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11/23 FINAL
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11/30 9:00pm
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Eastern Conference Championship

Midwest showdown at Crew Stadium

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COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM

COLUMBUS, Ohio

7:30 pm ET (HDNet)

The two East rivals come together in Columbus for another installment in a sometimes heated rivalry, both still trying to find their true form this year. The home-standing Crew have cruised to victory in two home matches - and failed to score in two road defeats. The Fire had ridden a three-match unbeaten run to the top of the Eastern Conference - before crashing back to earth in a 3-0 home loss to New England in the top-of-the-table battle at midweek.

REFEREE: Andrew Chapin. SAR (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; JAR (opposite): Jorge de la Bandera; 4th: Rizal Milliken

MLS Career: 3 games; FC/gm: 32.7; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 2; pens: 1

Games involving Crew: first game

Games involving Fire: first game
INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW - OUT: MF Devin Barclay (R shoulder separation); MF Duncan Oughton (R knee); MD Ross Paule (post-concussion syndrome); MF David Testo (L ankle sprain); PROBABLE: DF Stephen Herdsman (groin strain)
CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); DOUBTFUL: MD Tony Sanneh (R hip/hamstring strain); FW Andy Herron (L ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Zach Thornton (L oblique strain); FW Chris Rolfe (L groin strain); MF John Thorrington (L hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: CLB: MF Mario Rodriguez (through May 1)
YELLOW PERIL: CHI: C.J. Brown (8 CP in 2 gms)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (24 meetings): Crew 8 wins (0 shootout), 41 goals ... Fire 12 wins (1 shootout), 40 goals ... 4 draws
AT CREW STADIUM (12 meetings): Crew 5 wins (0 shootout), 26 goals ... Fire 4 wins (1 shootout), 17 goals ... 3 draw

• The two Eastern Conference rivals meet for the first time this season, with three more encounters between the clubs still ahead. They'll face off at Soldier Field on July 16, then meet for the second time at the Ohio State Fairgrounds on Sept. 17. The final league encounter is set for Oct. 8 in Chicago.

• A year ago, the Crew won three of the four meetings between the clubs with the fourth ending in a draw. The Black-and-Gold claimed a 3-1 victory at Soldier Field on May 23 (Ralph 49 - Cunningham 32 pen, Martino 55, Ritch 59), then posted a 2-0 triumph on July 3 at home (Buddle 43, Cunningham 44)

• The teams then met twice in five days at season's end - first playing to a wild 3-3 draw at Crew Stadium on Oct. 2 (Martino 45 pen, Cunningham 56, 64 - Ralph 14 pen, Herron 59, 80), then the Crew again winning in Chicago on Oct. 6 through the lone goal from Buddle (59).

• The Crew have won four of the last five league meetings between the teams. But they also met last year in the U.S. Open Cup - the Fire winning 2-1 in extra time in the round-of-16 (Hejduk 27 - Ralph 66 pen, 106+)

• Columbus hasn't lost in its last five home matches against the Fire, with three wins and two draws since a 2-0 Chicago win on opening day in 2002 (0-2).

• Coaches record: Greg Andrulis v CHI: P8 W1 L4 T3 ... Dave Sarachan vs. MET: P8 W4 L1 D3

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew lost for the second time in two matches on the road, falling 2-0 to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night. With a perfect record at home, the Crew are now in third place in the Eastern Conference with six points from four matches, four points East leaders New England Revolution and a point behind second-place Chicago.

LAST MATCH

• In Denver, the Rapids scored early in each half to claim a first three-pointer of the campaign. They opened their account after just two minutes, a long cross from Luchi Gonzalez finding Chris Henderson on the left of the area, and he headed back for Pablo Mastroeni who hammered a low first-time volley home inside the far post.

• Then just before the hour, Henderson was again involved as he wriggled free on the left flank and whipped in a cross from the corner that found an unmarked Gonzalez, who headed home for his first MLS goal. The Crew were reduced to 10 men for the final 13 minutes after wingback Mario Rodriguez was sent off with a straight red card in his MLS debut.

• "You can't give up those kind of goals at this level. It's ridiculous," Crew coach Greg Andrulis said. "From our possession to their throw-in to a goal. It's stupid. It shouldn't have happened."

• Andrulis made one change to the team that defeated D.C. United 1-0 at home eight days earlier. David Testo was out with an ankle sprain as Guatemalan international Mario Rodriguez made his Crew debut, coming in wide on the right of midfield as Frankie Hejduk moved to the other side.

• Here's Andrulis's team (3-4-1-2): Jon Busch - Ryan Kelly (Chris Wingert 61), Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Mario Rodriguez, Simon Elliott, Danny Szetela, Frankie Hejduk - Kyle Martino (Devin Barclay 71) - Edson Buddle, Ante Razov.

