Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire | MLS Match Preview

COLUMBUS CREW vs CHICAGO FIRE
COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM, Columbus, Ohio
May 24, 2014 (WEEK 12, MLS Game #109)
7:30 p.m. ET (TWCSN-OH; My50 Chi)

Two Eastern Conference teams looking to make their way back up the table meet when the Columbus Crew entertain the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening at Columbus Crew Stadium. The Crew return home after seeing their current winless run extended to eight matches last weekend in a 3-3 draw at the Portland Timbers. The Fire are coming off back-to-back victories, their first two of the league campaign, after a 2-1 defeat of Sporting KC at home last Sunday.

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REFEREE: Fotis Bazakos. AR1 (bench): Greg Barkey; AR2 (opposite): Richard Gamache; 4th: Edvin Jurisevic
MLS Career: 26 games; FC/gm: 25.3; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 6; pens: 7

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CLB: Federico Higuain, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp … CHI: Mike Magee
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: none
DISABLED LIST: CLB: Matthew Wiet
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CLB: None; Waylon Francis, Giancarlo Gonzalez (CRC)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (50 meetings): Crew 13 wins (0 shootout), 73 goals … Fire 24 wins (1 shootout), 77 goals … Ties 13
AT CHICAGO (24 meetings): Crew 8 wins (0 shootout), 41 goals … Fire 10 wins (1 shootout), 34 goals … Ties 6
RETURN MATCH: 8/2: Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. CT

LAST YEAR (MLS):
4/20: CHI 1, CLB 0 (Larentowicz 83)
6/22: CLB 2, CHI 1 (Higuain 7 – Duka 52; Magee 54)
9/21: CLB 3, CHI 0 (Oduro 15; Higuain 70; Anor 76)

  • The Fire have won on two of their last four trips to Columbus, including a 2-1 win last June 22 at Crew Stadium.
  • The Crew haven’t won at Toyota Park since the 2006 season. In the 11 meetings since in Bridgeview, the Fire have won six, with four draws, including a victory in the lone Bridgeview meeting a season ago.
  • Coaches record: Frank Yallop vs. CLB: P22 W7 L8 D7 … Gregg Berhalter vs. CHI: first game

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew put an end to their losing and shutout streaks, but still saw their winless run extended as the Portland Timbers hit for a late equalizer in a 3-3 draw Saturday evening at Providence Park. The Crew are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with 13 points from 11 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • The Timbers took the lead in just the fifth minute. Steve Zakuani played a quick ball through to Maximiliano Urruti, who beat Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark to the top netting.
  • But the Crew were in the lead and up a man before halftime. Federico Higuain scored on a cheeky chip shot from 25 yards out in the 14th minute to tie it, then Alvas Powell was sent off in the 34th minute for his tackle on Chad Barson.
  • Then in stoppage time, defender Mamadou Danso was called for a penalty by referee Jose Carlos Rivero when he pulled down Giancarlo Gonzalez on a corner kick, and Higuain easily converted the spot kick.
  • The Timbers had life once again in the 80th minute when Diego Valeri played a long ball into the area that fell to Will Johnson, and he fired home. But from the restart, Higuain fed Ethan Finlay for a shot that deflected off Danso and past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give the Crew back the lead.
  • Then, in the 85th minute, a long free kick by Valeri was headed on by newcomer Fanendo Adi in the box, right to an unmarked Gaston Fernandez who potted an easy tap-in for the dramatic equalizer.
  • Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter made three changes to the team that fell 1-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Crew Stadium. Tyson Wahl and Chad Barson came into the back four with Michael Parkhurst and Waylon Francis away on international duty, and Justin Meram started in place of Bernardo Anor.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-1-1): Steve Clark - Josh Williams, Tyson Wahl, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Chad Barson - Hector Jimenez (Ethan Finlay 80), Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 75) - Federico Higuain - Jairo Arrieta.

TEAM NEWS

  • The Crew put an end to their goalless streak after 335 minutes – equaling the longest in MLS this season and the fourth-longest in club history. The opening goal in Portland was the first scored by the Crew from open play since April 17.
  • “I think we could have managed the game better, plain and simple. If you look at their goals, I didn’t think we did well defending. That wasn’t typical for the whole match,” Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “I think we actually defended well in the match. In those certain cases it wasn’t good enough. It’s part of that learning experience and to come here and score three goals is certainly good. We’re happy with that and we’re happy with how we played at times.”
  • Federico Higuain scored two goals for the sixth time in MLS career and the second time this season, also netting twice in the season-opening win vs. D.C. United. Higuain is tied for fifth in the MLS Golden Boot standings with six goals.
  • “Federico is a quality player and we need him to be like this and he was. Thats what he brings to this group,” said Berhalter. “He’s a difference maker in this league. We value that and we think that his performance was exceptional tonight.”
  • Said Ethan Finlay: “He was fantastic tonight. You know, obviously the two goals and the assist, but outside of that, his play on the ball, how comfortable he was out there, and how he dictated the pace of the game for us was tremendous. Unfortunate that we couldn’t come out with a win. He’s one of those guys, he probably deserved it the most. He really controlled the game tonight and we hope he can continue to do that.”
  • Making his seventh appearance of the season, all off the substitutes’ bench, Finlay scored his first career MLS goal, after three years and 41 games played.
  • Homegrown Player Chad Barson made his first start of 2014, coming in at left back with Waylon Francis having joined Costa Rica in preparation for the FIFA World Cup.
  • “It was great to get my first start of the year. I feel like I’ve been prepared for this opportunity throughout training and different reserve games that we’ve played so far. You always have to be ready,” Barson said. “We know guys are going to be gone for the World Cup and we’re proud of them for that. Guys that haven’t had a major role thus far into the season are going to need to be able to step into a game and help the team.”
  • The Crew have scored four goals from the penalty spot, tied for most in MLS with three other teams, and along with Chivas USA the only teams having gone 4-for-4 on their penalty attempts.

