Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew
Venue: Toyota Park – Wednesday, July 16 – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST Thursday 17)
Match Odds: Chicago 6/5 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus 11/5
Both sides come into the game desperate for points. Chicago are still at the bottom of the Eastern on 18 points and also sit bottom of the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings after 19 weeks of the 2015 season.
They did record a first victory in six on Saturday night though, beating Seattle Sounders 1-0 thanks to a stoppage time goal by Jason Johnson, sending the home crowd into raptures.
Fire fans will hope to be cheering come the end of play on Wednesday night too as a victory over Columbus could move them off the foot of the table and to within just three points of a playoff spot in the East.
The Crew currently sit in fifth place and are holding on to a playoff spot. But they know they must improve if they are to guarantee postseason football after just two wins in their last ten MLS games.
Gregg Berhalter’s men lost 3-0 at Montreal Impact on Saturday and must respond quickly in Chicago, though they haven’t taken three points away at the Fire since 2006.
The Crew have still not won away from home in MLS this season and have the second worst road record in the league (only Chicago have picked up fewer points away from home).
Though they have still managed to score the second highest number of goals across MLS with 27 in 19 games. Saturday’s 3-0 loss saw them fail to score for the first time in five games, but they have failed to net in six of their nine away games now and are a much better side at MAPFRE Stadium.
The earlier meeting between the two ended 2-2 at MAPFRE as the Fire rallied from two goals down to rescue a late point thanks to that man Jason Johnson again. They will meet again in Columbus on Sunday night so this should be an intriguing match.
Chicago Fire boss Frank Yallop could welcome back Shaun Maloney after three weeks out but will definitely be without Jeff Larentowicz. Adailton and Ty Harden are doubtful, while Joevin Jones is still away with the Trinidad and Tobago squad at the Gold Cup.
Columbus Crew will likely be without Kristinn Steindorsson once more, while Kevan George is away with Trinidad at the Gold Cup.
Chicago Fire’s last five: L/L/L/D/W
Columbus Crew’s last five: D/W/D/W/L
Key Stat: Columbus have not won in Chicago since 2006 – a run of 11 MLS games without victory has followed, with the Fire winning six times.
Key Player: Jason Johnson – He may be unlikely to start for the Fire but his last gasp goal on Saturday has lifted spirits around Chicago and he was the man to rescue a point in stoppage time against Columbus back in May too. Could he do it again?
Chicago Fire 1-1 Columbus Crew – Very difficult to separate the sides on paper ahead of this midweek clash. Chicago will be on a high after their win against Seattle but still don’t look strong enough to record back-to-back victories. While the Crew can’t win away and are unlikely to change that record here. Low scoring draw.