Preview: Decimated Crew finish marathon stretch vs. Fire

Crew v Fire, May 26

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COLUMBUS CREW vs CHICAGO FIRE
COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM, Columbus, Ohio
May 26, 2012 (WEEK 12, MLS Game #114)
7 p.m. ET (Galavision; FS-OH; NBC5)

Long-time Midwestern rivals, the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire renew acquaintances on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew are coming off a two-game unbeaten road swing, leaving Seattle with a 2-0 win against Sounders FC at midweek. The Fire are also coming off a midweek victory, defeating FC Dallas 2-1 at Toyota Park.

REFEREE: Allen Chapman. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Jeff Muschik; 4th: Jose Carlos Rivero
MLS Career: 1 game; FC/gm: 20.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 0

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INJURY REPORT:

  • COLUMBUS CREW -- OUT: FW Tommy Heinemann (L knee surgery); GK William Hesmer (R hip surgery); FW Aaron Schoenfeld (R plantar fascia rupture); DF Chad Marshall (concussion); MF Kirk Urso (R adductor tendonitis); DOUBTFUL: FW Ben Speas (sports hernia rehab); DF Rich Balchan (sports hernia rehab); MF Milovan Mirosevic (L adductor strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Ethan Finlay (concussion); PROBABLE: MF Danny O'Rourke (L ankle sprain)
  • CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R Achilles tendinitis); DF Arne Friedrich (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Rolfe (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CHI: Sebastian Grazzini
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (44 meetings): Crew 11 wins (0 shootout), 65 goals ... Fire 20 wins (1 shootout), 69 goals ... Ties 13

AT COLUMBUS (21 meetings): Crew 6 wins (0 shootout), 35 goals ... Fire 9 wins (1 shootout), 31 goals ... Ties 6

RETURN MATCHES: 6/23: Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. CT; 9/22: Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. CT

LAST YEAR

6/12: CLB 0, CHI 1 (Nazarit 90)
10/22: CHI 3, CLB 2 (Anibaba 11, 30; Chaves 81 - Renteria 72; Duka 79)

  • The Fire have won their last three meetings with the Crew, including a 1-0 win last year in Columbus, and a 3-2 victory at Toyota Park. The Crew haven't won in Bridgeview since 2006 (seven visits).
  • Coaches record: Robert Warzycha v CHI: P10 W2 L4 D4 ... Frank Klopas vs. CLB: P2 W2 L0 D0

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew completed their two-game road swing with a quality win, defeating Seattle Sounders FC 2-0 on Wednesday evening at CenturyLink Field. The Crew sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 15 points from 11 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Crew notch first-ever win over Sounders

LAST MATCH

  • Both goals came on each side of halftime. In the 15th minute, Justin Meram opened the scoring against the run of play, continuing his recent hot streak. He was able to get inside a defender and hit a diving header off a Dilly Duka cross, easily beating Sounders FC goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.
  • The Crew doubled their lead with 14 minutes left to play. Emilio Renteria took what seemed to be an innocuous throw-in from around midfield and let loose with a looping half-volley from all of 30 yards out from goal that just beat the retreating 'keeper.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made four changes to the team that gained a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Carlos Mendes came into central defense for Eric Gehrig, Dilly Duka and Cole Grossman started in midfield for Tony Tchani and Milovan Mirosevic, and Emilio Renteria replaced Olman Vargas up top.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-3-2): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Josh Williams, Carlos Mendes, Nemanja Vukovic - Danny O'Rourke (Kevan George 44) - Dilly Duka (Tony Tchani 57), Cole Grossman, Eddie Gaven - Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 80), Emilio Renteria.

TEAM NEWS

Black & Gold Breakdown: Seattle

  • The Crew extended their modest unbeaten streak to four - two wins and two draws - starting a stretch of four of five games on the road.
  • "We're not conceding too many goals. We're weathering storms, it's a tough road trip on the west coast," said goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum. "Typically it's been more tough for us. I think we weathered the storm, made a goal ourselves and they had to come out of their shell and we countered and got a second one."
  • The Crew starting lineup featured three players - Josh Williams, Cole Grossman and Justin Meram - in their second seasons of professional soccer, while Dilly Duka was in his third.
  • "Goals change the game. I think they are a very good team, you have to respect what they do at home," said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. "When we come here with a team like we have, a lot of new players, they just want to stick together and prove that we are a decent team."
  • Grossman was making his first MLS start in just his fourth appearance, in the center of midfield, for the injured Milovan Mirosevic.
  • "To be honest it's phenomenal, our best player, captain, didn't even come. So many injuries," said Grossman. "To come and play two of the best teams of the league and come away with four points is great going forward into the season."
  • By match's end, rookie Kevan George was also making his professional debut, having come on for Danny O'Rourke just before halftime after he suffered an ankle injury.
  • "He didn't show any signs of nervousness or pressure," Warzycha said of George. "He played like an old pro."
  • Dilly Duka made his first start since the season opener, coming out after 57 minutes. Carlos Mendes also made his Crew debut, coming into central defense for Eric Gehrig. "You have to have some kind of rotation," Warzycha said.
  • Emilio Renteria, who led the Crew with eight goals a season ago, scored his first goal of the season. He was returning to the starting lineup after missing the San Jose match entirely.
  • "It's not something I do every time, I like to shoot more. In that situation I thought I could score and I did," said Renteria.
  • Renteria came into the team for Olman Vargas, who played 90 minutes vs. San Jose, but was rested in Seattle with an eye to the Chicago match. "I wanted to take him out and have him ready for Seattle, but Mirosevic got hurt," Warzycha said.
  • Justin Meram has now scored goals in three consecutive matches - the first three goals of his professional career.

