Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew: Preview and How to Watch

Mar 4, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC forward Federico Higuain (10) plays the ball away from Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty (6) at MAPFRE Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC forward Federico Higuain (10) plays the ball away from Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty (6) at MAPFRE Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports /

Columbus Crew travel to Toyota Park on Saturday to take on Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire. Preview, predicted Lineups, and score prediction.

In the season opener, mere weeks ago, Columbus were lucky just to scratch out a draw against the Fire. Much has changed since then.

Columbus Crew

Today, Columbus tops the MLS table, entering the match in fantastic form having rattled off three wins in a row. One of those wins coming against MLS Cup-favorites Portland Timbers, Columbus has reasserted themselves as early MLS playoff contenders.

The forward momentum hasn’t been lost on Coach Gregg Berhalter who traded for attacker Kekuta Manneh last week. Learning from the Crew’s underwhelming start to the 2016 season, this is an aggressive move to reinforce an already formidable attack. If rookie center back Alex Crognale continues his run of dominance, Berhalter’s bench only deepens thanks to Jonathan Mensah getting pushed onto it.

As for Columbus Crew starters, Federico Higuain, Ola Kamara, and Justin Meram have the Crew’s offense humming to the tune of “top 5 scoring teams in MLS”. Meram, especially, has started strong, leading the Crew in scoring and player ratings.

With the recent form the Crew offense has been in, I wouldn’t expect Kekuta Manneh to start this match. Look for the newest member of the Crew to make his first appearance as an impact sub.

Predicted Starting XI- Columbus Crew

Chicago Fire

Johan Kappelhof draws back into the Chicago Fire starting lineup after serving his red card suspension while Juninho will sit down to serve his own. Arturo Alvarez is the likely candidate to fill Juninho’s spot with either rookie Daniel Johnson (promising debut) or Michael de Leeuw (available!) taking over at Right Wing.

Dax McCarty looked comfortable in the deep-lying disruptor role. The Fire’s overall team defense should improve as players around him learn his tendencies. Same goes for the offense and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger took all of few minutes before not only adopting to his teammate’s game, but actually activating it. Basti’s constant movement around the field allowed him to act as a focal point for the offense, helping to dominate possession and initiate attacks all 90 minutes of his debut.

Chicago Fire’s back line, however, is still in need of some adjustments, specifically at RB and GK. Points were lost last game due to a breakdown in the midfield exacerbated by Michael Harrington’s defensive liabilities and Jorge Bava’s penchant for letting in soft goals. Teams have keyed in on which side of the defense is the weakest and are starting to attack accordingly.

Hopefully, this is the match where Matt Polster can step in.

Predicted Starting XI-Chicago Fire


According to, Chicago Fire have scored at least 2 goals in their last nine home games. Expect that rate of return to hold steady.

David Accam’s ‘individual skill’ will continue to give Columbus’ back line nightmares. Perhaps Daniel Johnson’s silky dribbles can add to the mayhem. At any rate, another match to work with Schweinsteiger should propel a determined Nemanja Nikolic to the score sheet. I have little doubt that Niko’s market correction is imminent.

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According to the stats, Columbus Crew prefer to attack up the right side with probing passes, tending to culminate with a cross into Kamara or Meram. They’ve scored more than 2 goals a game over their past three matches using this basic template, but this was not how they scored in their last match.

Both goals came on counterattacks as Meram was given the ball out on the left flank, isolated his defender, and eventually cut inside to score. If Meram is able to shed Harrington’s mark often, it could be a rough day in Chicago.

All in all, Columbus Crew are riding a great run of form, and Chicago Fire are itching to start one of their own. I expect goals aplenty. If the Crew are able to gain the edge in possession, a 2-2 tie seems likely. If the Fire win the possession battle, however, I believe the Men in Red will take all three points.

Kickoff is at 1 PM CST.

Next: Chicago Fire: Who is the Weakest Link Right Now?

How To Watch

TV: Chicago: MLS LIVE, CSN Plus, Fubo TV  \/   Columbus: Spectrum Sports OH, BCSN2, ABC 6

Radio: Chicago: WRTO 1200AM , WRTO AM Internet Live Stream   \/  Columbus: CD 102.5 FM (English), La Mega 103.1 FM (Spanish)