'Men in Red' look for fireworks in Columbus

The Chicago Fire (4-4-5, 17 pts.) will look to gain ground - and potentially the top spot - in the Eastern Conference race this Saturday when it takes on the Columbus Crew (4-5-3, 15 pts.) at Columbus Crew Stadium at 6:30 p.m. CT in a match that will be broadcast live in Chicagoland on Fox Sports Net. Fire fans can listen to the match live via Chicagoland radio stations WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish) and WNVR 1030 AM (Polish), and the audio simulcast of the FSN broadcast will also be available worldwide on the Internet at the team's official website, (English). Chicago, who remains two points behind the MetroStars for first place in the East heading into Saturday, will be looking to break away from a five-team pack that currently holds the League's best road record at .500. Chicago has gone 1-1-4 on the road in 2004 and saw its five-game road unbeaten streak snapped June 12 at Los Angeles.

Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew
Saturday, July 3 @ 6:30 p.m. CT: Crew Stadium
Satellite: KU Band AMC 9 Tr. 15
Radio: WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish), WNVR 1030 AM (Polish), (English)

Chicago Fire ACE/Tru-Fit Injury Report
Brown, C.J. - R groin strain -- questionable
Marsch, Jesse - R ankle cartilage damage - out
Mapp, Justin - lower back strain - probable
Whitfield, Evan - R groin strain -- questionable

Fire History vs. Columbus
This Saturday's match will be the second of four meetings between the two Eastern Conference combatants this season. Columbus leads the series 1-0-0 after taking a 3-1 victory over the Fire at Soldier Field on May 23 in what was only the Crew's second-ever win in 11 contests in Chicagoland. The Fire holds a commanding 12-6-3 lead in the all-time regular season series and has held its own in Columbus by registering a 4-4-2 mark at Ohio Stadium (1998-99) and Crew Stadium (1999-present). The Fire had two memorable games at Crew Stadium in 2003, a 2-2 come-from-behind draw on Aug. 13 that featured Damani Ralph's late game-tying goal that would eventually be voted as the 2003 Pepsi Goal of the Year, and a 6-2 Columbus victory on Oct. 26 that saw Fire back-up netminder Curtis Spiteri allow an MLS record six goals in the second half of the MLS regular season finale.

Fire at Crew, Part II: Chicago to Begin Defense of U.S. Open Cup Crown July 20 at Crew Stadium
This Saturday's match will not be the only time the Fire and Crew meet this month in Columbus, as the two familiar foes have been drawn to face each other in a fourth round contest in the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on July 20 at Crew Stadium at 6:30 p.m. CT. Columbus advanced on Wednesday night courtesy of a 2-1 victory over the USL A-League's Syracuse Salty Dogs in Columbus, as a Ross Paule penalty kick in second half stoppage time put the Crew through to the next round. The contest will be a meeting between the prestigious tournament's last two champions, as Chicago lifted the Dewar Trophy last year and Columbus won its first-ever domestic crown by winning the 2002 competition. The last time the Fire faced the Crew in Open Cup play was on Oct. 30, 1998 at Soldier Field in the championship match, as the Fire defeated the Crew 2-1 on Frank Klopas' golden goal to win its first of three U.S. Open Cup championships.

Fire Finally Facing East
Forgive the Chicago Fire if it forgot which conference it was in through the first three months of its schedule, as the "Men in Red" found themselves facing off against Western Conference opponents eight times through their first 13 games. However, beginning with this Saturday's contest at Columbus, the Fire will square off in five consecutive intra-conference showdowns that will help determine the course of the Eastern Conference race during the month of July. After Columbus, the Fire will play a pair of home-and-home series with both the New England Revolution (home on July 11, at NE on July 14) and the MetroStars (home on July 17, at MET on July 24). Chicago has fared well against the East this season, going 3-1-1 in its five division contests thus far.

Quick Kicks vs. Crew

  • Ante Razov leads the "Men in Red" in scoring against the Crew with 24 points on 11 goals and a pair of assists in 17 games. He can tie the all-time mark for goals scored against Columbus, which is currently held by retired striker Raul Diaz Arce at 12 tallies. Razov already has more game-winning goals against the Crew (4) than any player in League history.
  • Despite holding a sizable advantage in the series, the Fire has only outscored the Crew 37-35 in their 21 regular season games.
  • Fire forward Damani Ralph now sits in a third place tie on the MLS Budweiser Scoring Chart, with his 14 points (6g, 2a) on the 2004 campaign just one behind San Jose's Brian Ching and the MetroStars' Amado Guevara for the League lead. Ralph is tied in third place with a pair of Los Angeles Galaxy forwards - Carlos Ruiz and Alejandro Moreno.

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