Despite outshooting the Chicago Fire 21-8, the Crew were unable to best a 10-man Chicago side in Saturday night's 2-1 defeat in Bridgeview. Here are three main talking points from the loss:
1. CONFIDENT TCHANI
Midfielder Tony Tchani scored his first goal as a member of the Black & Gold to bring the scoreline to 2-1 in the 36th minute. The third-year player had struggled offensively this season, but his strike seemed to spring some confidence in himself to be more involved in the attack in search of the equalizer.
"After the goal, I felt like we could come back and probably score a second or probably win it," Tchani said after the game. "I guess we were just unlucky."
Part of Tchani's involvement in the final third can be attributed to the transition back to his natural position of a central attacking midfielder. Tchani has spent most of the season playing on the right side due to Dilly Duka's injury troubles.
"I feel like centrally, I feel I can make a run out wide or behind the forward. I feel free inside," Tchani explained. "In the middle it's different, if I get the ball, I've got space I can drive and slip it to my team out wide and just go in front of crosses."
As you can see on the OPTA™ Chalkboard to the right, Tchani was much more involved in the box for the Crew compared to when he played on the right wing against New England last week. He led the team with six shots, three of which were on frame.
2. DETRIMENTAL DEFENSE
Though the Fire only registered two shots on target, the Crew was not happy with its defensive performance on Saturday night.
"I think it was one of our worst defensive performances," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum admitted after the match. "I think in general we were a little bit lazy defensively. We didn't play honest, in my opinion. I don't think we were smart."
Defense had been the key for the Black & Gold in games during its six match unbeaten streak coming into Saturday's match. However, against the Fire Gruenebaum feels like the Crew created Chicago's chances for them.
"We weren't sharp with our passing, that led to a lot of turnovers in just bad areas," he explained. "They were able to take advantage of a couple chances from turnovers. To be fair, they could've had a couple more. It's on us to fix that. We created a lot of their chances."
3. WHAT'S MISSING IN THE FINAL THIRD?
The Crew was without a doubt the aggresor in the 61 minutes following Gonzalo Segares' red card, but, aside from Tony Tchani's 36th minute strike, the Black & Gold were unable to find the right combination to find the equalizer against the 10-man Fire.
"We kind of dominated without causing too much problem for them. I think our passing and possession was there in the first half, we just created one chance scored and came in at halftime thinking we could still go on and win the game," midfielder Chris Birchall explained. "It seems we had most of the possession, but we weren't doing much with it, whether it was misfiring, not being many people in the box, and stuff like that."
The Crew owned possession nearly 60 percent to Chicago's nearly 40 percent and completed 84 percent of its 495 passes. Columbus came into the match leading MLS in crosses completed. Against the Fire, the Crew managed 12 successul open play crosses out of a total of 30. So what was missing in the final third?
"It's just confidence in scoring goals, I suppose," Birchall answered when posed that very question. "It's a team effort. It's not just the strikers or the midfielders, it's everyone. Whether it's a goal on a set piece from a defender, which has helped in the past. I don't know, it was just one of them games. I don't think we played terribly bad. We didn't create many chances. We're all gonna sit down next week and think about how we can get the ball in the net."