The Columbus Crew tied the record for the longest unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer history, but it was a bittersweet result as Andy Herron twice equalized in the second half for a 10-man Chicago Fire as the teams battled to a 3-3 draw at Crew Stadium on Saturday night.
For the Crew, it was their 15th league match without a loss, tying the record set by the Los Angeles Galaxy over the final part of the 1997 season and the beginning of the '98 campaign. After Nate Jaqua was sent off with the Fire ahead by a goal in the first half, the Crew leveled the match just before halftime, yet twice after taking leads saw Herron score tying goals, including his second 10 minutes from the end, his fourth goal in his last two games.
The Fire lead was nearly short-lived as Jeff Cunningham broke through Fire defense, but he fired the ball into the side netting. Seconds later, Kyle Martino played a delightful through ball to Cunningham who was brought down by Jaqua who earned a yellow card, though the free kick chance was wasted.
The visitors nearly doubled their lead in the 25th minute when Kelly Gray served a wonderful ball to Jaqua, who severely tested Busch. The 'keeper was able to make a diving save, but the rebound fell directly to Ralph, who nudged the ball toward goal only for Chad Marshall to clear off the line.
The Crew were then given the numerical advantage in the 36th minute as Jaqua earned his second yellow of the match for a reckless foul from behind on Chris Wingert right in front of the Crew's bench.
Referee Kevin Terry whistled for the second penalty of the half just before the break, and the Crew equalized. Oughton ran onto a loose ball in the box after a Danny Szetela shot, and Fire defender Jim Curtin fouled the New Zealand international just as he was ready to unleash a shot. Martino stepped up to the spot and calmly pushed the ball past Fire 'keeper Henry Ring.
Columbus used the extra player to their advantage in the second half, and took the lead in the 55th minute as Oughton served the ball to Cunningham, who quickly raced past the Fire defense and chipped the ball over Ring just as the Chicago netminder went to the ground.
But it took Chicago just four minutes to find the equalizer as again the Crew had difficulty clearing the ball out of the back. Andy Herron corralled a poor clearance and curled a powerful shot into the upper corner of the net from outside the area that Busch had no chance to stop.
The Crew took the lead back in the 64th minute through an own goal from Curtin. Cunningham trapped a pass by Elliott and sent a low, driven ball in front of the goal. As Curtin ran alongside Frankie Hejduk into the goal area, he tried to clear the ball away from the Crew wingback's slide and pounded it into his own net.
But the Fire battled back to tie the game again in the 80th minute. A long free kick into the Crew area was headed on by Curtin to Scott Buete, who flicked it on to Herron in the heart of the area. He headed the ball over a defender to himself, before again finishing clinically and giving Busch no chance to save, the Fire grabbing a vital point in their bid to claim a playoff spot.
The teams play the second half of their quick home-and-home series on Wednesday night at Soldier Field (8:30 p.m. ET; HDNet). The Crew then travel to play the MetroStars on Saturday night while the Fire finish the season at New England on October 16.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Andy Herron (Chicago Fire)
Chicago Fire (8-11-9) vs. Columbus Crew (11-5-11)
October 02, 2004 -- Columbus Crew Stadium
CHI -- Damani Ralph 11 (penalty kick) 14
CLB -- Kyle Martino 5 (penalty kick) 45
CLB -- Jeff Cunningham 7 (Duncan Oughton 1) 56
CHI -- Andy Herron 3 (unassisted) 59
CLB -- own goal (Jim Curtin) 64
CHI -- Damani Ralph 12 (Jim Curtin 1, Scott Buete 2) 80
Chicago Fire -- Henry Ring, Evan Whitfield (Alexandre Boucicaut 70), Jim Curtin, C.J. Brown, Nate Jaqua, Scott Buete, Craig Capano, Jesse Marsch, Kelly Gray, Andy Herron (Dipsy Selolwane 89), Damani Ralph.
Substitutes Not Used: Denny Clanton, D.J. Countess, Orlando Perez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Damani Ralph 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Damani Ralph 3); FOULS: 17 (Jesse Marsch 5); OFFSIDES: 2 (Nate Jaqua 1, Damani Ralph 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Scott Buete 1, Craig Capano 1); SAVES: 1 (Henry Ring 1)
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Tony Sanneh, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott, Duncan Oughton, Danny Szetela (Manny Lagos 78), Chris Wingert (David Testo 59), Kyle Martino, Jeff Cunningham.
Substitutes Not Used: Nelson Akwari, Devin Barclay, Eric Denton, Matt Jordan, Brian Maisonneuve, Michael Ritch, Erick Scott.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Jeff Cunningham 3, Kyle Martino 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Kyle Martino 2); FOULS: 18 (Frankie Hejduk 4); OFFSIDES: 2 (Jeff Cunningham 1, Manny Lagos 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jeff Cunningham 3); SAVES: 2 (Jon Busch 1)
CHI -- Nate Jaqua (caution; Pushing, Holding) 15
CHI -- Evan Whitfield (caution; Reckless Foul) 26
CHI -- Nate Jaqua (caution; Professional Foul) 36
CHI -- Nate Jaqua (ejection; Second Caution) 36
CLB -- Tony Sanneh (caution; Professional Foul) 80
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: Robert Fereday; Fabio Tovar
4th Official: Andrew Chapin
Time of Game: 1:51
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial