Pregame 25: Crew @ Fire
The Crew’s tour of the best teams in MLS continues against Chicago. This is a series as tight any in the league and had it’s fair share of controversy. At home In April, Columbus gave up two goals in the last 5 minutes after being reduced to 10 men on Gino Padula’s controversial red card. The July match in Chicago was another rugged affair as both teams struggled to put any offense together and it ended a 0-0 draw.
Today, the teams stand at the top of the conference. The Crew lead the Fire by 3 points and have a game in hand. The Crew will be fairly healthy as only Chad Marshall is out from the first team. Chicago is also returning Brian McBride to add to it’s offense.
Crew on Offense: Columbus is in the middle of a very busy stretch. With midweek games throughout the month, Warzycha has had to juggle lineups. Some players were given some extra rests.; Schelotto and Moreno sat out the midweek game against Saprissa and should be ready to go today. With Rogers also fairly rested, I expect to see him in the lineup today as well.
Suspensions and fatigue will shape the rest of the Crew lineup. On the other wing, Eddie Gaven played 180 minutes in the last week and Ekpo another 110 so it will come down to which one bounces back quickest. Adam Moffat’s red card will probably force a lineup with O’Rourke and Carroll in the middle of the midfield. This will help with ball winning, but the offense will again have to come from the wide areas. Padula and Hejduk’s overlapping runs will be especially important.
Crew on Defense: A much more recognizable defensive line will be available in Chicago. Padula is recovering from a week long illness and may be able to return to the lineup, but Zayner will be ready if he needs to fill in. Hejduk will be ready on the right side. Brunner is rested after his midweek suspension and will be tasked with marking Brian McBride.
The biggest hole is in the middle as Chad Marshall is injured. Andy Iro played admirably midweek, but hasn’t played extensively in months. He will have to help handle McBride and Blanco’s probing runs from midfield. It will be hard to get back to game speed quickly against a talented offense.
Final Thoughts: The Crew will have to handle another juggled lineup and tough team. The team has enough players to rotate fresh players in. The Fire however will press to keep their playoff possession and will be spurred on with the return of McBride. With so little separating the teams I see another tie.
Crew 1 – Fire 1