Wednesday was a night of streak-killing for Columbus Crew SC in Bridgeview, Illinois.
With a 1-0 win over their Midwest rivals the Chicago Fire, Columbus earned their first road win of the season, their first shutout since April and their first win at Toyota Park since 2006.
Mirroring the attitude of their head coach Gregg Berhalter, Crew SC players say they take matches day by day. But striker Kei Kamara, who netted his league-leading 13th goal of the season on Wednesday, said the team had decided their road woes would end in the first half of this week's home-and-home series against Chicago.
"It's been really tough for us on the road and we came in here determined," he said. "We knew we were going to play them here and go back home against the same team. We really said, 'It's finally time. We have to get something on the road.' And it was perfect work from everyone."
Scoring first was another departure for Crew SC, who have made a habit of allowing early goals like in Saturday's 3-0 loss to Montreal. Berhalter said he didn't know what was different Wednesday.
"We talked about the guys being disappointed with their performance against Montreal," he said. "We talked about that not being who we are; that's not our identity. The first half of this game, we wanted to make a statement about who we are."
And rather than lackluster, the first half of Crew SC's first road win of the season was dominant. If not for a stellar performance from Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson, the game might have gotten out of hand at the half.
"The first half was probably some of the best football we've played all year," said Ethan Finlay, who notched his league-leading 11th assist on Kamara's winner. "It was fantastic. It was fun to watch and it was fun to be a part of. It was great to get the goal in that half and I thought we could have gotten a few more.”
But Finlay said the squad knows that they need another victory in Sunday's rematch at MAPFRE Stadium (5 pm ET, ESPN2 in US, TSN2 in Canada) to make a move in the East.
"What's more important is where it puts us in the standings right now," he said. "There are a lot of teams bunched up right here, and Chicago is a team on the lower half of the table. We need to take advantage of those types of teams right now. We were unfortunate not to do that last week at Montreal, and we're happy with this win."