The Chicago Fire continued what seems like an inevitable march toward history on Saturday night, drawing the Columbus Crew 1-1 at Toyota Park to tie its 13th game of the season.
The result was enough for Columbus (6-7-9, 27 points) to remain in playoff position in the crowded Eastern Conference, putting the Crew in fifth place, one point ahead of the New England Revolution. Chicago (3-5-13, 22 points) remains in eighth place in the East, five points out of a playoff spot and just three draws away from matching the all-time record for ties in a season – a mark currently held by the 2010 Fire.
Leading 1-0 at the break thanks to Mike Magee’s 37th-minute penalty, the Fire was stung by the Crew’s response just 12 seconds into the second half, as Federico Higuain capitalized on some hesitant defending to slot home past Sean Johnson.
The Fire was unchanged from Wednesday’s 0-0 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps, with captain Jeff Larentowicz continuing at centerback.
The visitors made two changes from the team that topped the New England Revolution 2-1 last Saturday, with Tyson Wahl replacing Chad Barson in defense and Ben Speas starting in place of Bernardo Anor in midfield.
Magee put the hosts in front in the 37th minute, slotting his spot kick past Columbus ‘keeper Steve Clark and into the lower right corner for his sixth goal of the season. Grant Ward earned the PK for Chicago, collecting a ball in the right side of the box and flicking a cross off the arm of Wahl, who was whistled for a handball.
Higuain pulled Columbus level moments into the second half. Larentowicz missed a header in the Fire’s third and Higuain evaded a tackle from Patrick Ianni to poke home just 12 seconds into the final 45.
Johnson then produced a superb instinctive save with his left foot off a great Speas strike in the 53rd minute to maintain parity as the visitors continued to press forward.
The Fire could have snuck ahead in the 74th minute when Quincy Amarikwa broke through and released Magee on goal, but he dragged his shot narrowly wide of the right post.
Substitute Razvan Cocis had a great look at a winner in second half stoppage time, but somehow failed to put his shot on frame after Magee picked him out on the doorstep with a cross from the left wing.
Both sides will return to action next weekend, with the Crew hosting Toronto FC in Trillium Cup action next Saturday and the Fire welcoming the New York Red Bulls to Toyota Park next Sunday.