COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Dominic Oduro gave Columbus the early lead, Federico Higuain converted a penalty kick to in the second half and the Crew cruised to a 3-0 victory over the short-handed Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
Oduro took a ball from Jairo Arrieta on the right side of the box in the 15th minute and fired into the far corner for his team-best 11th goal. The Fire (11-12-6) went down a man in the 29th minute when Bakary Soumare was ejected for his challenge of Arrieta just outside the penalty area.
Arrieta was tackled by goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 70th minute and Higuain converted from the spot. Bernardo Anor made it 3-0 in the 76th as the Crew (11-14-5) won their second straight.
"We hit the post. We hit the crossbar. We had opportunities," Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. "Overall it's just not good enough."
The Crew have won three of four under interim coach Brian Bliss and are eighth with 38 points in the Eastern Conference, but are only two points behind New England for the fifth and final playoff spot.
"The change in attitude is that we know we can still make the playoffs," Oduro said.
Chicago dropped from fifth into a tie for sixth with Philadelphia at 39 points. The Crew have four matches left, while Chicago, New England and Philadelphia have five.
Oduro said getting back into the playoff hunt was more important than scoring against the club that traded him in February.
"It felt good but it's not our main focus," he said. "Our main focus is getting three points. That (goal) was icing on the cake."