Eastern Conference rivals meet in Columbus

OUT: FW Jason Garey (R ankle sprain); MF Cory Elenio (L hamstring strain); DF Frankie Hejduk (R hamstring tightness); QUESTIONABLE: GK William Hesmer (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: DF Chad Marshall (facial contusion); MF Robbie Rogers (L hamstring tightness) ... CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: FW Peter Lowry (L knee sprain); FW Calen Carr (L ACL tear); DF Daniel Woolard (R ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: DF C.J. Brown (R quad strain);
QUESTIONABLE: DF Wilman Conde (L hip flexor strain); PROBABLE: DF Gonzalo Segares (R quad contusion)


ALL-TIME (37 meetings): Crew 10 wins (0 shootout), 57 goals ... Fire 17 wins (1 shootout), 58 goals ... Ties 10
AT COLUMBUS (18 meetings): Crew 5 wins (0 shootout), 31 goals ... Fire 8 wins (1 shootout), 27 goals ... Ties 5
7/11: Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire, 7 p.m. CT;
9/20: Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire, 3 p.m. ET

7/5: CLB 2, CHI 2 (Ekpo 36; Lenhart 87 - Rolfe 8; Carr 25) 10/12: CHI 2, CLB 2 (McBride 13, 79 - Gaven 59; Schelotto 61)
• The Fire have won on four of their last six league visits to Crew Stadium, with two draws. The last Columbus home victory in the series came on July 3, 2004, a 2-0 victory - until last year's Eastern Conference Championship, a 2-1 Columbus win.

• The Crew have won just one of the last nine regular season meetings, over the last two-plus seasons - a 4-1 victory at Bridgeview on Oct. 7, 2006. The Fire won three of those encounters, with four draws.

• In addition to the Eastern Conference Championship a year, the teams also met in the round-of-16 in the U.S. Open Cup, the Fire winning 3-2 in extra time in Peoria, Ill.

• Coaches record: Robert Warzycha vs. CHI: first game ... Denis Hamlett v CLB: P2 W0 L0 D2


The Columbus Crew are coming off a bye week still looking for their first victory on the season, the Colorado Rapids getting a late equalizer for a 1-1 draw at Crew Stadium on April 11 in their last game. The Crew sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with three points from five matches, now six points out of the top spot.

• The defending champions were back home after a lost Western trip, while the Rapids were on the second game of their long road swing after opening it with a win at the LA Galaxy.

• The Crew took the lead four minutes before halftime. Gino Padula flighted a ball down the left flank and Emmanuel Ekpo pulled it down before hooking a pass back to the spot, where Guillermo Barros Schelotto swept it home inside the right post for his third goal on the season.

• But eight minutes from the end the Rapids hit for the equalizer. Conor Casey pushed the ball through the Crew defense and roared in on goal, stabbing home under William Hesmer for his league-leading fourth goal on the campaign to secure a point for the visitors.

• Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made three changes to the team that lost 2-1 at Chivas USA the weekend before. Andy Iro was suspended and Chad Marshall injured, so Jed Zayner and Eric Brunner came into the back four. With Robbie Rogers also slowed, Adam Moffat made his season debut in the midfield.

• Here's Warzycha's team (4-1-3-1-1): William Hesmer - Jed Zayner (Steven Lenhart 87), Eric Brunner, Danny O'Rourke, Gino Padula - Brian Carroll - Eddie Gaven, Adam Moffat (Duncan Oughton 67), Emmanuel Ekpo - Guillermo Barros Schelotto - Alejandro Moreno. Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Burns, Alex Grendi, Andy Gruenebaum, Pat Noonan, Stanley Nyazamba

• "I am proud of the team because they had a very good performance today. We were better in every aspect of the game," said Warzycha. "We were just unlucky not to score some goals. We give up a goal at the end and we give up two points."

• After winning their final six home games in the 2008 season, plus their two matches at Crew Stadium in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Crew have now reached draws in their first two games at home in 2009, conceding late equalizers in each.

• "If you saw the game [against Colorado] I don't think [we are losing our edge at home]. We lost two points, but I don't think we are losing our advantage. The way we played today, we scare other teams because we create a lot of chances and the game was very exciting."

• The Crew were so riddled with injuries for the Rapids match that Warzycha really had only 17 fit players to call upon. Pat Noonan was on the substitutes' bench and listed as an available sub, even though he has not been fit enough to practice for a month.

• Eric Brunner, from the Columbus suburb of Dublin and Ohio State, made his MLS debut in place of Chad Marshall in the middle defense while Zayner made his fifth career start for Hejduk at right back. Central midfielder Adam Moffat made his first appearance for the Crew since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear nearly 11 months ago.

• "I wanted to get at least an hour," Moffat said. "Bobby (Warzycha) said see how my body went. If I felt I could have gone longer, I would have but I felt a cramp in the back of my leg on my last run. There was no point continuing from here."

• While the bye week has done some to alleviate the injury woes, there are still some key players who will be missing. Right back Frankie Hejduk has not been able to participate in full training at all, and goalkeeper William Hesmer suffered a knee injury against Colorado and experienced discomfort in training last week. Warzycha said he is "very, very questionable" for Saturday.