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire rebounded quickly from a loss, returning home and recording a 2-1 win against FC Dallas on Wednesday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 18 points from 11 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Fire win wild game over FC Dallas

LAST MATCH

  • FC Dallas struck first in the 41st minute on a corner kick. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson initially saved a header from Blas Perez, but rookie Matt Hedges headed home the rebound as Johnson was out of the goal.
  • The Fire answered four minutes later. Sebasti·n Grazzini took a pass well out from goal, dribbled twice to his left then curled a left-footed shot just over the outstretched hand of Kevin Hartman.
  • FC Dallas had a golden opportunity to take back the lead in the 50th minute, when Dominic Oduro took down Bruno Guarda in the penalty area. But Johnson brilliantly saved the ensuing Perez penalty kick.
  • In the 62nd minute, the Fire earned a penalty kick of their own. Kevin Hartman answered Johnson's save by saving Grazzini's attempt, but Marco Pappa was first to the ball to knock home the rebound.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that fell to a 2-1 defeat by the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Rafael Robayo came into the team in place of Pavel Pardo.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-1-4-1): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Rafael Robayo - Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause, Sebastian Grazzini (Pavel Pardo 76), Marco Pappa (Corben Bone 89) - Dominic Oduro (Orr Barouch 59).

TEAM NEWS

My Favorite Player Is... Chris Armas

  • The Fire have now won three games after allowing the first goal, tied for most in MLS (along with San Jose). They have conceded the opening goal in eight games this season, tied with LA for second-most in the league, behind Toronto FC (9).
  • "The positive thing is that we never gave up. The trend in this league is that the team that gives up the first goal normally does not win," said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "I'm proud of the guys because they believe in themselves."
  • The Fire have also conceded three goals from corner kicks - tied for most in MLS. They have allowed four goals from set pieces.
  • "We talked about about playing from the beginning until the end and being more consistent. I was worried to see how we would start off because of the short week," said Klopas. "It took us a little bit of time, but their goal came from nothing. From set pieces we need to get better.
  • The Fire have fallen behind in each of their last four wins, and two of their three draws (one was scoreless).
  • "We scored from behind again which shows a lot of character for the group. It's all about the group and the team. It was a great performance and we scored the two goals and then created some more opportunities to put the game away," said Klopas. "In the last five minutes, you have to say a couple prayers. It was just a great win for us and now we have to move on to the next match."
  • Sean Johnson has now seen only seven of 11 penalties scored against him in his MLS career. "It's always good to save a big save in the game like that to help turn things around and get the team going a bit," said Johnson. "The second half was definitely better for me personally."
  • Said Klopas: "It was huge for a morale standpoint and also for him. After that save, you saw a different Sean with more confidence and command in his box. It was also important in giving the whole team new energy. It was an important moment in the game."
  • Sebastian Grazzini scored his second goal in three games, his first from open play. It was the second goal he's scored in MLS from outside the area.
  • "I thought it worked out really well. I've been connecting a lot more with Marco [Pappa] and Rafa [Robayo] a lot and it was an excellent wall for me to place it over and put it in," said Grazzini. "I'm just happy that it came at a good time to help tie the match."
  • Marco Pappa also scored his third goal of the season, leading the club. He scored a goal and added an assist in the same game for the third time in MLS career.
  • "After the first half when we came into the locker room we talked about how we needed to push ourselves more in the game," Pappa said. "We knew we had to give a better effort in the second half of the game. We had some extra motivation after Sean's [Johnson] penalty kick save."
  • For a second consecutive match, Dominic Oduro came off right at the hour mark with a hamstring strain. "It was just a little tweak," Oduro said. "We're just putting a little bit of ice on it and taking it easy. It was just tight a little bit, nothing crazy. We're just trying to go easy with it."
  • While Chris Rolfe is not likely to figure in the Fire squad for the weekend, he will be making the trip to Columbus, still working through ankle pain. "I think sometimes people don't understand the complexity [of] trying to mesh with a team and to become a unit with all of the players," Rolfe said. "Sometimes it happens right away, and sometimes it takes time, and sometimes it never happens. I guarantee you that when I get out there [I will] try to form a partnership with whoever's up [top]."