Preview: Fire look to stay hot in second meeting with Crew

CHI vs. CLB, 6-22-12

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CHICAGO FIRE vs COLUMBUS CREW
TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
June 23, 2012 (WEEK 16, MLS Game #141)
7:30 p.m. CT (NBC5.2; FS-OH)

A crucial game for placing in the Eastern Conference is ahead when the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew meet for the second time this season, Saturday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire put an end to a two-game losing streak last weekend in a 3-1 home win against the New York Red Bulls. The Crew are unbeaten in six, coming off a scoreless draw at New England. The teams met less than a month ago, the Crew claiming a 2-1 win in Columbus.

REFEREE: Armando Villarreal. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Adam Garner; 4th: Ramon Hernandez
MLS Career: 1 game; FC/gm: 20.0; Y/gm: 1.0; R: 0; pens: 0

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INJURY REPORT:

  • CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R Achilles tendinitis)
  • COLUMBUS CREW -- OUT: FW Tommy Heinemann (L knee surgery); GK William Hesmer (R hip surgery); DF Chad Marshall (concussion); MF Kirk Urso (R adductor tendonitis); DF Rich Balchan (sports hernia rehab); Dilly Duka (L Hamstring Strain); DF Carlos Mendes (R ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: MF Danny O'Rourke (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Segares

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (45 meetings): Fire 20 wins (1 shootout), 70 goals ... Crew 12 wins (0 shootout), 67 goals ... Ties 13
AT CHICAGO (23 meetings): Fire 11 wins (0 shootout), 38 goals ... Crew 5 wins (0 shootout), 30 goals ... Ties 7
FUTURE MATCH: 9/22: Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. CT

  • The clubs are meeting for the second time in less than a month. First-half goals from Eddie Gaven and Emilio Renter"a led the Crew to a 2-1 win on May 26 at Crew Stadium.
  • The Crew win in the first meeting this season ended a three-game Fire winning streak vs. Columbus. The Crew haven't won in Bridgeview since 2006 (seven visits).
  • Coaches record: Frank Klopas vs. CLB: P3 W2 L1 D0 ... Robert Warzycha v CHI: P11 W3 L4 D4

LAST MEETING (MLS):
5/26: CLB 2, CHI 1 (Gaven 9, Renteria 43 - Berry 72)

  • The Crew opened the scoring after nine minutes. Eddie Gaven wheeled after a pass from Shaun Francis, dribbled to the upper left corner of the penalty area and placed a shot under the legs of defender Jalil Anibaba and past Chicago ëkeeper Sean Johnson.
  • Shortly before halftime, Emilio Renter"a received a Gaven pass in the goal area, through rookie defender Austin Berry off his shoulder, turned and buried the ball past Johnson to double the Columbus lead.
  • Berry pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute with a powerful header from about eight yards off a corner from second-half substitute Daniel Paladini, but the Crew held from there.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-1-1): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Josh Williams, Carlos Mendes (Eric Gehrig 54), Shaun Francis (Nemanja Vukovic 50) - Dilly Duka (Chris Birchall 66), Kevan George, Tony Tchani, Bernardo Anor - Eddie Gaven - Emilio Renteria.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-1-4-1): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Rafael Robayo - Patrick Nyarko, Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause (Daniel Paladini 60), Marco Pappa (Dominic Oduro 46) - Federico Puppo (Orr Barouch 46).

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire put an end to their two-game losing streak in emphatic fashion, with a 3-1 win against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park. The Fire are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points from 14 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago run riot against New York

LAST MATCH

  • The Fire opened the scoring in the fourth minute. Sebastian Grazzini corraled a loose ball, cut to the left of the area and floated a left-footed cross to the right side of the box, where a wide-open Patrick Nyarko powered a header past New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara and into the back of the net.
  • But 10 minutes after halftime, the Red Bulls tied the game when Dax McCarty's header from a Mehdi Ballouchy's corner kick slipped through to the back of the net after the midfielder found a pocket of space in the area.
  • The Fire regained the lead for good in the 68th minute when Gonzalo Segares sent a rolling ball goalward than Dominic Oduro just clipped back away from goalkeeper Meara, Segares racing on ahead of a defender to smash the ball into the goal.
  • Chicago's Chris Rolfe sealed the win in the 81st minute when he tapped in Nyarko's goalmouth cross, after Nyarko had turned the corner with a juking run on the right flank.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that suffered a 2-0 defeat by the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Marco Pappa came back from international duty to replace Orr Barouch.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo - Patrick Nyarko, Sebastian Grazzini (Chris Rolfe 61), Marco Pappa (Hunter Jumper 85) - Dominic Oduro (Rafael Robayo 76).