• Noonan and winger Robbie Rogers are both expected to be fully fit for the Chicago match, as is Marshall.

• "I feel so much better. I don't even feel it (hamstring) at all. I'm glad I took the rest," he said. "I was in more of a passing role (before). I really couldn't take guys on," Rogers said. "Pressuring guys defensively was tough because it was hard for me to stop and cut but I was trying to help as much as possible. It's going to be a different me when I start playing again."

• This is not the first time the Crew have opened a season winless after five games. They did so in 2004, when they started 0-3-2 - and eventually won the Supporters' Shield after reeling off a 19-game unbeaten streak.

• "We've had some good performances," Noonan said. "The three ties we've had could have been victories. Maybe that was different from last year. That's why it's frustrating. You come from winning a championship and finding a way to win those games to this year it's not happening.


The Chicago Fire are still unbeaten on the season, but it might not feel that way after the Kansas City Wizards scored two goals in the final 12 minutes to pull into a 2-2 tie on Saturday night at Toyota Park. The Fire are still atop the Eastern Conference with nine points from five games on the season, a point ahead of the New England Revolution and Toronto FC.

• The Fire had opened their campaign with a pair of wins and a pair of draws, while the Wizards had righted their season with a pair of victories following two losses to kick off the year.

• The Fire came out flying and were two goals up 20 minutes into the game -- both from Brian McBride. First, on 12 minutes, after a collision between the Wizards' Jimmy Conrad and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman in the area, the ball fell to Wilman Conde, who slid to McBride to stroke home inside the right post from outside the area.

• Then in the 20th minute, Cuauhtemoc Blanco -- making his first start of the season -- swung in a freekick from the right flank. McBride rose up to powerfully head home inside the right-hand post for his third goal on the year.

• Hartman made amends with a series of spectacular saves in the second half, and the Wizards were able to draw even through a U.S. international of their own in Josh Wolff. First, in the 78th minute, Claudio Lopez broke away from a group a players and whipped a cross to the far post where Wolff snuck in to tap it home.

• Then in the 89th minute, Michael Harrington put in a cross from the right touchline toward the near post where Wolff slipped in front of his marker and sent a glancing header to the back of the net to give K.C. points for just the fourth time in 17 all-time trips to Chicago.

• Fire head coach Denis Hamlett made three changes to the team that played to a 3-3 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes the previous weekend. Cuauhtemoc Blanco was given his first start of the season and Wilman Conde came into the back four while John Thorrington returned from suspension, with Brandon Prideaux and Dasan Robinson returned to the substitutes' bench and Justin Mapp was unfit.

• Here's Hamlett's team (4-3-1-2): Jon Busch - Tim Ward, Wilman Conde, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares - John Thorrington, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa (Mike Banner 89) - Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Austin Washington 83) - Brian McBride, Patrick Nyarko (Chris Rolfe 77). Substitutes Not Used: Baggio Husidic, Nick Noble, Brandon Prideaux, Dasan Robinson

• The Fire still lead MLS with 10 goals through the first five games of the season, two more than Kansas City and Chivas USA entering the week. In the opening 45 minutes against the Wizards, it looked like it could have been more.

• "I think it was the best half the team has played this year. I think our mentality showed from the start. We were on the same page - playing one and two touch soccer, moving the ball and when we created opportunities to go one-on-one we did that," Hamlett said.

• Against the Wizards, Chicago took four shots in the first half and they were all on goal. Kansas City took one. In the second half, the Fire had nine shots, with four on goal. However in a short span, the Wizards had five on goal - and made two count.

• "It was a great game for 75 minutes," Fire defender Bakary Soumare said. "And then we lost our concentration. We kept things tight and kept playing the way we had been playing. Being up 2-0, we didn't feel much pressure to score a third or fourth goal. You play hard for such a long time and then blow it at the end ... it's unspeakable."

• The Fire have opened a season unbeaten over the first five games for the first time in club history, but were upset not to have maintained a perfect record from two home games.

• "We needed to be better closing out the game. For the first 75 minutes of the game, we had control of the game, we were doing what we wanted to do, and I think we lost a little bit of our shape and balance and we started sending guys forward and we really didn't need to," Hamlett said.

• McBride is now tied for the MLS Golden Boot lead with four goals from five matches, along with Conor Casey (Colorado) and Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas). Since returning to MLS, McBride has nine goals in 16 league games, adding one in three playoff games last year as well.

• "Brian [McBride] scored two good goals. It was unselfish soccer and I tell the group when we play like that, it looks good," Hamlett said. "I think the second half got away from that in terms of trying to get that third goal, we didn't really need it, we just kept pushing and we got caught in an open game."

• Cuauhtemoc Blanco made his first start of the season, playing 83 minutes after he saw just 76 minutes combined in three appearances off the substitutes' bench in the first four games. He provided an assist on McBride's second goal that now gives him a goal and two assists on the season.

• "He's getting his form back," Hamlett said. "It was good for him to get out there and play in a competitive game from the get go."

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