Rivals on the field, in the stands, and even in a recent front office Twitter battle, the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire will play each other for the second time in less than a one month span tonight at 8:30.
When the two teams faced off on May 26th, the Crew came away with a 2-1 home victory behind goals from Eddie Gaven and Emilio Renteria. Austin Berry scored a late goal for the Fire, but it wasn't enough to earn his team a road point. Chicago currently has two more points than the Crew, but they also have a game in hand.
Since that game, Columbus has only had one other MLS league match. A 0-0 tie against the New England Revolution last Saturday extended their unbeaten run to six. Chicago has since played two MLS league games. They also traveled to New England, losing 2-0, before heading home last weekend and picking up an impressive 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.
Prediction, injuries, lineups, and more after the jump...Injuries are continuing to keep the Crew from being able to play their strongest XI on the field. Milovan Mirosevic is out once again after re-injuring his groin during training this week. Dilly Duka and Chad Marshall are still dealing with hamstring and concussion problems respectively. Carlos Mendes, who started in center defense last week before being subbed off at halftime, is out tonight due to a reoccurring ankle injury.
It looks like Julius James might make his first league start of the season next to Josh Williams in the back. If Coach Robert Warzycha doesn't want to rush James back, Eric Gehrig will start. Recent addition Chris Birchall is the most probable replacement for Mirosevic in midfield. The rest of the lineup will most likely stay the same from the New England game.
Speedy forward Dominic Oduro leads the line for the Fire. He also leads the team in goals with four on the season. His pace is always a threat to get behind the defense, but Oduro does have a history of bad finishing. He will need to be spot on to beat Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum tonight. The attacking midfield trio of Sebastian Grazzini, Patrick Nyarko, and Marco Pappa could prove to be trouble for Columbus' center midfield pairing that will be lacking cohesion. Defensive midfielders Logan Pause and Pavel Pardo will do their best to break up any Crew attack in the developing stages.
Prediction: Crew 1-1 Fire
Columbus has historically had a tough time pulling out points from their trips to the Windy City. They haven't come home with a full three points since 2006. That streak will likely continue, but the Crew's recent strong play should result with at least a tie for the NorOnTour.