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Snitko produces shutout in debut for Chicago, a 2-0 win over Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Saturday, April 1, 2000) -- Newly-acquired Chris Snitko produced a much-needed shutout for the Chicago Fire, which downed the Columbus Crew 2-0 tonight before 12,952 at Crew Stadium.

Chicago opened the season with two losses, giving up eight goals in the process. But that doesn’t mean Snitko, who came to Chicago Thursday from the Kansas City Wizards, has won the job with normal starter Zach Thornton ready to return from his calf injury.

"We’ll go into the week with Zach and Chris as our two goalies," Chicago coach Bob Bradley said. "It’s almost like preseason for Zach, but when he’s ready, he’ll be back in there."

Snitko, sent by the Wizards to Chicago in exchange for two draft picks, with Tony Meola entrenched as the starter in Kansas City. The clean sheet was the 1996 Olympian's fourth in 27 career MLS contests.

"I never thought I would be playing here this weekend," Snitko said. "It has been a hectic week. One day I was at training for K.C., and the next I am on a plane at 8 in the morning. I got two training sessions in with the (Fire) and that is important because it gave me a chance to get to know the guys and for them to get comfortable with me.

Snitko made six saves, stopping forward Dante Washington on a breakaway after a through pass from John DeBrito in the 35th minute.

"To get a win and a shut-out in my first game here is great," Snitko said. "Getting involved early is very important. Going 20-30 minute without a touch and you can get a little stale. On the breakaway our defense lost him and once he put his head down I knew he was going to hit it, and I guessed left and did well. I am happy to have been traded here, thrilled to be here. Everything has been first class. Everything has been great."

Forward Ante Razov put the Fire on the board just five minutes into the game, slotting the ball past Crew goalkeeper Mark Dougherty. Defender Lubos Kubik launched a long pass from the left flank, finding Razov in the center of the box. Razov slid underneath the pass, redirecting the ball past Dougherty into the net.

Playmaker Peter Nowak made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, taking a ball from fellow midfielder Dema Kovalenko. After weaving his way deep inside the box, Nowak found the back of the net for his first goal of the 2000 campaign.

Forty-eight fouls were called during the course of play, tying for third-most fouls in a game in MLS history (56 fouls between New England and Los Angeles on June 8, 1997 is the most ever). The two clubs have a history of hotly-contested matches, as animosity began during the Fire's overtime win against the Crew at Soldier Field to capture the 1998 U.S. Open Cup title.

Five yellow cards were handed out and Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez was expelled in the closing minutes of the game, following his hard tackle on the Crew's Brian West in the 87th minute. West had taken down Nowak just seconds before the retaliatory hit.

It was the third red card in three games for the Fire whose star striker Hristo Stoitchkov sitting out today with his one-game suspension from last weekend’s ejection.

With defender Ansil Elcock out of the lineup for international duty with Jamaica, the Crew's backline looked shaky when faced with the possession game of the Fire. Much of the first half saw the Crew forced to play in the defensive half of the field, launching counterattacks whenever possible.

"It was a game of two different halves for us," said Crew coach Tom Fitzgerald. "We went on the field and didn’t play very well in the first half. The second half, we played better. We just couldn’t score."

Chicago Fire 2, Columbus Crew

Lineups: Columbus - Mark Dougherty, Michael Clark, Mike Lapper, Mike Duhaney, John DeBrito (Jason Farrell 73), Brian West, Robert Warzycha, John Wilmar Perez (Mario Gori 83), Jeff Cunningham (Dominic Schell 46), Brian McBride, Dante Washington. Chicago - Chris Snitko, C.J. Brown, Lubos Kubik, Andrew Lewis, Diego Gutierrez, Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, Peter Nowak (Sam George 90), Ante Razov, Josh Wolff (Evan Whitfield 66), Dema Kovalenko (Tom Soehn 86).

Scoring:
Chicago - Razov (Kubik, Gutierrez) 5.
Chicago - Nowak (Kovalenko, Wolff) 36.

Total shots: Columbus 15 (Washington 4, McBride 4), Chicago 9 (Razov 6). Shots on goal: Columbus 6 (Washington 2, McBride 2), Chicago 5 (Razov 3). Saves: Columbus - Douherty 3; Chicago - Snitko 2. Fouls: Columbus 20 (four players with 3), Chicago 28 (Kovalenko 5, Gutierrez 5). Offside: Columbus 1, Chicago 2. Corner kicks: Columbus 5, Chicago 2. Yellow card cautions: Columbus - Lapper 52, West 60. Chicago - Kubik 25, Kovalenko 26, Armas 33. Red card ejection: Chicago - Gutierrez 87. Possession percentage: Columbus 53, Chicago 47.

Referee: Sandra Hunt. Referee's assistants: Richard Huber, George Gansner. Attendance: 12,952 at Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium. Weather: Overcast, mild, 60 degrees, fair.

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