Many signs earlier Wednesday signaled a repeat of last week’s ‘Poseidon Adventure’ and storm-shortened U.S. Open Cup victory. The last thing Fire fans wanted was another storm-delayed match, least of all a repeat of last year’s Open Cup match against the Crew that was postponed a whole day. The only thing desired was another victory and a date in the Cup quarterfinals. Little did Fire fans know that another late night was needed to decide this match - but in thrilling fashion, as Chicago needed 30 extra minutes to dispatch Columbus, 4-2.
No changes in the Fire line-up from last week. In the usual 4-4-2, the captain armband switched from Logan Pause to Jeff ‘Big Red’ Larentowicz. To some, a surprise move keeping Pause in the starting 11 after a marginal performance against weaker opposition in last Wednesday’s victory over Pittsburgh. Many eyes would center on his performance and if/when he would be replaced by positional counterpart Alex, who had just recovered from injury.
Entering the week, the Crew found themselves with a line-up conundrum. Depleted by injury and international call-ups, Columbus made five changes from their starting 11 from last week against Indianapolis. Jairo Arrieta, scorer of the winning goal last week, found himself on a bench with only three other teammates, including regular starters Michael Parkhurst and Wil Trapp. Excluded from the game-day 15 were names familiar to most Fire fans (for good or bad): designated player and midfield maestro Federico Higuain, former Fire player Daniel Palidini, and Dominic ‘Pizza’ Oduro, who was rather quietly traded to Toronto FC earlier in the month. First-year coach Gregg Berhalter clearly had eyes toward the weekend home match against FC Dallas with his selection.
On a chillier and drier evening than last week, the Fire kicked off against the Yellow team. The first 30 minutes proved nothing exciting. Chicago held the majority of possession, but early forays down the right side could not break the Columbus defense, who were stacking players in that direction to match the Fire's lopsided shape. Offensive duties fell to Greg Cochrane, who was given ample space down the left. Targeting Jeff and Quincy Amarikwa, Cochrane’s crosses were off by just enough. Columbus, featuring a makeshift side, lacked an organizational presence to counter on Fire missed chances. More noticeable in midfield was Logan Pause. The ‘Sliver Fox,’ seemingly haven shaken off the rust of last week, was up to task in holding possession and switching field to continue the attacking flow. Overall, the most improved player of the evening.
Even with the bulk of possession and four corner kicks, few chances were clear-cut for the Fire until late in the first half. A Columbus foul on Watson lead to free kick right in front of the Chicago bench. Usual free-kick maestro Harrison Shipp stood in front of ball with Fire players crowding the box. The Shipp ball played in found a lunging Patrick Ianni, with just enough of an off-balance glancing header to surpass Steve Clark in goal. 1-0 Chicago in the 34th minute.
The goal advantage reinvigorated a quiet Ward, who influenced the Fire attack for the remaining first half. A solo run down the left nearly connected with a sliding Magee in the 38th minute while a blocked cross to Magee was the last action of the 45. The usually vocal Magee was silenced by physical Columbus defenders - the Crew played a 5-3-2, outnumbering the Fire attacking line - and contributed little. With that, Chicago took a 1-0 lead into half time.
Looking to introduce some offense, Columbus introduced striker Jairo Arrieta starting the second half. The Costa Rica international and regular starter proved to be every bit of a spark that Columbus needed. An exchange between Hector Jimenez and Ben Speas found Arieta alone in front of Sean Johnson in the 47th minute, but the shot was pulled wide of the nearly-open net. With more balanced possession by both teams, Columbus favored pressuring Greg Cochran and Chicago’s left flank.
Eventually, the pressure got to Chicago. Attempting to clear the ball, Pause slid into a Columbus player and earned a rather unusual yellow card after catching all ball on his initial challenge. The resulting free kick was kept in play by defender Ben Sweat and fell to a well-timed bicycle kick by Arrieta for the first Columbus goal. 1-1 in the 55th minute.
The newly invigorated Columbus side forced the hand of Frank Yallop in making the evening’s first substitution. John Kennedy Hurtado replaced Baky Soumare in the 59th minute. Soumare left the game having made no true defensive errors.
