Preview: Fire out to break dry spell in visit to Crew

A pair of long-time Midwestern foes renew their rivalry when the Chicago Fire visit the Columbus Crew on Sunday afternoon at Crew Stadium. The Fire are playing the second game of a two-game road week, their winless streak now at 11 games after a scoreless draw at Sporting Kansas City on Thursday. The Crew are also playing a second game this week, having defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 at home on Wednesday evening.

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REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. SAR (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; JAR (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Sorin Stoica
MLS Career: 43 games; FC/gm: 25.3; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 8; pens: 8

INJURY REPORT

  • COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: DF Josh Williams (R hip labral tear); MF Danny O'Rourke (L knee surgery); MF Dilly Duka (R ankle sprain); MF Leandre Griffit (abdominal strain); DF Shaun Francis (L hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Tommy Heinemann (L hamstring strain); FW Emilio Renteria (L quad strain); FW Santiago Prim (R ankle sprain); FW Bernardo Anor (L ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Cole Grossman (concussion)
  • CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: MF Mike Banner (L Achilles tendinitis); DF Steven Kinney (R Achilles repair); DOUBTFUL: MF Marko Maric (L deltoid ligament sprain); DF Josip Mikulic (L clavicle fracture)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CLB: Robbie Rogers (USA) … CHI: Marco Pappa (Guatemala)

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Julius James … CHI: Diego Chaves, Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Daniel Paladini, Gonzalo Segares

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (42 meetings): Crew 11 wins (0 shootout), 63 goals … Fire 18 wins (1 shootout), 65 goals … Ties 13
  • AT COLUMBUS (20 meetings): Crew 6 wins (0 shootout), 35 goals … Fire 8 wins (1 shootout), 30 goals … Ties 6
  • RETURN MATCH: 10/22: Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. CT
  • LAST YEAR (MLS): 7/3: CLB 2, CHI 1 (Moffat 43; Garey 45 – own goal 44); 10/8: CHI 2, CLB 0 (Lowry 30; McBride 53)
  • The Crew’s 2-1 win against Chicago last July 3 at Crew Stadium was their first in a home game vs. the Fire in exactly six years, since a 2-0 win July 3, 2004. In the eight intervening encounters in Columbus, the Fire won four, with four draws.
  • The Fire’s 2-0 win in Bridgeview in the second meeting last season was their first at home vs. Columbus since June 3, 2007. The four intervening meetings at Toyota Park all ended in draws.
  • Coaches record: Robert Warzycha v CHI: P8 W2 L2 D4 … Frank Klopas vs. CLB: first game

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew put an end to their winless streak at five games, again coming from behind, this time for a 2-1 victory against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew have 18 points from 13 games on the season, now in third place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Real took the lead in the seventh minute. Nelson González flighted in a corner kick from the right and Jámison Olave shook off his marker to bounce the ball off the turf and high into the goal.
  • The Crew began their fightback in the 76th minute when Andrés Mendoza converted a penalty kick after Justin Meram was tripped by Olave in the box.
  • Then in the 82nd minute, Josh Gardner score the eventual game-winner when his shot from 22 yards out hit the left thigh of RSL defender Chris Schuler then ricocheted past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made two changes to the team that came back for a 1-1 tie with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Kevin Burns came into the midfield for Dilly Duka, and Jeff Cunningham started up top in place of Tommy Heinemann.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner - Eddie Gaven, Kevin Burns (Justin Meram 46), Rich Balchan, Emmanuel Ekpo - Jeff Cunningham (Aaron Horton 89), Andres Mendoza (Andy Iro 85)

