COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Thanks to another multi-point game from Federico Higuain, the Columbus Crew found their first win since March 29 in a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Gregg Berhalter made a number of changes to his starting lineup, shifting winger Hector Jimenez to right fullback, pairing Eric Gehrig and Tyson Wahl in central defense, and giving Ethan Finlay his first start of the season wide right. Crew captain Michael Parkhurst, who returned from USMNT camp Friday, started on the bench along with usual right back Josh Williams.
Meanwhile, the Fire fielded a starting XI decimated by injuries. Alex (hamstring), Mike Magee (calf), Patrick Nyarko (knee), Lovel Palmer (illness) and Bakary Soumare (calf) were all unavailable for Frank Yallop, who started Patrick Ianni, Dilly Duka and Juan Luis Anangono.
Finlay opened the scoring early, with the Crew's quickest goal of the season coming in the 10th minute. The speedy winger received a pass from Higuain, blew past Chicago defender Greg Cochrane, touched the ball around goalkeeper Sean Johnson, and hit an off-balance shot at a tight angle just past the goalpost and in.
The goal was Finlay's second of his MLS career and second in two weeks, after he scored the Crew's third goal in their 3-3 draw in Portland.
Arrieta stretched the Crew lead to 2-0 in the 25th minute, when the Costa Rican was provided another perfect pass from Higuain. Arrieta just outpaced Ianni, who stumbled and gave Arrieta a one-on-one with Johnson. Arrieta was left with plenty of time, and was able to take a touch, square to the goal and power a shot between the 'keeper's legs.
The first half ended with the 2-0 lead intact, but only after Chicago narrowly missed two golden opportunities to snatch a goal back. First, Quincy Amarikwa beat an out-of-position Steve Clark but couldn't pull back a shot from a similar angle to Finlay's goal. Then Anangono rose to put a curling header on goal, but after arcing over Clark, the ball took an unfriendly bounce off the post, preserving the Columbus lead.
Thanks to a team full of injuries, 19-year-old Tottenham Hotspur academy product Grant Ward made his MLS debut for Chicago in the second half, replacing Duka.
And while the Crew were able to hang onto the lead through the second half, they found themselves handicapped for next weekend's trip to Toronto, after Higuain picked up his fifth yellow card on the season, earning a suspension for next week's match for accumulation.
Perhaps the best reason for the Crew Stadium faithful to cheer in the second half was the return of Parkhurst, who got a standing ovation and chant in the 87th minute when he entered the game.
Neither team could find the net in the second half, as both sides tried to tally, but neither could find a breakthrough.
The win improved the Crew to 4-4-4 on the season, while Columbus snapped Chicago's two-game win streak, dropping them to 2-3-6.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Federico Higuain||Was far and away the best player on the field, especially in the first 30 minutes, with two sublime assists|
|2||Ethan Finlay||Is making the most of his opportunities, as he scored his second career goal in as many weeks with a neat finish|
|3||Sean Johnson||Tried to keep his team in the game, and made some stops, but it wasn't enough to make a difference|