause (5) -With the Fire trailing 2-0 a move to bring in Pause seemed a bit odd. The team was somewhat more effective in the middle defensively with the veteran on the pitch but there is no hope of creating chances from the run of play with a Pause for Joya switch.
M Grant Ward (6) - Probably the highlight of the night was the performance of 19 year old midfielder Ward. He entered in the 61st for Duka and provided some spark. Several good crosses and lead passes resulted in the most promising moments of the second half.
At home versus the Los Angeles Galaxy next Sunday.
Fire Confidential Live
We'll discuss the match on RadioVive Sunday morning at 10am. Guests will include Crew television color man Chris Doran and the Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz.
Also on the agenda - a Galaxy preview, which means Landon Donovan talk, and the UCL final.