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire posted their second consecutive victory, defeating a 10-man Sporting Kansas City 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park. The Fire are in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 12 points from 10 games.

LAST MATCH

  • The Fire got off to a perfect start Quincy Amarikwa was taken down in the box as he rounded goalkeeper Eric Kronberg following a precise through ball from Harry Shipp. Mike Magee stepped up to take the resulting penalty and kept his nerve superbly to roll the ball into the bottom left corner.
  • The home side then doubled their lead eight minutes later when debutant Erik Palmer-Brown shoved Benji Joya in the back just inside the area. Magee got his second chance from 12 yards and slotted home to the same side to double the Fire advantage.
  • Sporting were a man when Palmer-Brown's debut ended early, in the 64th minute, after being shown a second yellow card for a late, sliding challenge on Amarikwa at midfield.
  • The visitors pulled a goal back in the 68th minute when Dom Dwyer found himself unmarked at the far post to power in Benny Feilhaber's free kick from the right wing, but that would be all the joy SKC would find on the day.
  • Fire head coach Frank Yallop made no changes to the team that claimed a 5-4 victory against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-4-2): Sean Johnson - Lovel Palmer, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Greg Cochrane - Patrick Nyarko (Dilly Duka 59), Jeff Larentowicz, Benji Joya (Logan Pause 58), Harry Shipp - Quincy Amarikwa (Juan Luis Anangono 85), Mike Magee.

TEAM NEWS

  • The Fire recorded their second consecutive victory after opening the season with eight games without a victory, winning for the first time this season in Bridgeview.
  • “Back-to-back wins are huge for us. Now we know what it feels like to win,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “We know how to win and now it’s a matter of focusing on the little things and getting it right so that every game we give ourselves a chance to win and put ourselves in a position to go on and push for three points.”
  • Said Fire head coach Frank Yallop: “I don’t get carried away with losing or tying games. I think, right now, we’re in a good spot, we’ve got a chance to now get going. These next four games are tough; we’ve got a tough schedule, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to, to see and test the character of the boys.”
  • Mike Magee scored multiple goals in a game for the fifth time in his MLS career, converting a pair of penalties after having missed one earlier this season.
  • “Mike and Jeff [Larentowicz] were talking, and Jeff felt that Mike was the guy to do it. He missed the last two for us; last season [against Montreal], then the first one against Philly,” said Yallop. “To score two in the same game is tough, so you have to hand it to Mike that he stepped up and buried those two chances and won the match for us; it was great.”
  • Patrick Ianni played his second consecutive match in place of Bakary Soumare in central defense.
  • “I thought Patrick [Ianni] had a good, solid game again; Jhon [Kennedy Hurtado] again, I thought, was solid in the middle, the two outside backs at times,” said Yallop. “… I think the defensive side of things is not quite right yet; and again, it’s not just the back four, it’s the whole thing. We watched a lot of DVD last week, we’re going to watch it again this week, and see if we can get the balance where we can just be in good spots.”
  • The Fire still have yet to keep a clean sheet this season, one of four teams (along with Chivas USA, FC Dallas and Portland) not to record a defensive shutout this year.
  • “We won the game, would have loved to get the shutout; winning is everything. If we win 3-2, 2-1, whatever it is, we’ll take it. Obviously, it’s nice defensively if we can get a shutout,” said Yallop. “But as you know, it wasn’t a defensive back four error; it was someone not picking up someone on a set play, so that’s a team thing. We’re working on stuff all the time; it’s brand new, with 10 games in, I’m happy with only losing two games in this league with a group that’s been put together a little bit.”
  • The Fire’s substitutes vs. Sporting both returned after long layoffs. Dilly Duka made his first appearance since April 5, while Logan Pause came on for a second consecutive game, his first outings since playing in the March 9 season opener.
  • “I think Logan [Pause] did a good job, and Dilly looked good when he came on. He has not played for a while, so it was good to get him some minutes and get him running around,” said Yallop.