The Fire accomplished what they wanted to do defensively against the Columbus Crew. The 3-5-2 formation, which essentially places five defenders on the field was able to deny the Crew's wide players the time and space needed to serve balls into Kei Kamara and limit Federico Higuain's influence in the middle of the pitch. That part of the plan worked perfectly. Unfortunately for Chicago, David Accam's absence meant that the home team had little to offer going forward.
The Fire managed just one shot on target from four meager attempts on goal. There is clearly creative ability lacking without Accam on the field, but that's a question for another day.
In the meantime, the defensive efforts have improved steadily since the opening match against New York City FC and this was the team's best as a unit in three games. "We have to keep our clean sheet, that's what we wanted," said Veljko Paunovic after the match. "I'm very happy with what the team did today defensively. Obviously, we always want to win but it was more difficult today but also we had a great opponent."
Last season's Eastern Conference Finalists came into the match at 0-2-0 and have yet to hit their stride. It would have been a perfect time to take advantage of a home match against a rival, but the Fire aren't there yet. Particularly without Accam, the Fire seemed content to take the point and look forward to the next match against the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park on April 2.
GK Matt Lampson (6) - Credited with four saves but only Ethan Finlay's shot from distance in the 69th was any real challenge. Did well to work for the clean sheet in his third consecutive start of the season but much of the credit goes to the five defenders and midfield that worked to keep the Crew from many clean looks. Distribution was spotty.
D Joao Meira (5.5) - A few shaky moments but the team delivered as a unit.
D Jonathan Campbell (6) - Solid play from the rookie in the middle of the back line. Didn't find himself isolated against Kamara as the Fire dropped plenty of help into the penalty area.
D Johan Kappelhof (6) - Other than a dangerous back pass in the 64th, Kappelhof continues all around solid play whether from center or the right side of defense.
D/M Rodrigo Ramos (6) - The Fire's outside defenders did well to limit the effectiveness of Meram and Finlay. Continues to show promise but passing at 64% must improve.
M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) - Did well on help defense and crowding Crew attackers but there wasn't much going forward to help the strikers. Corners and set pieces were below par.
M Matt Polster (6) - High quality effort from Polster, who wore the armband again. While the Fire's team passing was at 76%, he was at 82% in a team high 93 attempts. Under control and committed to the game plan throughout. See his post game comments here.
M John Goossens (5.5) - Like Alvarez, he helped limit the Columbus wide game but wasn't a factor in the attacking half. Left the match at half time with a hamstring issue.
D/M - Brandon Vincent (6) - Still gets caught by runners in behind on occasion but also contributed to limiting Finlay's touches in dangerous spots.
F Kennedy Igboananike (5) - Put in the effort but his combination with Gilberto wasn't effective. Only 18 touches through 60 minutes won't get it done.
F Gilberto (5) - Registered the Fire's lone shot on goal. Not much he could do without the ball and no creative force behind him. He and Igboananike did provide support defense on set pieces as the Fire packed the penalty area.
M Michael Stephens (5.5) - Replaced Goossens at half time. Some decent work in combination play but not much in the attacking third. A common theme in this one.
M/F Nick LaBrocca (5) - In a blatant display of the Fire's lack of depth at the forward position, he replaced Igboananike in the 60th minute and provided little. One decent pass attempt to Ramos in the 82nd was about it.
M Joey Calistri (5) - Subbed in for Alvarez in the 90th minute as both sides played for the point.