Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC | 2018 MLS Match Preview

ExLink - 08/23/18 - CHIvCLB

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC
2018 MLS Regular Season — Week 26

Toyota Park — Bridgeview
August 23 - 7 pm ET


A pair of Eastern Conference foes looking to rebound from weekend road losses meet at Toyota Park when the slumping Chicago Fire host Columbus Crew SC Thursday night.

The Fire conceded in stoppage time in a 2-1 defeat to the Montreal Impact, their eighth consecutive league defeat, while Crew SC dropped a 3-1 decision to Atlanta United on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The teams split a pair of earlier regular-season matches, with the Fire holding serve at home, 1-0, on a Nemanja Nikolic goal in April, and Crew SC responded with a 3-0 victory at MAPFRE Stadium behind a Gyasi Zardes brace a month later.

The home team has earned a point in the last six MLS games between the Fire and the Crew (4W-2D). The road team has not won a game in this series since Oct. 2016, per Opta.

Chicago Fire

It was deja-vu all over again for Chicago (6-15-5), which suffered an eighth consecutive league defeat, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Montreal Impact Saturday in Montreal.

After Ignacio Piatti scored from the penalty spot in the 6th minute, Nikolic knocked in a rebound to level in the 70th minute. However, Daniel Lovitz secured all three points for the hosts with a 91st-minute volley from the edge of the box.

“It always comes to the same mistakes from the same people," Veljko Paunovic said. "Just training and doing preparations doesn’t get better. So we have to make some decisions."

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Matt Polster (MCL surgery), GK - Patrick McLain (hamstring injury), M/D - Diego Campos (left MCL injury), D - Jonathan Campbell (left adductor injury)

Projected Starting XI
(3-4-2-1, right to left)
GK: Richard Sanchez — Johan Kappelhof, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Brandon Vincent — Nico Hasler, Dax McCarty, Djordje Mihailovic, Jorge Corrales — Raheem Edwards, Aleksandar Katai — Nemanja Nikolic

  • Notes: Dax McCarty is averaging 9.2 recoveries per game this season. Toronto’s Michael Bradley (10.0) is the only outfield player averaging more. … Chicago have now lost their last eight MLS matches by a combined score of 20-9. No team has lost nine straight league games since Orlando did earlier this year.

Columbus Crew SC

Columbus (11-8-6) had a three-match winning streak snapped Sunday, losing at Atlanta, 3-1.

Josef Martinez opened the scoring in the 31st minute, netting his MLS record-tying 27th goal of the season. Zardes leveled five minutes into the second half with his 15th goal of the season. But Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron scored six minutes apart late in the second half to secure the Five Stripes win.

“I think it’s a good effort. I think it is an effort that shows our intent, shows that we can be dangerous, shows that we can come in here and push Atlanta to the edge,” Gregg Berhalter said. “I think we did that. I’m disappointed with the goals that we conceded. I didn’t think they indicated the level of defending that we are capable of, but overall proud of the effort of the guys.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: M - Eduardo Sosa (right knee injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Zack Steffen — Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Milton Valenzuela — Wil Trapp, Artur — Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos — Gyasi Zardes

  • Notes: Zardes is one goal away from 50 in his MLS career and from tying his career-high for goals in a season of 16 set in 2014. He has three goals in six league appearances against the Fire. … Crew SC have now dropped four of their last five league road matches (1W), conceding 2+ goals in each match. They had kept clean sheets in the three road games prior.

All-Time Series

  • Overall: Chicago Fire 26 wins, 87 goals … Columbus Crew SC 19 wins, 94 goals … 18 draws
  • At Chicago: Fire 16 wins, 48 goals … Crew SC 6 wins, 36 goals … 10 draws
  • Last meeting at Chicago: Chicago Fire 1, Columbus Crew SC 0 (April 7, 2018)


Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referees: Adam Garner, TJ Zablocki
4th Official: Fotis Bazakos
VAR: Robert Sibiga