• "It's tough to give up a goal that early and chase the game," Andrulis said. "The last 20 minutes of the first half we were good, but we weren't able to get that touch to get even."
TEAM NEWS

• Ross Paule has been forced to retire from professional soccer after a doctor refused to clear his return from post-concussion syndrome. He told the team of his decision to retire during the week. "This is not what I want but it is what it is," Paule said to The Columbus Dispatch. "I am doing everything I can do to take care of my health and well-being of my family by obtaining the best medical advice from the best to make sure the decision is right for me.

• Devin Barclay, who came on as a late substitute in the Rapids match, suffered a separated shoulder the following day in the match between the clubs' reserve teams. He will likely be out 3-6 weeks.

• In two matches at home, the Crew have scored four goals and allowed none. On the road, the Crew have allowed five goals and scored none. "I think it is still a team evolving and trying to figure out how to play and we just try to be too fine with the ball and we need to be a little more direct and get the ball forward to our dangerous guys, Andrulis said. "We're just trying to out-possess the teams right now and we're not clicking and we get turnovers that are killing us."

• The Crew obtained Trinidad & Tobago international forward Cornell Glen from FC Dallas for the Crew's second-round selection in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, and a youth international slot in 2005. Glen did not play for FCD after arriving from the MetroStars over the winter. He scored six goals for the Metros last season.

• To make room for Glen on the Crew roster, forward Dante Washington was placed on waivers. He has spent a part of nine seasons in MLS and joined the Crew for a second time late last season. He had 52 goals in 161 league appearances in his MLS career.

• Danny Szetela scored the third goal for the U.S. under-20 national team in their 4-1 victory against the USL First Division (second tier) Seattle Sounders on Monday.

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire saw their three-match unbeaten run come crashing to earth in a 3-0 loss to the New England Revolution in a top-of-the-table clash at Soldier Field on Wednesday night. The Fire are on seven points from five matches, three behind the Revolution in second place in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Columbus Crew.

LAST MATCH

• The Revolution continued their torrid start to the 2005 season and laid an early claim as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, scoring a pair of goals late in the first half and then holding their ground in the second for a comfortable victory.

• Clint Dempsey gave the Revolution the lead in the 32nd minute, stepping through a pair of Fire defenders by flicking a Shalrie Joseph ball into the air and ripping a full volley into the top right corner past a stunned Zach Thornton.

• Pat Noonan then doubled the lead 11 minutes later after Dempsey set off on a rampaging run down the right before slipping the ball to James Riley, who sent a rolling cross into the area. Noonan was on the far side and fired a low, hard shot back across the face of goal inside the far post.

• Taylor Twellman scored his 50th career league goal five minutes deep into second-half stoppage time to seal the victory, claiming the ball in midfield and racing in almost unmolested before drilling an angled shot inside the near post from inside the penalty area.

• "They beat us to every ball," Fire coach Dave Sarachan said. "Our problems were not due to a lack of trying or motivation. At the end of the day, we were just second best."

• Sarachan made just one change to the starting lineup that defeated the MetroStars 1-0 the previous Friday at Giants Stadium. Zach Thornton returned the starting lineup in goal for the first time since forced to leave at halftime of the April 9 draw with D.C. United with an injury, replacing Matt Pickens.

• Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-2-1): Zach Thornton - C.J. Brown (Andy Herron 78), Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero - Kelly Gray, Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch (Chris Rolfe 69), Ivan Guerrero - Thiago, Justin Mapp - Nate Jaqua (Chad Barrett 72).

• "You would expect a bigger fight," Fire defender C.J. Brown said. "We weren't there, we didn't play. It was pretty obvious."
TEAM NEWS

• The best of the Fire's night came over the final 20 minutes, when rookies Chris Rolfe and Chad Barrett came into the side along with Andy Herron, Sarachan making all three substitutions with attackers. "We could have come out of it with goals. Chris and Chad had good looks but just weren't able to finish," Sarachan said.

• For Herron, it was his first action since the April 9 match v D.C. United when he was forced off after 55 minutes with an injury. Herron came through a reserve match last weekend with no problems. "[Herron] still needs a couple of weeks of training," the Fire boss said.

• Tony Sanneh was not able to make his Fire debut, as much because of the tactical moves Sarachan made. Sanneh has played the last two matches for the Fire reserves. "Tony's close," Sarachan said. "He might be ready next game."

• Slovakian international striker joined the Fire before the match, but was not in the 20-man available roster. He might still be a week or two away from making his Fire debut.


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