Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew
Venue: Toyota Park – Saturday April 8 – 14:00 ET (19:00 BST)
Match Odds: Chicago Fire 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus Crew 9/4
Chicago Fire host Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night as the two Eastern Conference rivals meet for the second time already this year following the clash at MAPFRE Stadium on opening weekend, which finished 1-1.
Chicago have yet to pick up the sort of form which some expected of them after they strengthened in the offseason. The additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho in midfield have been followed by the star signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger, all of whom should strengthen a Fire side that have been fragile too often over the past few seasons.
Having conceded seven goals so far in their four games, Chicago still have work to do defensively. However, much of this may come down to ill-discipline as the Fire have had a sending off in their last two matches. Sorting that out will instantly help their cause.
On the other hand, Columbus have won their last three on the bounce and have been impressive in doing so as they’ve scored seven times in those matches and have moved to the top of the East.
There upturn in form is particularly impressive given the fact they started the season with a disappointing home draw to Chicago before losing at Houston in Week 2.
Justin Meram has been the Crew’s shining light in recent weeks, scoring three times in the past two games. The addition of Kekuta Manneh might have put his position in doubt, but he’s responded by turning up his form and Columbus need more of the same from him if they are to remain at the top of the conference.
Both sides look strong for different reasons and it should make for a good encounter. Chicago possess a great recent record at home, having only lost once in their last 15 at Toyota Park. Whereas, Columbus have won their last three, leaving us with what should be an open fixture.
Chicago Fire are without three midfielders for the visit of the Crew as Matt Polster (right knee strain), John Goossens (right ankle) and Drew Conner all miss out through injury. Juninho is suspended after picking up a red card in last week’s draw with Montreal.
Columbus Crew will definitely be without Gaston Sauro, as he is out for the season with a knee injury. Dilly Duka and Jonathan Mensah are both listed as questionable.
Chicago Fire’s form: D/W/L/D
Columbus Crew’s form: D/L/W/W/W
Key Stat: Chicago have only lost once in their last fifteen home matches in MLS.
Key Player: David Accam – Ghanaian international, Accam can cause any MLS team problems with his pace. He already has a goal and an assist to his name this season and we expect those numbers to rise on Saturday night, particularly with Schweinsteiger’s vision now an extra weapon from midfield.
Chicago Fire 2-2 Columbus Crew – With Columbus on a three-game winning streak and Chicago boasting solid home form, we expect the two to cancel each other out in a score draw, although goals are to be expected as both sides will look to attack.