BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was equal to chance after chance as the Fire pummeled him with shots early in the second half of Saturday's contest.
But Jeff Larentowicz finally beat Gruenebaum in the 83rd minute, when he headed home a flick-on from Austin Berry to give the Chicago Fire a 1-0 win at Toyota Park.
The win was the Fire's second in three games after going winless in their first five, improving to 2-4-1 overall. Columbus almost snuck out of Chicago with their fourth tie of the season, but the Crew couldn't hang on and dropped to 2-2-3.
It was a throw-in that gave the Fire their lone breakthough of the match. Jalil Anibaba took it long into the box, and Berry’s flicked header found Larentowicz charging on from five yards out. He nodded to the right corner, his first goal for Chicago.
Until that point, it had been Gruenebaum’s day.
The Fire tallied six shots in the first 11 minutes of the second half after only registering five in the first, mustering their first legitimate chances of the game.
Patrick Nyarko found Sherjill MacDonald just inside the penalty area in the 46th minute, but MacDonald hit the shot straight to Gruenebaum. Three minutes later, MacDonald found a wide open Gonzalo Segares, but the Columbus goalkeeper was once again equal.
Nyarko had a chance two minutes later when he settled a pass, but another Fire chance was saved. Then it was Berry’s turn, as the big defender rose to head in the box, only for Gruenebaum to save spectacularly. Less than a minute later, he dove the other direction to parry a shot from Chris Rolfe wide.
It was a far cry from a dour first half, in which the only action of note was an Agustin Viana goal that was ruled offside was the only action of note.
Columbus lost their first in their last four games and finished off a grueling start to the season, in which they played five of seven games on the road. They'll host D.C. United next week in the first of a three-game homestand.
The Fire will head to Stade Saputo next week to play Montreal.