Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew match preview – We’re still going?

Jul 9, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Fire FC defender Miguel Ángel Navarro (6) battles Columbus Crew SC midfielder Luis Díaz (12) for control of the ball in the second half at Soldier Field. Navarro was given a red card and ejection for the play. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Fire FC defender Miguel Ángel Navarro (6) battles Columbus Crew SC midfielder Luis Díaz (12) for control of the ball in the second half at Soldier Field. Navarro was given a red card and ejection for the play. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s another Midwest battle in MLS this weekend as the Chicago Fire hosts the Columbus Crew at Soldier Field on Saturday night.

Chicago’s season took a brutal turn for the worst during the week. They were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, losing at home (at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview) to the Houston Dynamo in the quarterfinals. The Fire put in a very disappointing showing on the night, and even though things could’ve gone differently if not for an awful missed call from the referee, they ultimately deserved to bow out of the competition.

That tournament had been Chicago’s focus for the past month, so now they’ll have to turn their sights back on their MLS campaign, which hasn’t been too good either. They’re the 2nd worst team in the Eastern Conference. Thankfully they’ve got time to fix the mess they’ve made, but they need to do that before it’s too late.

Columbus, meanwhile, is in better spirits. They’ve won their last two games, scoring seven goals in the process. It’s been a much-needed run of form as they had previously lost three in a row, including a shock Open Cup elimination at the hands of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and a defeat in the Hell Is Real derby versus bitter rivals FC Cincinnati.

The Crew have been the entertainers of MLS, scoring the most goals in the entire league this season. That’s all and good at the moment since they’re in a comfortable 6th place in the East, but they know they’ll need to be more consistent if they want to be an actual threat down the stretch.

Player availability

Chicago will only be without Carlos Terán and Chris Mueller

For Columbus, the likes of Milos Degenek, Will Sands, and Gustavo Vallecilla are unavailable for selection.

Predicted lineups

Chicago Fire: Brady, Souquet, Pineda, Czichos, M. Navarro, F. Navarro, Giménez, Haile-Selassie, Shaqiri, Gutiérrez, Koutsias

Columbus Crew: Schulte, Zawadzki, Amundsen, Moreira, Arfsten, Nagbe, Morris, Yeboah, Ramirez, Hernández, Zelarayán

What to watch for

Styles make fights
The duality of man will be on show once again this weekend.

As mentioned earlier, Columbus are the highest-scoring team in the entire league. They like to send bodies forward, and their focus is on attacking instead of defending. Chicago, on the other hand, likes to keep players back and play pragmatic soccer. Their defensive record isn’t the best, sure, but they certainly know how to make a game ugly.

That difference in styles could make this an interesting battle. The Crew will probably take initiative, getting on the ball and trying to create openings. That would be fine for the Fire, who will sit deep and try to hit on the counter.

Will Columbus be clever enough in the final third to carve out openings and then finish them off? Can Chicago go a full game without shooting themselves in the foot?

Only time will tell.

Bouncing back
It’s hard to describe how tough Chicago’s aforementioned Open Cup loss was.

Well, actually it’s not too hard. Imagine someone promising you a piece of candy, and then they punch you in the gut. You’re let down, you’re hurt, you’re empty, and you just want to lie down.

The Fire can’t lie down, though. They’ve got another game. They have to keep going.

It’ll be interesting to see how they respond, especially at home. They named a first-choice starting lineup for the Open Cup game, and it’s unclear how many of those players will be able to start again on short notice. Those who play will have tired legs, and possibly more important, tired minds.

Chicago can’t let that impact their performance here, though. They’ll be up against incredibly dangerous opposition, and a slow start could lead to one or two or even three goals being put past them before the end of the half.

Speaking of that dangerous opposition, Columbus has a front three that’s firing on all cylinders at the moment.

The trio of Lucas Zelarayán, Cucho Hernández, and Christian Ramirez have been key in the Crew’s last two wins. Zelarayán had a goal and two assists against the Colorado Rapids, and then he added another assist versus Charlotte FC. Hernández scored in the first game before grabbing a goal and an assist in the following one. Ramirez was blanked to start, but then he went and scored twice while also dishing out an assist in the most recent matchup.

That’s 10 goal contributions combined from the three of them. It’s an impressive return, and those results show what Columbus can do going forward when things are going well. The setup of the rest of the side, a back-three with wingbacks and two center-mids, allows the front three the freedom to stay high up the pitch and move around into whatever spaces they find.

Chicago can be solid at times at the back, but they’re also prone to giving up chances in bunches. If the likes of Zelarayán, Hernández, and Ramirez can come out hot to start the match, then they all might be able to add to their goalscoring tallies.

Recent meetings

The two fixtures between these sides last season were quite different.

The most recent was a boring 0-0 draw near the end of the campaign that did nothing for either side.

Things were much more eventful in the other contest, though. Chicago grabbed two goals near the end of the first half to take a commanding lead into the break. That didn’t last, and Columbus actually scored three goals in the final half hour to pull off a remarkable comeback and steal a win on the road.

Nothing like the duality of man.

How to watch

The match kicks off at 7:30 pm central time, and it will air live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.