Attempts by Quincy Amarikwa to spark the Fire offence proved ineffective as Columbus controlled the Fire half of field. On their second corner of the second half, a bad clearance by Cochrane was collected by Columbus midfielder Bernardo Anor and slotted into net while surrounded by three Fire defenders. Columbus had a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute.
Substitutions immediately after changed the tactics of both teams. Attempting to see the match out, Columbus introduced defender Michael Parkhurst for midfielder Jimenez and Wil Trapp for Tony Tchani. Chicago countered by withdrawing Pause for Alex.
Still, Columbus was stretching the Chicago players and dictating play. Sean Johnson was called into action by making saves on excelling Columbus rookie Sweat and seeing his box rattled by more corners. Mike Magee island was becoming rather lonely as he showed obvious surprise at his fellow teammates. However, Magee’s influence that evening would come to an early end as his injured ankle forced a substitution for Juan Luis Anangono in the 77th minute.
With many fearing the worst by taking off our star player, results would prove the move well-made. Starting to influence the run of play, Alex maintained Fire possession and found Ward who was soon involved in a rather unusual collision with Sweat. With both players down, Watson collected the unoccupied ball as the referee looked on and issued a simple, unchallenged, cross headed home by Anangono. Just like that, Chicago had found their 2-2 equalizer in the 83rd minute.
Balanced play concluded the 90 minutes of regular time, but extra time was needed to decide the advancing victor.
This time, it was all Chicago from the very beginning. Two minutes was all the time needed to see Chicago take the lead for good on a Quincy header. The ping-ponging ball was introduced to the Columbus box by Cochrane, wisely redirected by an awkwardly placed Anangono to Shipp, who centered the ball to Quincy. Knowing that the first goal of the overtime would nearly win it, the Chicago faithful went wild in celebration. Section 8, having locked ranks forming a bright red square, were dancing in the Harlem End. 3-2 Chicago in the 92nd minute.
Still, everyone knew the Crew could still be threatening, at least until a red card effectively eliminated their chances. The usually steady Parkhurst boldly kicked the back of Shipp's heels right in front of the Chicago bench. The red card was an easy choice for referee Robert Sibiga after only seven minutes of overtime. The ejection followed a minor altercation between Shipp and Parkhurst, but seemingly inconsequential enough to provoke the eventual sudden outburst.
Columbus was done for the night. With the Chicago defense crowding goal scorers Arietta and Anor, the Columbus midfield easily parted for a long solo run by Alex, who crossed and found Anangono for the fourth goal of the night. 4-2 Chicago in the 109th minute.
Taking immense joy in seeing a rival defeated, chants of ‘One more Fire, one more!’ still rang until the very end. No more goals were needed and none more earned as Chicago properly closed out the match until the final whistle blew. As is tradition, the Yellow team left losers from Toyota Park.
Continuing the ‘Quest for the Cup,’ the Fire will travel to Atlanta on July 9th to face the Silverbacks of the NASL.
Man of the match Anangono placed the team above all in his on field performance. "I don’t feel that there is one hero. There are 11 players on the field and 7 on the bench. The hero of the night is the team," Anangono summarized to the media via interpreter. "I worked hard. The team worked hard to earn all three goals." Having displayed a good partnership with Quincy, Anangono was general in his approach to that pairing: "I feel that we all have the characteristics to play whenever we need to. We need to be ready to play." Overall, he credited his mental and physical preparation for his readiness in entering the match late.
Overall, the Fire labored in a match against a disjointed Columbus side with eyes to a home game this weekend. The Fire starting 11 for the remaining season might have been previewed in the overtime period, featuring rejuvenated Anangono and recovering Alex. The long term goals of league and cup success will be jeopardized by ongoing injury problems to Magee.
For now, another week of rest awaits players before their next league match. A two-match winning streak might be the spark the Fire need, in the same way Anangono sparked a victory over rival Columbus. Chicago returns to league play July 2, when the Fire host Toronto.