COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Cucho Hernández scored three goals in the first 23 minutes — his second hat trick in the last three matches — and the Columbus Crew clinched a playoff spot with a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.
The hat trick by Hernández was the second fastest from the start in league history. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar set the league record with a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Fire in July of 2021. His three goals came in a league-record span of six minutes.
Columbus (14-9-6) ups its unbeaten run at home to 14 (10-0-4). The Crew set a club record with a 16-match streak in 2010. They had a 14-match run in 2008.
Chicago (8-12-9) has been shut out in five straight matches for the first time in club history.
Columbus grabbed a 1-0 lead on a PK goal by Hernández in the 8th minute following a yellow card on Fire goalkeeper Chris Brady. Hernández scored again on a PK for a 2-0 lead eight minutes later after Yaw Yeboah drew a yellow card on defender Arnaud Souquet. Hernández finished off the hat trick when he used a pass from Julian Gressel to push the lead to 3-0.
Patrick Schulte turned away one shot to earn the clean sheet for Columbus. Brady had two saves for Chicago.
The Crew are 10-0-4 in their last 14 regular-season home matches with the Fire. It is the club’s longest unbeaten run against a single opponent. Chicago’s last win was a 2-1 victory in June 2013.
Columbus rebounded from a 4-3 loss to Orlando City last time out, losing after leading by multiple goals in the 70th minute or later. The last time that happened was 2003 in a loss to the New England Revolution.
Chicago returns home to host the New England Revolution on Saturday. Columbus travels to play FC Dallas on Saturday.