This time the shoe is on the other foot.
It was the Columbus Crew's turn to collapse under late game pressure and surrender a two goal lead. In similar fashion to the Fire's demoralizing late-game stumble last weekend a stoppage time goal left the equalizing team with a bit of a false sense of accomplishment. Khiry Shelton's 91st minute strike will do no more to solve the problems in New York than Jason Johnson's header will do to find answers for the issues still at hand in Chicago. The mad scramble to overcome almost sixty minutes of more poor finishing and shaky team defensive work was certainly entertaining but hardly the picture of a team that has figured it all out yet.
On the positive side, the Fire continue to show that they are capable of creating plenty of scoring chances even when the opposition controls the bulk of possession. Finishing those chances and limiting the almost comprehensive team break downs that lead to goals has been, and will likely continue to be two major issues that Frank Yallop and the technical staff will need to resolve in order to provide any real answers to the questions that remain painfully evident. Johnson's stoppage time goal doesn't signify that they've suddenly found the answer at forward. In similar fashion to the New York game, no one individual mistake led to the first Columbus goal but rather a series of missteps giving talented Crew attackers Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay room in which to work is indicative of team still learning how to play defensively as a unit.
"Any time you can come back in a game like this is huge, against a very good team too. So, you got something out of the game and you come back, and I think the boys are really happy. I felt we, to be honest, we could’ve won it. We had the chances I thought late, but Columbus had a few as well so it was a pretty even game," said Frank Yallop after the match. Yallop threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the home team after going down to a two-goal deficit in the 55th minute. A bit of a fortuitous deflection from a cross led to the first Fire goal and pressing higher with attacker after attacker finally found the equalizer but Columbus did their part by playing a bit tentatively once the lead was cut in half.
"We pressed a little bit higher (in the second half)," said Yallop. "I thought we did a really good job of denying [Federico] Higuain space in the first half. As soon as you go down, you got to push on them and then he really starts to come into the game a little bit. So it was kind of cat-and-mouse, and I thought we did a good job defensively on him, and the whole team actually, Columbus, I thought. They didn’t have that many chances in the first half. But then the game opens up at two-nil and then he starts to come into it. So what I liked about us, we kept going, we got the goal in the end that we deserved and that was a big moment for us."
Credit the Fire for fighting back to equalize but a true statement would have been made by going into Columbus and beating them. A mad scramble to come back from two goals down may be fun to watch but all of the real questions still remain. Are we any closer after ten games, to really knowing where this team will be come October?
GK Jon Busch (5.5) - Two saves and goals allowed. The numbers aren't great and outside of the two goals, the Crew only managed nine total shot attempts. The Fire had 19.
D Joevin Jones (5) - Part of the team breakdown in the 8th minute which led to Kamara's first goal. Finlay did the work on his side after being sprung by Meram. Wasn't as active as he usually is in supporting the attack.
D Adailton (5) - For the second straight week the Fire backline was picked apart by a direct attack straight up the middle drawing Adailton up and out of the play. A yellow card in a dangerous area in the 72nd against Finlay gave the Crew a good look on a free kick attempt. There were issues in back but they also did limit Higuain's chances.
D Jeff Larentowicz (4.5) - Caught away from the play on the first goal and probably most directly responsible for the second goal by losing his mark on Kamara. His reaction immediately afterwards indicated that he was well aware of the mistake.
D Eric Gehrig (5) - The Crew gave their former teammate way too much time at the end of the match and he was able to tee up a cross that found Johnson for the tying goal. Before that he wasn't exactly sharp on the either side of the ball, losing Kamara on the first goal and providing little getting forward. Did have one shot attempt in the 80th that sailed high.
M Matt Polster (5) - Played better than he did in the last match but overcommitted on Meram (similar to his missed tackle on Villa) which led directly to the first Crew score. Passing was improved but not quite as sharp as he has been in previous games.
M Razvan Cocis (5) - His field game was much improved on the NYCFC performance. He didn't score a goal this time but he was involved and at least trying to get forward during a first half which was mostly uneventful for Chicago.
M Harry Shipp (5.5) - Seems to have trailed off in the last few weeks as teams try to limit the space he has on and off the ball. As he works around the adjustment, he hasn't been able to find that groove he had earlier this season. He'll still deliver good balls but the frequency has been less.
M David Accam (6) - Not as dominant as he can be, but still effective. Forced a difficult save in the 27th with a volleyed shot from the top of the box. Served in a perfect pass to Amarikwa in the 77th that should have at least been on goal. Scored the tying goal on what he called the first headed goal in his career in the 58th.
F Shaun Maloney (5) - This seems to be a constant theme in the ratings, but the Fire need more from Maloney than just okay workmanlike performances. He does play well in combination and does help on the other end but he has yet to exert himself offensively like one would have expected.
F Kennedy Igboananike (5.5) - His assist may have been a bit "lucky" as his cross in the 58th was deflected to Accam in front of goal but he did provide some spark in the second half, even if he didn't score. Just missed a goal in the 79th as his shot rolled wide.
F Jason Johnson (6) - Came into the match for Shipp in the 67th and did well to make himself available, aggressively looking to make something happen in the final third. The activity hadn't resulted in much until the final perfectly placed header in the 94th minute.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - The usually mix of badly taken shots, errant passes, and missed chances like the one in the 77th were all there but he almost provided the tying goal himself when he hit the post in the 91st minute. Replaced Cocis in the 71st.
M Guly do Prado (5) - Entered the match for Igboananike in the 83rd. Appeared to spend most of that time as a deep midfielder on the left side.
A return home next Saturday to host Frank Klopas and the Montreal Impact.
Will Mike Magee be in the 18?