Preview: Heat on the Columbus Crew As They Face the Chicago Fire

USA TODAY Sports

Any stumbles in the five games remaining can scuttle any playoff shot the Crew have. A win over the 5th place Fire would go a long way towards getting them in.

The Lineup: The injury list is still long. Josh Williams, Danny O'Rourke, and Andy Gruenebaum are still sidelined, but Dominic Oduro and Federico Higuain are fully fit.

Lampson; Barson, Wahl, Marshall, Viana; Oduro, Trapp, Tchani, Anor, Arrieta, Higuain

Crew on Offense: Goals have come off of transitions and set pieces. Columbus will likely stick to that gameplan as they've settled into a traditional 4-4-2 with speed on the wings and physicality in the middle.

Higuain is the obvious focal point. No other player on the team can reliably create moments of magic like he can. He provided two assists in Montreal, but that is more due to finishing than an increase in chances created. He's playing a bit more advanced with Wil Trapp and, currently, Tony Tchani able to get him the ball. Now the forwards just need to score.

Trapp has been very solid since coming into the lineup. He's mature beyond his 20 years with the ball at his feet. The key to the Crew offense is who he's partnered with. The team is seeing glimpses of what Tchani was hoped to be. He's been better with his passing and cut down on egregious turnovers and he's not getting knocked off the ball.

The Crew can also hope that the forwards start knocking in goals. Oduro is streaky and just scored after a seven game drought. Jairo Arrieta is still stuck on two goals and is visibly pressing to break his goalless streak. If one of the duo can find thier comfort zone then they will have Higuain created chances to finish.

Crew on Defense: The Fire have steadied after an early season rough patch. That comes when you have a reliable goal scorer. Mike Magee is likely to be on the short list for league MVP with 10 goals for the Fire since his trade from the Galaxy. His impact can't be underestimated.

Magee is a player who relies on guile and movement to get his chances. He will drop deep or push wide to get the ball. This means that the midfield and back line will have to keep an eye on him. He is more mobile than Chad Marshall and Tyson Wahl so they will likely get physical to knock him off his game.

While the Fire don't have a creator leading the offense, they do have a well rounded group of attackers. Patrick Nyarko, Chris Rolfe, and former Crew midfielder Dilly Duka have four goals on the year. That takes some pressure off of Magee as they can make a defense pay for missing a mark.

Final Walkthrough: The Crew will be playing for a win. A tie will cause significant damage to their slim playoff chances. The first goal will be a little more important as the Crew will have to chase the game if they fall behind. They get the first goal in front of the large home crowd and hang on.

Crew 1 - Fire 0

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