TEAM NEWS

  • With Gardner’s game-winning goal, the Crew took the lead for the first time since Emilio Renteria staked them to a second-half lead April 30 vs. Vancouver.
  • "We've been chasing matches all year long," Gardner said. "To get three points at home in front of our fans is huge for us. We fight every game. But we have nothing to lose once we're down a goal. That’s our attitude when we come back. If we can get that mindset from the opening whistle, I think we're going to be able to win some games 3-0 or 4-0."
  • It was Gardner’s first goal since July, 2006, when scored for the LA Galaxy.
  • For the third consecutive match and fourth time in the last six games, the Crew conceded the opening goal in the opening 10 minutes. The Crew have scored just one goal in the opening 45 minutes – by far the fewest in the league.
  • “We would love to avoid it, but as I said, other times what is important is the result at the end of 90 minutes,” Warzycha said. “And at the end of these 90 minutes it was 2-1 so we got three points and that is what was important.”
  • The main talking point after the match regarded the penalty kick, where Andrés Mendoza withstood the pleas of Jeff Cunningham and club captain Chad Marshall to allow Cunningham to take the spot kick. Cunningham has 132 career goals in MLS, still one off the all-time lead held by Jaime Moreno.
  • “Mendoza scored the goal, so I can’t complain. I wanted Jeff to take the penalty but Mendoza felt strongly,” coach Robert Warzycha said.
  • Mendoza said he was unaware of Cunningham’s approach of history and was booed as he left the field for a substitution in the 74th minute. "I don't mean to be disparaging, but maybe the fans aren't knowledgeable," Mendoza said.
  • It was Mendoza’s fourth goal, his third in the last three games. The Crew Designated Player also added his first MLS assist.
  • “The year I won the Golden Boot two years ago [for FC Dallas], my second goal was, I believe, scored on July 3. I scored 16 after that," Cunningham said. "Experience has taught me patience. When the goals come, they're going to come in bunches. No pressure. I'm happy. I'm happy for Mendoza. … The fans want (the record) for me and it's an emotional thing for them. But the goal was important for Mendoza and this organization. We need to support him. He needs that love from us."
  • Crew homegrown player Aaron Horton made his professional debut, coming on for Cunningham in the game’s final minute.
  • “It was a dream come true. Just getting on the field at Crew Stadium and get my first few minutes, there’s nothing better for me. I was thinking I wanted to get a goal but the most important thing was to preserve the win,” Horton said. “I wanted to get in there, work hard and not let anybody come down the side I was playing.

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire played to a second consecutive scoreless draw, their winless streak hitting 11 games against Sporting Kansas City on Thursday evening in the opening of Livestrong Sporting Park. The Fire have 11 points from 13 matches on the year, sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Sporting had appeared to take the lead in the 15th minute, but Omar Bravo was flagged for offside before Graham Zusi turned home a Kei Kamara cross at the back post.
  • The home side went down to 10 men in the 67th minute when referee Michael Kennedy showed goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen a red card after he came charging off his line. Dominic Oduro attempted to chip the ball over Nielsen, but the goalkeeper reached up and handled the ball outside the penalty area.
  • Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that reached a goalless result with Seattle Sounders FC at Toyota Park. Gaston Puerari came back into the team, for Diego Chaves.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-4-2): Sean Johnson - Bratislav Ristic, Cory Gibbs, Yamith Cuesta, Gonzalo Segares - Dominic Oduro, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause, Corben Bone (Patrick Nyarko 56) - Gaston Puerari (Diego Chaves 71), Cristian Nazarit (Orr Barouch 78).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Fire were shut out in a second consecutive game for the first time this season. Although their winless streak reached 11 games, they have lost just once since April 17, playing to a draw in seven of their last eight league games.
  • “I thought the second half when we were a man up, we could have done a little better in the final third. I thought we were predictable with the ball. Our movement wasn't great. We could have been a little bit sharper,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. “ … But in the final third, our ideas and our movement have to be better.”
  • The Fire have also recorded defensive shutouts in back-to-back games for the first time this season. All three shutouts have come in goalless draws.
  • “We played really solid defensively. We stressed over the last couple games being compact, being on the same page and I think it worked tonight,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “It’s definitely a good thing when you can string shutouts together, when your unit’s cohesive.” Said Klopas: “For the second game in a row, we've had a clean sheet. When you do that, you always give yourself an opportunity to win.”
  • The Fire nearly hit for a dramatic winner in the 79th minute, but substitute Orr Barouch saw his close-range effort deflect off the crossbar.
  • “As a forward, I thought Orr (Barouch) took it well. I don't think he's a guy that was thinking about it too much. He came and instinctively took the shot. The ball hit the post and went out,” Klopas said. “We are a team that has created goals and I think we just have got to start finishing or get lucky and have the ball hit the post and go in.
  • For a second consecutive match, Patrick Nyarko came off the bench for the final half hour-plus. He had missed four consecutive games with a concussion.
  • ‘‘I thought the knee injury was the worst, but this concussion was worse than that,’’ Nyarko said to the Sun- Times. ‘‘You can’t do any activity until the symptoms go away, and I lost a lot of my fitness. … I got in the last game, and you’ve got to start somewhere. I’m not quite there yet, but I trained hard the last couple of days, and I’m cleared to do about everything.”