Apr 7, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic (23) reacts after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew in the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Fire won for the first time in 2018 with a 1-0 victory against the visiting Columbus Crew. Columbus dominated the run of play, but couldn’t finish while the Fire scored on their only shot on target.
Here are three things we learned from the match:
Fire’s new faces provided a difference, but not much
Three players made their first starts of the season for the Fire: Alan Gordon, Diego Campos and Drew Conner.
Gordon, a free agent signing late in the preseason, started up top with Nemanja Nikolic. The 36-year-old nearly had an assist when he stole the ball from Columbus defender Josh Williams near the penalty box, but his pass to set up Nikolic was intercepted. Otherwise, Gordon wasn’t much of a factor in 77 minutes.
Conner has worked his way back into the lineup after appearing far down the depth chart in the preseason. He started at wing back in the Fire’s 3-5-2 formation and then moved to right back in a four-man back line before the first half ended.
Campos came off the bench last week against Portland and made his first career start against Columbus. He had some opportunities to create from set pieces and was active, but made some mistakes in his 71 minute stint.
Coach Veljko Paunovic clearly felt the need for change after a winless March and these three players were the beneficiaries. Individually none of them stood out, but the result was better.
Better result, but same story
Despite getting the first win of the season, and the first shutout to go with it, the overall performance wasn’t a pretty one. Sloppy passes and a number of technical mistakes that led to turnovers were prevalent.
On another day Columbus probably finishes more of its chances, or certainly at least one to earn a draw, but that didn’t happen. Artur failed to convert a breakaway, Gyasi Zardes didn’t finish off a couple good chances in the first half and later slammed an open shot off the bar and Mohammed Abu smashed a long-distance strike off the post in the 77th minute.
Columbus controlled the midfield, created chances and limited the Fire’s opportunities. Sometimes that isn’t enough.
Style points don’t matter, but that wasn’t pretty
It was clear that Columbus outplayed the Fire in every aspect but the score. In reality though, neither team had a complete performance.
There were a combined three shots on target, not counting the Crew hitting the goal frame twice, and all three of those came in the first half. The Fire’s only shot on target came as a result of an intercepted pass from Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen that Nikolic intercepted and finished off. It’s also somewhat difficult to give Columbus a ton of credit when it couldn’t score despite having 20 shots.
This wasn’t one for the archives.