Columbus Crew SC earned its second win over the Chicago Fire in five days with a 3-1 scoreline Sunday in MAPFRE Stadium.
The match was a wild one, with three goals scored in the opening 16 minutes and multiple controversial referee decisions along the way. But it was the typical faces of Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain who made the difference for Columbus.
Crew SC tore out of the gate with a set piece on the opening kickoff that they've tried many times before. A long ball found the head of Kamara, who flicked a pass to the streaking Finlay.
Finlay's run took him into the box at full speed, where he popped the ball high over Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson's head as the 'keeper tried to cut off the pass but was late, catching Finlay's leg and sending him tumbling to the ground. Referee Chris Penso gave Crew SC a penalty kick just 13 seconds into the match, the earliest in MLS history.
After some discussion between Kamara and set piece specialist Higuaín, the Argentine put the penalty away for his 13th PK goal with Columbus, tying him with legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto for the most in team history.
But it would take Chicago only moments to respond.
A foul at the top of Crew SC's box gave David Accam a free kick from dangerous range. The Ghanaian calmly stepped up and blasted the free kick that deflected off of the Columbus wall and past Steve Clark to draw the game level at 1-1 for Accam's fifth goal of the season.
The Black & Gold weren't ready to stop their blazing start, however, and less than 10 minutes later Kamara showed why he's become one of the League's most feared scorers.
Waylon Francis chipped a cross in for the forward in the 17th minute that seemed destined to fall harmlessly to Sean Johnson. But as the ball dropped, Kamara skied over the outstretched hands of Johnson and powered a header into the net for his league-leading 14th goal of the season, pushing Columbus back into a 2-1 lead.
In the opening minutes of the second half, another call from Penso would change the game.
Jason Johnson, playing as the team's only forward, went to ground easily just inside the Crew SC box as he tried to collect a pass. Penso, however, thought that the forward went down a bit too easily, giving Johnson a yellow card for embellishment. But after earning a yellow card in the first half for a foul, the embellishment gave Johnson his second of the night, putting Chicago down a man for nearly an entire half.
Crew SC was largely content to pass the ball around and out-possess Chicago in the second half as the visitors chased the ball with a numerical disadvantage.
It was the other of Columbus's usual suspects who would put the game out of reach in the 83rd minute. Kristinn Steindorsson flicked a Chad Barson cross through the Chicago penalty box, and Finlay was there to score on a nearly empty net to clinch the victory.
The win gives Columbus (8-7-6) their first win streak since April, taking them to second in the Eastern Conference with 30 points. Chicago (5-11-3), meanwhile, remain at the bottom of the East with 18 points.
Crew SC hosts Toronto FC next Saturday, while Chicago hosts the New England Revolution.