Game 15 – Fire @ Crew Pregame
The Crew are rapidly approaching the halfway point of the season and are currently sitting in playoff position, but sit just 6 points above missing the playoffs. As tight as the Eastern Conference is, the Crew must keep getting points when they can. Tonight is a prime opportunities to keep up with New England at the top of the table and get some distance their rivals, the Chicago Fire. The Fire have had numerous offensive woes the last several weeks and have dropped down the standings, but still boast a stout defense. Ultimately, this game is going to hinge on how the Crew handle the sleeping Chicago offense.
Crew on Offense: The Crew have four legitimate weapons on offense and can now spread the ball around to take advantage of any mismatches. The Chicago defense is the best in the league by far and the Crew are going to have to be patient. Ekpo and Rogers have the skill to dribble at any defender in the league and Schelotto can get the ball to teammates who are seemingly not open. Moreno, and more importantly Evans have to be involved in the game. I fully expect to see Moreno work to get the ball and be a nuisance. I however would love to see a good game out of Evans to add pressure from the top of the box, but he has been fairly ineffective the past couple of weeks. The Crew should have a few opportunities to test former Crew keeper Jon Busch, but the best chances are probably going to come from set pieces. Unfortunately, the Crew have been unable to convert these opportunities with any regularity. They only have 5 goals on 93 attempts. I look for long stretches of futility against a great defense, but the Crew must convert the chances they do get.
Crew on Defense: I expect the defense to have it’s hands full against Cuauhtémoc Blanco. He makes the Chicago offense work. Recent troubles should count for nothing tonight as Blanco can pick apart a defense very quickly. The Crew will have to play disciplined defense in the back and the central midfield will have to support more than they did against Colorado and deny the space for Blanco to work. Evans has to play a very good two way game. He must track back quicker and support Carroll. Carroll has to close down the space in front of the back line, because the Iro and Marshall tandem is not the quickest. Hejduk and O’Rourke are tasked with clamping down on the Chicago wings. If successful, Chicago wont be able to spread the ball around as much, allowing the central midfield and defense focus on Blanco, Barrett, and Thorington. Chicago has not scored in over three games. That streak will end, but I hope not tonight.
Final Thoughts: I think the shaky Crew defense will allow Chicago at least one goal. If that happens, the Crew are going to struggle to get the win. Chicago has allowed a multiple goal game only twice this year. The pressure is on the Crew defense to keep Chicago off the scoreboard and allow the offense the ability to get the goal and seal the win. I however expect a back and forth game with both teams picking up a goal.
Fire 1- Crew 1