Justin Mapp ran circles around the Crew defense at times Saturday night.
Brian Kersey/MLS/WireImage.com

Mapp, Fire capitalize on mistakes

Led by an outstanding performance by Justin Mapp, the Chicago Fire were victorious against the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening at Columbus Crew Stadium. Mapp not only scored the opening goal of the match, but also hounded the Crew defenders the entire night by continually beating them with creative dribbling and pace.

"The things that you saw are what he is capable of. I thought he had an excellent game tonight and not only with the ball," said Chicago coach Dave Sarachan. "He gave us the extra effort without the ball, which is never easy for an attacking player. Over 90 minutes, he was very good tonight."

The Crew also noticed the dazzling display put on by Mapp.

"Mapp is playing very well. We saw that again tonight. He has a lot of confidence and running all over the place," said Crew 'keeper Jon Busch. "He has a free role. He created some problems for us. Some of the problems were also self-inflicted wounds. We are still giving the ball up in bad positions."

The Fire's attack was helped by turnovers by the Crew's midfield and defense. The most costly was by Robin Fraser in the 69th minute. Jim Curtin pressed Fraser into a turnover and Chris Rolfe made no mistake with the gift as he successfully finished one-on-one against Jon Busch.

Crew coach Greg Andrulis doesn't think that one mistake by Robin Fraser is sign that he should re-examine his trust in his captain.

"It is unfortunate that he got exposed like that," said Andrulis. "He'll have better days. Robin will do 99 percent good things."

The Fire play with three forwards and it looked like their formation caused trouble for the Crew.

"They basically play with three high with Mapp going all over the place. Obviously, we scouted them and know that is how they play," said Busch. "We have to play with more organization and communication."

The Crew goalkeeper was not happy with his side's form over the first half.

"It was about intensity, heart and desire. We got played up in our own park for the first 45 minutes," said Busch. "You have to set the tone when you are at home. It is unacceptable that someone came into our house and ran us ragged for 45 minutes."

The poor first half led Andrulis to change the team for the second half. Cornell Glen came in to play the left flank, which moved Danny Szetela into the center midfield. Chris Wingert moved from defensive midfield to right back in place of Mark Schulte.

"We felt that we needed to get some pace out there and try to get something going offensively. We thought it was a little stagnant again," explained Andrulis. "We weren't getting the ball forward fast enough. Putting a guy like Cornell with that kind of pace out there in a wide position, we thought we had a good matchup against Logan Pause."

The moves didn't pay off as the Crew were unable to find the back of the net in the second half. Andrulis think the problems is related to their attacking mentality.

"We are not taking advantage of the transition that happens in the midfield. The ball has to get forward quicker," said Andrulis. "We are going square and back. We need to be going forward."

Columbus hopes it can recover from this loss in the same way that Chicago did tonight following a tough loss against New England on Wednesday.

"We were not happy after Wednesday night. The best thing about the game was that we didn't have a week to stew about it," said Sarachan. "We have a group that is extremely competitive and proud. We wanted to come in here and play the way we felt we were capable of playing. Tonight was a pretty good example."

The example was led by Mapp, who the Crew were never able to manage defensively. "When you allow a guy like Justin Mapp that much time and space to turn and run at you, then you are just asking for trouble," said Andrulis. "He is too good."

Busch saw first hand exactly what Mapp is capable of. On his goal, Mapp dribbled to his left, but cut his shot back to the right post leaving Busch helpless.

"He came across and actually put it between someone's legs back across my body," said Busch. "He hit it back across my body and hit it well. Most of the times, those end up being dribblers because they are back across the shooter's body."

Said Sarachan: "He showed us the qualities that we have known about Justin. Tonight was a little bit of a coming out party for him."

John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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