Crew extend unbeaten streak
Josh Williams of the Columbus Crew slides in to kick the ball away from Federico Puppo
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The surging Columbus Crew jumped out to a quick lead behind first-half goals from Eddie Gaven and Emilio Rentería and made it stand for a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday before an intense crowd at Crew Stadium.
The Crew (5-4-3, 18 points) pulled even in the Eastern Conference standings with the Fire (5-4-3, 18) by winning their second straight match and extending their unbeaten run to five straight.
Gaven scored in the ninth minute and Rentería followed in the 43rd for the halftime lead with both tallies coming in the south end in front of more than 600 Fire fans.
The Fire allowed the opening goal for the ninth time this season when Gaven wheeled after a pass from Shaun Francis, dribbled to the upper left corner of the penalty are and placed a shot under the legs of defender Jalil Anibaba and past Chicago ‘keeper Sean Johnson.
Shortly before halftime, Rentería scored his second goal of the season and second in as many games after receiving Gaven’s pass into the goal box. The big Venezuelan threw defender Berry off his shoulder, turned and buried the ball past Johnson.
His score came less than a minute after Patrick Nyarko almost made it 1-1 after accepting a back pass from Crew defender Shaun Francis to create a breakaway. Nyarko fired from 18 yards but closing goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum pushed the try away.
Then it was Crew midfielder Dilly Duka’s turn to shine. He cranked a shot off the crossbar in the 53rd minute and had a crafty service into the center of the box only to see Tony Tchani poorly finish a header.
Chicago defender Austin Berry pulled one back in the 72nd minute with a powerful header from about eight yards off a cross from second-half substitute Daniel Paladini, but the Crew held from there.
Columbus now get a break from MLS play until June 16, when they travel to New England, while Chicago are off until June 16, when they also travel to face the Revolution.
Both teams are in action again on May 29 in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Columbus host the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL PRO which Chicago travel to face the Michigan Bucks of the PDL.
If both MLS teams win, the Fire would host the Crew on June 5 at Toyota Park.