MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-1 Columbus Crew

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAX-zkbW0q0]

One game, 100 words (or less): Chicago’s plague of draws continues, with the Fire managing to drop points from after scoring first for the eighth time this season. Today, a first half penalty conversion from Mike Magee gave them temporary hope, but a goal seconds after the teams returned from the locker room pulled Columbus even. Thanks to a big stop early in the second half from Sean Johnson, the Crew were prevented from building on their equalizer, with Chicago left to endure its 13th draw of the season.

Goals

Chicago: Magee 37′
Columbus: Higuaín 46′

There moments that mattered:

36′ – Ball to … oh, wait. Nevermind – This type of play usually draws a number of “ball to hand” appeals, but Tyson Wahl had both arms outstretched when Grant Ward hit his cross. When the ball found Wahl’s right arm, Silviu Petrescu pointed to the spot, with little doubt behind the call that put Chicago up one.

46′ – 10 seconds? – Jeff Larentowicz jumps into midfield, Patrick Ianni ends up on his backside, and next thing you know, Columbus is even, with Federico Higuaín’s goal coming before Chicago’s sen any second half possession. Straight out of the locker rooms, the Crew have their equalizer, with the corresponding momentum leaving Chicago on the edge of a deficit.

53′ – The leg of Sean – After the equalizer, Columbus looked ready to take over, with the field apparently tilted toward Sean Johnson’s goal. In the 53rd minute, that advantage was set to pay off when Ben Speas ran unto a layoff from Higuaín, but with a kick save worthy of Dominik Hasek, Johnson kept the Fire even, leaving the teams destined to play out a half of few chances.

Lineups

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Larentowicz, Gonzalo Segares; Grant Ward (Harry Shipp 57′), Matt Watson, Chris Ritter (Logan Pause 81′), Alex (Razvan Cocis 63′); Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa

Columbus: Steve Clark; Michael Parkhurst (Eric Gehrig 91′), Giancarlo Gonzalez, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchiani, Wil Trapp, Ben Speas (Jusitn Meram 66′); Federico Higuaín; Adam Bedell (Aaron Schoenfeld 66′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Larentowicz in the back still a work in progress – It’s not so much that the defense was bad. After all, Chicago only gave up one goal. It’s just a matter of how soon it clicks. Today, Larentowicz did play a small part in the goal, coming out of defense but failing to win the ball. At the same time, the rest of the defense, specifically Patrick Ianni, didn’t make the play behind him. How much can you really fault him for the goal?

In that way, the change leaves Chicago no better off, with the Fire defense still exhibiting a tendency for random error. Will that tendency continue into the future? In theory, time can only help the Fire’s new center back.

2. The value of Sean Johnson – Johnson used to be known for a hyper-athleticism that offset his inexperience, a quality that led to some eye-opening errors in goal. Over time, however, those errors have started to fade, while the high points have become more frequent. Bill Hamid may be going to Portland, but you can see why Sean Johnson remains slightly higher in Jurgen Klinsmann’s pecking order (for now).

3. Drawing out the season – 21 games, only eight of which have ended with a winner. That’s Chicago’s season, and while it’s admirable the Fire have avoided more than five losses, they play in a three-point world. At some point, preferably while the playoffs are still a distant hope, they need to become a three-point club.

Where this leaves them:

  • With the draw, Chicago remains five points back of the playoffs, albeit in eighth in the East.
  • As for Columbus, the point allows them to move clear of New England – one point into the East’s top five.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.

After further tests, Lletget to miss 4-6 months

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So much for initial reports.

Less than 24 hours after the LA Galaxy announced that Sebastian Lletget had come through his injury on USMNT duty with no structural damage, a specialist found something worse.

Lletget has a Lisfranc injury and requires surgery, meaning the Galaxy and the U.S. will be without the midfielder for four to six months.

[ MORE: Spurs eager for U.S. return ]

Lletget, 24, spent a half-decade with West Ham but couldn’t break into the squad before returning to the U.S. last summer. He became a mainstay for the Galaxy, earning a call-up to the national team.

He scored his first USMNT goal on Friday to open the World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but was injured after a hard sliding tackle from Ever Alvarado.

Galaxy has depth beyond Lletget and Jermaine Jones, with Rafael Garcia, Joao Pedro, and Baggio Husidic able to fill a similar role, but this one stings for the Galaxy. Get well, Sebastian.

Scouting report: Everton target Orlando’s Cyle Larin

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Reports have been suggesting the Orlando City’s star striker Cyle Larin is attracting some serious interest from Premier League side Everton.

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Larin, 21, has started the MLS season off in red-hot form and the report suggests the Toffees have bid $4 million for his talents. They’ll likely have to up that offer for the Canadian national team star.

What is Larin all about?

With Romelu Lukaku seeming to be heading towards the exit door this summer as his contract saga rumbles on, it’s not outlandish to state that Larin has a very similar style to the prolific Belgian international. Of course, he has yet to test himself in the PL and Lukaku’s boots would be a big pair to fill if Larin did arrive at Goodison Park as some kind of replacement in the coming months, yet when you watch Larin play there are so many similarities between the pair.

Ronald Koeman is always eager to give youth a chance and with Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all getting regular minutes this season, so Larin would get chances to impress if he ended up on Merseyside.

Here are some key stats Toffees fans will want to know too:

  • 17 – Number of goals Larin scored in his debut MLS season, the most-ever by a Rookie
  • Larin has scored all three of Orlando’s goals so far in the 2017 MLS season
  • He has scored 39 goals in 68 appearances for Orlando since arriving in 2015
  • For Canada, he has five goals in 19 appearances after making his debut as a teenager
  • Larin became the first-ever Canadian to be selected as the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft when he joined Orlando in 2015

Click play on the video above to see Larin’s best moments so far in MLS, as he continues his impressive development.