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Late goal gives Columbus Crew a draw at slumping Chicago Fire

Romario Williams scored in the 90th minute to give the Crew a draw.

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. ⁠— If change is indeed coming to the Chicago Fire, results like Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Columbus Crew SC won’t do much to dissuade general manager Nelson Rodriguez from that viewpoint.

After Rodriguez said the team was “open for business,” the Fire gave up a 90th minute equalizer to a Columbus team that entered 1-13-1 in its last 15 MLS matches. That ended the match in a draw in front of an announced crowd of 7,482 fans.

The Fire (5-9-8, 23 points) took the lead with a Djordje Mihailovic half volley in the first half. Columbus (5-14-3, 18 points) leveled just after halftime through Gyasi Zardes. C.J. Sapong appeared to give the Fire the winner until Romario Williams headed in a tying goal in the 90th minute. The Crew recently acquired Williams from Atlanta United.

Before the match, Rodriguez fielded two questions about the status of coach Veljko Paunović. In both cases he said nothing to put into question Paunović’s job security.

“I have said previously and I’ll repeat again today: I’ll never discuss the status of a coach because there’s no answer that ends the discussion,” Rodriguez said.

Wednesday’s draw won’t stop those questions from coming. The Fire remain in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and are now six points out of a playoff spot.

“We know who we are and what’s happening to us,” Paunović said after the match. “We are aware that we have to get better, that in those moments when the game is going either way, we have to stay strong. We are aware of that and we are working hard to fix it.

“We will not stop until we make it. Eventually one day it will turn in our direction and start to go well.”

Jul 17, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Columbus Crew SC forward Gyasi Zerdes (11) goes for a header against Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof (4) during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

On the opening goal, Przemysław Frankowski delivered a cross to Mihailovic. He chested it down and drilled it in off a bounce in the 28th minute.

Zardes’ equalizer came after the Crew broke free in midfield to push forward with numbers. Eduardo Sosa charged into the final third, set up Luis Argudo out wide and Zardes was able to redirect the centering ball into the net in the 47th minute.

The Fire turned the pressure up after Columbus tied it and finally got the go-ahead goal in the 63rd minute through Sapong.

Williams headed in a cross from Luis Diaz to stun the home crowd.

It was surprising to see the Fire concede a late goal in a match they appeared to have control of. It was also a case of here we go again for a team that is 1-6-4 in the past 11 matches.

“What you said, here we go again,” Fire defender Johan Kappelhof said of his reaction to Williams’ goal. “It’s frustrating to concede a goal at the end. I think everybody put a lot of effort in the game. Then in the end we don’t get the points we deserve and that’s really frustrating.”

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