TEAM NEWS

  • The win against New York snapped a three-game losing streak in all competitions, including a defeat in the U.S. Open Cup.
  • "We talked about limiting teams' opportunities and not giving goals away. Keeping clean sheets. We feel that we do have players that can change the game, create opportunities, and score," said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. "I think overall, from start to finish, it's better. Now we have to continue to build."
  • Chris Rolfe scored his first goal since his return to the Fire, in his second appearance. Rolfe had 36 goals in 123 league games in his first stint in the league.
  • "He changed the game. You can see the class that he has, he has really clean technical ability, he's very good with the ball," Klopas said. "You have to give [him] credit ... for being in the right spot [on his goal] and putting the game away there."
  • Nothing gets past Sean Johnson

  • Said Patrick Nyarko: "It's exciting to have him back. He's a finisher, he's a goalscorer, he has great feet and he works hard. He's a two-way player. You could see when he came in the game, initially, he was helping us defend the extra midfielder in the midfielder, then he found his opportunity."
  • Nyarko had a goal and an assist in the same game for the second time this season, also doing it in the 3-2 win against Toronto FC on April 21.
  • "It was classic Patrick," Rolfe said of Nyarko's assist. "He does it all by himself on the outside, making it really easy for me. As soon as he got his touch past the defender I knew that he was going to slide it across, and I just had to be there."
  • Nyarko has been battling hamstring and hip ailments, and takes pain-relieving injections just to play each week. He has not missed a league game this season.
  • "When we have our full complement of players back ... we can have that conversation," Nyarko said. "Right now we haven't come to that point where I can't play."
  • For a sixth consecutive match, the Fire central defense pairing was comprised of second-year man Jalil Anibaba and rookie Austin Berry. Former German international Arne Friedrich is close to being ready to return to action. The Fire have allowed nine goals in the last six league games.
  • "Obviously we're missing Arne Friedrich and Cory Gibbs. Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba are young but they did a fantastic job. They can compete and are good in the air," said Klopas. "Kenny Cooper is a guy that is good in the air and uses his body well. I thought the whole back line did well. Sean Johnson came up with some crucial saves in the game as well."

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew extended their undefeated streak to six games, reaching a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. The Crew sit in a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 19 points from 13 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Crew, Revs play to scoreless draw

LAST MATCH

  • There were plenty of opportunities for both sides to break the deadlock in the opening half, but Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum produced three fine saves to repel the Revolution.
  • Gruenebaum was credited with six saves for the match, while New England goalkeeper Matt Reis recorded three saves on the night.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made three changes to the team that posted a 2-1 win against the Chicago Fire at Crew Stadium. Nemanja Vukovic came in at left back for Shaun Francis, and Milovan Mirosevic and Justin Meram came into the team for Dilly Duka and Bernardo Anor.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-3-1-2): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Josh Williams, Carlos Mendes (Eric Gehrig 46), Nemanja Vukovic - Tony Tchani, Kevan George, Eddie Gaven - Milovan Mirosevic - Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 71), Emilio Renteria (Ethan Finlay 90).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Crew are 3-0-3 since their last loss in league play, the 1-0 home defeat by Vancouver Whitecaps FC on April 28.
  • "The fitness is good and we look sharp and we have an answer for everything. Sometimes you go through a stretch in the season, that whatever you do, is going to work for you, and sometimes whatever you do is not," said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. "It seems like in [this] stretch that the guys are gelling and working for each other and somebody always makes something good and positive so I'd be glad to continue to do that for the rest of the season."
  • The Crew recorded their third shutout in the last six matches, and have not allowed more than one goal in a game since the 2-2 draw vs. Houston on April 21.
  • Black and Gold Breakdown: Chicago Fire

  • "He is a big part of the stretch we have right now. He's making one save a game. I told the guys a long time ago, ëI don't want my goalkeeper to be the man of the match,' but today he was the man of the match," said Warzycha.
  • The Crew are also undefeated in their last four away matches and are now 2-2-3 for the season away from Crew Stadium. They've allowed just four goals in their road matches, by far the best road defensive record in the league.
  • "We've had a lot of games on the road lately and only one at home in the last long stretch that we've had. We know that we're going to have to build ourselves on the road and build that confidence on the road," said Gruenebaum. "I think we're going in with that mentality that if we can keep a zero on their end, then maybe we can steal one."
  • Milovan Mirosevic returned to the starting lineup after a two-match absence after suffering an injury during the San Jose game May 19.
  • "We've had a lot of changeover and different positions, but that's a huge win for us, especially with all the new faces we had in the starting lineup [in the Seattle] game," said Gruenebaum. "Any time we can get a good result on the road is a huge confidence builder."
  • For a second consecutive match, center back Carlos Mendes was forced off early, this time suffering a foot injury. Eric Gehrig replaced him for a second match in a row, coming in at halftime.
  • "If Julius [James] is ready, he's going to play this weekend," Warzycha said of his central defense pairing. Said James: "I was injured. It's not my fault, but the other guys have been playing well. I will do my best to win a starting position. You come on the field and earn a spot. When you earn something it's because you've worked hard for it."