After a less than rousing first half in which Columbus controlled most of the play and easily could have come away with more than a 1-0 half-time lead, a tactical shift reversed the course of the action and put Chicago on the front foot in the second half. A change to a 4-3-3 formation opened up the attack and provided Dax McCarty with a little more help in controlling the middle of the pitch. Veljko Paunovic's move worked well enough to come away with a well-earned point on the road to open the 2017 season and keep some positive momentum going forward.
The Fire's second half effort only yielded one goal but some of the positives going into the season were on the display, in the same manner that some of the negatives were in the first half. Getting Juninho back for the home opener will certainly help from the start against a good Real Salt Lake team this coming weekend.
The 1-1 draw in Columbus against a team that is struggling to regain identity isn't reason for celebration just yet, but it's not a bad start.
GK Jorge Bava (5.5) - Two decent saves not withstanding, Bava's distribution and ability to play with his feet, the biggest reason for his acquisition, leaves something to be desired. He also still looks shaky handling balls in the air and doesn't appear to have command of the area just yet. He was a bit flat-footed on the Crew goal but can't really be faulted for it. Quality saves came in the 3rd and 48th minutes. Lucky to not be punished for an awful giveaway in the 40th.
D Michael Harrington (4.5) - Failed to close down Meram in the 17th leading directly to the Columbus goal. In fact, failed to close down much of anything in the first half. Improved in the second and did provide occasional competent service.
D Johan Kappelhof (5.5) - The Fire defense was scrambling to cover and shut down gaps in the first half. That improved in the second. Finlay found space in between the Fire centerbacks to head in the Crew goal. Seven clearances helped but Kappelhof needs to be more prominent when the Fire defense is struggling.
D Joao Meira (5.5) - Forget the nonsensical Audi index. 9 clearances, 4 interceptions, and 4 recoveries credited helped inflate that number. Meira continues to be nothing more and nothing less than a serviceable centerback.
D Brandon Vincent (5.5) - Decent game for Vincent as Columbus' best efforts came from attacking the Fire's right side and middle in the first half. Chipped into the attack in the second half at times.
M Dax McCarty (6) - As the game wore in and the Fire's play improved via the formation change it's not coincidence that McCarty was in the middle of it. Competed 89% of his passes while the team completed theirs at a 82% clip. Those numbers are miles above where the Fire typically were last year. McCarty started the play that led to the Fire's goal and was key in controlling the change of the flow in the match.
M John Goossens (5.5) - Up and down while filling in for Juninho in the starting line-up next to McCarty, which isn't the ideal spot for him. Unsurprisingly better after the shift to 4-3-3 with a handful of impressive long connections and field changes. Just missed the mark with a long shot attempt in the 47th. Hit the pass the find Accam for the goal.
M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) - Showed briefly in attack and did manage to help occasionally on the right side when the right back was absent.
M David Accam (6) - Scored the goal to get a point for the team and continues to use his pace to create chances but he can be much more dangerous with a better grasp of playing a team game. Still prone to unnecessary give-aways that could be easily avoided.
F Michael de Leeuw (5) - Found Nikolic with a good pass after McCarty started a play forward in the 15th but didn't provide much else in the first half. Needs to be more involved than he was if he's going to fill the Fire's "playmaker" role.
F Nemanja Nikolic (5) - His high shot attempt in the 15th was the Fire's best look in the first half. Had two other shots that weren't on target but did provide some presence even if he didn't convert. Nikolic. de Leeuw, and Solignac all had attempts blocked in a wild scramble in the 83rd.
M Luis Solignac (5) - Replaced Alvarez in the 74th. Wasted a fantastic chance with an open look in the 84th when he couldn't get the ball onto his foot in time to complete a shot.
F David Arshakyan (5) -Subbed in the Nikolic in the 93rd in time to get up and down the pitch once or twice.
M Drew Connner (5) - Replaced Goossens in the 96th as the final seconds ticked away.
Shots Crew 10 Fire 12
Shots on goal Crew 4 Fire 3
Possession Crew 55 Fire 45