There's no question that the Fire needed this win at home after starting the season with the same amount of points after four games as last year. After a good first half, there was some retreat in the second while Columbus controlled most of the ball and the chances, but the Fire held on where they likely would not have in years past.
Home wins against conference competition are imperative to playoff hopes, especially with favorable early scheduling about to turn following another match at Toyota Park against New England. The Fire will travel to Los Angeles, New York RB, and Toronto FC after facing the Revolution next weekend.
These were three important early-season points. They needed them....and they got them.
GK Jorge Bava (6) - Save for a few errors in distribution, Bava displayed a much better presence in the box on aerial balls than he has in the first four games of the year. A 70th minute save to deny Hansen from an angle was his best stop of the three made in the game.
D Johan Kappelhof (6) - Did well to team with Meira in limiting looks for Kamara. Also provided help on the right against Meram.
D Joao Meira (6) - There was no standout defender but Chicago picked up a hard earned "team" clean sheet. Had a very good stop in the 82nd to halt a Crew chance from the right side.
D Jonathan Campbell (5.5) - Kamara's best chance came against Campbell in the 12th but the shot was saved easily by Bava. Replaced in the second half as Paunovic looked to regain possession of the ball.
D/M - Michael Harrington (5) - Harrington chipped in offensively in the first half but did have issues against Meram, fortunately the Fire managed to provide help coverage for him to limit the damage. Paunovic did well to get him assistance and limit opportunities for Columbus to expose him.
M Dax McCarty (7.5) - An impressive 61 out of 76 passing with several chances created outside of the lone goal. 12 defensive recoveries is also an unusually big haul. Provided the assist on the Fire's goal....McCarty was the biggest reason for the victory in this game. Dominant in the first half.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (6.5) - Wasn't as influential offensively as he was in his debut but his presence allowed McCarty free reign to confidently boss midfield in the first half. The Fire struggled to keep possession in the second half, however. His well struck free kick from 20 yards out in the 76th forced Steffen into a big save.
D/M - Brandon Vincent (6) - Some good work on the ball in the first half and early in the second in particular. Decent performance in match-up defensively with Finlay, although there were a couple of lapses.
F Michael de Leeuw (6) - Very good two way work for the entire match. Played wide right in a 3-4-3 early in the match as the Fire looked to deny the Crew's wide game. Moved closer to goal in the second half as the team shifted to 4-2-3-1. Didn't have many looks offensively, but his all-around work should be appreciated.
F Nemanja Nikolic (6) - His best all-around game in a Fire shirt. Scored the goal in the 22nd and attempted five shots all together, with three on frame. Headed a cross from Vincent in the 14th that pushed Steffen into a save. This could be a sign that he's getting comfortable.
F/M David Accam (5) - Touch just a bit off for most of the match. Forced a save in the 28th that led to a corner kick.
M Drew Conner (6) - Replaced Campbell in the 55th as Paunovic looked for a tactical change to turn the possession back in Chicago's favor. Sat back with McCarty in an effort to push Schweinsteiger higher, but got forward a few times on his own. Forced a foul just outside the penalty area in the 75th and had at least two other instances where he created a chance.
M Daniel Johnson (6.5) - Subbed in for Accam in the 73rd. Accepted a pass from Nikolic in the 81st that almost resulted in the Fire's second goal but Steffen got a piece of his chip attempt and the ball was cleared just before it got to the goal line. Active in the 85th and provided a threat in the game that was missing.