Columbus Crew SC midfielder Niko Hansen buried his first goal of the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season to salvage a key road point as the Black & Gold drew the Chicago Fire 1-1 on Thursday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
The opening half stayed nil-nil despite a pair of solid chances from Crew SC (11-8-7), including a near-tally in the opening minutes from Gyasi Zardes, who found himself unsuspectingly open in front of goal thanks to a wayward deflection, but the striker could not convert.
Midfielder Pedro Santos connected on a solid hit from distance in the 26th minute, but a diving save from the Fire's Stefan Cleveland kept the scoreline level.
Perhaps Columbus' closest attempt in the first half came in the 36th minute on a set-piece header from Ricardo Clark, but again, Cleveland got low quickly to deny a game-opening tally.
Columbus outshot Chicago 7-4 in the opening 45 minutes, including a 2-0 advantage in shots on target.
In the second half, Nemanja Nikolic capitalized on a defensive miscue in the 67th minute to put the Fire (6-15-6) up 1-0.
Looking for an equalizer in the final 20 minutes, Crew SC upped the tempo and the pressure. Hansen, who came on for Clark in the 57th minute, found himself on the end of a saved shot from Patrick Mullins as the youngster calmly tucked the equalizer in the far post.
On the game, Crew SC outshot Chicago 12-11, including 6-3 in shots on target, while maintaining a 54 percent possession advantage. The Black & Gold earned their 40th point of the season, eight behind third-place New York City FC and seven ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia.
Up next, Crew SC returns to MAPFRE Stadium to host New York City FC (14-6-6, 48 pts.) on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. ET as part of Craft Beer Night.
- Justin Meram made his first regular-season start for Crew SC since returning to the club in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Prior to tonight, his last regular-season start for the Black & Gold came in a road contest against New York City FC on October 10, 2017. Tonight, he made 33 touches and 26 passes. This season, Meram has made three regular-season appearances for Crew SC, and he has made 191 MLS regular-season appearances (134 starts), registering 38 goals and 36 assists for the Black & Gold since making is MLS debut in 2011.
- Josh Williams made his 125th MLS regular-season start (140th appearance) in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Tonight, he took 88 touches, made two tackles and attempted 76 passes at a team-high 96.1% clip. This season, Williams has made 15 regular-season appearances (13 starts). Since making his MLS debut in 2012, Williams has appeared in 108 regular-season matches (97 starts) for Crew SC, scoring seven goals and providing four assists in Black & Gold.
- Niko Hansen scored a goal in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. The goal came in the 87th minute as the midfielder fired a deflection past the Fire’s goalkeeper to tie the game at 1-1. Hansen has made 15 regular-season appearances (eight starts) for Crew SC this season, providing two assists in addition to his first goal. He joined the Black & Gold in 2017 and has made 29 MLS regular-season appearances (11 starts), registering two goals and four assists.
- Midfielder Pedro Santos had the most scoring chances created in tonight’s match for both Crew SC and the Chicago Fire. In addition to his four scoring chances created, Santos made 63 touches, took two shots (one on target) and made four tackles. The only player to register more tackles for either team was Crew SC’s Milton Valenzuela (six). This season, Santos has made 22 MLS regular-season appearances (all starts), scoring one goal and providing five assists. Since joining Crew SC in 2017, the Portuguese midfielder has made 31 MLS regular-season appearances (30 starts), tallying one goal and seven assists.
- With tonight’s 1-1 draw, Crew SC’s record on the season moves to 11-8-7. Next up, Crew SC will take on New York City FC at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, September 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET.