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Fire fit to be tied after controversial penalty kick
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/20/2009 5:38 PM | Updated: 9/20/2009 8:52 PM

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Upon further review, the Fire feels even more strongly that it was robbed.

The Columbus Crew came back from 2 goals down in the second half, claiming a 2-2 draw when Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted a controversial 78th-minute penalty kick Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park.

The play happened after Fire defender C.J. Brown headed the ball away from the Fire goal. Defender Wilman Conde and Crew forward Steven Lenhart each went for the ball with one foot up and collided, with Conde appearing to take a Lenhart cleat to the face, replays showed.

"The referee (Mark Geiger) tells (goalkeeper coach) Daryl Shore after the game he called a PK on Wilman because he nicked him," said Fire coach Denis Hamlett. "We saw the replay and Steven Lenhart comes in and does a karate kick, gets Wilman. Wilman actually gets the ball.

"(Geiger) decides that that's how he's going to change the game. It's disappointing, because with four or five games left in the season, everyone's fighting for points, and you just hope that you let the players dictate the outcome of the game. Tonight for sure I don't think that was the case."

"The bottom line is we played very well and we got done by a bad call," goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "If you look at it again - and we looked at it again when we came in - if anything it's a foul on Lenhart, not on Wilman."

The result was crucial, keeping the Fire (10-6-10, 40 points) in second place behind Columbus (11-4-10, 43 points) in the Eastern Conference standings instead of a tie at the top. The Fire's quest for homefield advantage in the playoffs and the Supporters' Shield became much more difficult with the draw.

It also took away from the best game of midfielder Peter Lowry's short career.

"He scored two great goals," Hamlett said.

Both goals came from about the same spot, 15 yards and a little to the left of Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, and both went to the far post. The first came off a Brian McBride layoff, the second when Cuauhtemoc Blanco's defensive hustle forced a Crew mistake in its box. Lowry saw the loose ball and pounced, and Blanco wisely let him.

"I screamed pretty loud, so I was thankful that he backed out of there," Lowry said. "I was coming through like a train. I wanted that one."

So did the Fire.