Preview: Crew vs. Fire

Fire's playoff hopes hang on thread vs. sliding Crew

The Basics

Chicago Fire (7-11-8, 29 points, fifth in the Eastern Conference) vs. Columbus Crew (13-7-7, 46 points, second in the Eastern Conference), at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

All-time record: Fire lead the series 17-11-13

TV Info

9 p.m. ET; Direct Kick, Matchday Live

Game Intro

Both teams head into Friday's match scuffling. The Fire have lost
four of their last five while the Crew are winless in their last four
MLS matches.

Though they find themselves on similar cold streaks, Chicago and
Columbus are on opposite sides of the league table. With 46 points, the
Crew sit in fifth place in the league, already having clinched a
playoff berth.

Chicago sit on the other side of the spectrum in 11th place, 11
points behind San Jose for the eighth and final playoff spot. If the
Fire want avoid being eliminated from playoff contention, they must win
on Friday.

Columbus took the first meeting between the sides, getting goals from Adam Moffat and Jason Garey to defeat the Fire 2-1 on July 3.

Chicago Fire

As mentioned above, Chicago must defeat Columbus – and then get some help – to avoid getting eliminated.

Unfortunately for the Fire, starting 'keeper Sean Johnson
won’t be available to help them. The Rookie of the Year candidate
suffered an eye injury in training on Tuesday and will miss this match.
Backup Andrew Dykstra – who started Chicago’s first 14 league matches – will get the start between the bars.

“We have to play simple and make sure we keep the ball,” Dykstra
said. “We have to do the simple things right. You can’t mess up against
the better teams like Columbus because they’re going to take advantage
of it.”

Columbus Crew

The Crew come into Friday’s match on a quick turnaround, having lost
2-1 at Seattle in the US Open Cup final on Tuesday night. Head coach
Robert Warzycha fielded a lineup filled with regulars on Tuesday,
starting notable players Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, Steven Lenhart and Eddie Gaven.

Two players who played Tuesday but will miss Friday are Emilio Renteria and Shaun Francis. Both will be on international duty, Rentería with Venezuela and Francis with Jamaica.

“Expectations are always high for our team, so we’re very disappointed,” said midfielder Kevin Burns
about the Crew's loss in the USOC final. “[But] there’s still a lot to
play for. The ultimate goal is the MLS Cup. We never give up. We’re not
going to now.”

Heroes & villains

Guillermo Barros Schelotto vs. Logan Pause:
Schelotto has always given the Fire fits. The Argentine playmaker has
three goals and four assists in nine career games against the Fire and –
with his excellent touch and pin-point passing – has the ability to
control a game without getting on the score sheet.

Pause will be tasked with slowing the 2008 MVP down from his
defensive midfield spot. He’ll need to limit Schelotto’s time on the
ball for the Fire to have any chance at success against their longtime
rivals.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm”

Chicago haven’t defeated the Crew since Sept. 8, 2007.

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