Fire 2, Crew 2Apr 27, 2009 - 7:25 PM COLUMBUS, Ohio (STATS) - The Columbus Crew looked like last year's MLS Cup champion team for 57 minutes in its game against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
That's when Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco went down following contact with Crew defender Gino Padula near midfield, drawing a red card for Padula from referee Jair Marrufo. It was a call both teams' coaches agreed changed the game.
The Crew then watched Brian McBride and Gonzalo Segares erase their two-goal lead in the game's final four minutes to help the Fire salvage a 2-2 tie and extend the Crew's league-record worst start by a defending MLS Cup champion to 0-2-4.
McBride pulled Chicago (2-0-4) within a goal in the 86th minute when the veteran striker scored on a header inside the six-yard box, his trademark play for much of a career that included eight seasons with the Crew.
Two minutes later, a left-footed strike from Segares capitalized on tough play in the box from teammates Tim Ward and Chris Rolfe and allowed the Fire to salvage a point.
"I think the red card changed the game," said Fire coach Denis Hamlett. "We really started to go on the attack.... Our guys dug deep today. It's a group of guys that don't like losing."
Chad Marshall and Alejandro Moreno each scored their first goals of the season for Columbus, which remains winless under head coach Robert Warzycha, a former Crew player and longtime assistant coach.
"We were in control of the game until we got the red card," Warzycha said. "Even with 10 players on the field, we did exceptionally well.... I guess (Chicago) got a lucky bounce."
Warzycha declined to comment on Marrufo's decision to show a straight red card to Padula, who will be suspended for the Crew's next match, saying he didn't see the play and would have to review game video.
A 42-yard free kick from Guillermo Barros Schelotto set up Marshall's header near the penalty spot. Marshall, playing in his first game since suffering a concussion earlier in the season, knocked the ball past Fire goalkeeper and former teammate Jon Busch.
The Schelotto-to-Marshall free kick combination was a staple of the Crew's attack last season, and the goal seemed to add a spark to Columbus.
The Crew doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Busch left the penalty area to try to beat Moreno to a long clearing pass from Padula. Moreno got to the ball first, danced around Busch near the end line, then shot beneath Fire defender Wilman Conde for his first goal of the season.
But Padula's red card 12 minutes into the second half left the Crew trying to do with 10 men what it has been unable to do so far this season with a full team: defend a lead late in the game.
"It's frustrating, because we didn't get three points at home," Warzycha said. "We've played three games (at home), we've tied three games. But we haven't lost yet at home."
Blanco was booed vociferously by the crowd of 16,628 every time he touched the ball following the red card to Padula, and was nearly struck by debris hurled from the northeast corner of the stadium when he took corner kicks.
Blanco is loved in Chicago but loathed by fans elsewhere for the perceived theatrics that make him one of the most fouled players in MLS. But McBride said Blanco offers more as a player than his reputation suggests.
"He's got a great ability at finding players open, and seeing runs that most people won't see," McBride said. "It's great having him on the team."
Marrufo also doled out yellow cards to Chicago's Marco Pappa, Tim Ward and John Thorrington.
COLUMBUS 2 FINAL
Apr 25 8:59 PM
COLUMBUS 2 END 2ND HALF, GOING INTO OVERTIME
Apr 25 8:54 PM
- MLS UPDATE
CHICAGO GOAL: Gonzalo Segares in the 89th minute
Fire 2, Crew SC 2 2nd - 89'Apr 25 8:53 PM
- MLS UPDATE
CHICAGO GOAL: Brian McBride in the 86th minute
Fire 1, Crew SC 2 2nd - 86'Apr 25 8:50 PM
COLUMBUS 2 HALFTIME
Apr 25 7:51 PM
- MLS UPDATE
COLUMBUS GOAL: Alejandro Moreno in the 34th minute
Fire 0, Crew SC 2 1st - 34'Apr 25 7:41 PM
- MLS UPDATE
COLUMBUS GOAL: Chad Marshall in the 25th minute
Fire 0, Crew SC 1 1st - 25'Apr 25 7:33 PM
- Columbus earns draw with RSL at Rio Tinto Jun 28
- Columbus hits the road to face RSL Jun 26
- Doyle's blast fires DCU past Chicago Jun 24
- Kamara leads the way as Columbus edges New England Jun 24
- United aims for second straight win against Fire Jun 23
- Revs, Crew SC tangle at MAPFRE Stadium Jun 23
- Higuain helps Crew SC draw Galaxy Jun 13
- Quick strikes lead Revs past Fire Jun 13
- Revs aim to stop the rot against Fire Jun 12
- Crew SC, Galaxy square off at Mapfre Stadium Jun 12
- Orlando City stuns Fire with late rally Jun 6
- Montreal holds off Crew for first road win Jun 6