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Game Day 7: Columbus Crew v. Chicago Fire Pregame

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Columbus has struggled in Chicago. Can they win for the first time in Illinois since 2006.

USA TODAY Sports

Columbus faces a Chicago Fire team that has struggled to start the season, including capturing a single win at Toyota Park. The Crew have historically had trouble at Toyota Park and defeating the Fire is a tall task even while the home side has wobbled to start the season.

Crew on Offense: The Fire are prone to giving up a lot of goals when they are pressing. They gave up four against Chivas USA at home. The Fire pressed for an opening goal, but left plenty of room for Chivas to counter. The Goats took advantage. Columbus will have to prepare for the same kind of pressure and break quickly.

The counterattack is something that Columbus is well versed at. They've picked up seven points on the road, including wins against Chivas and D.C. where they exploited the opposing team's pressure to break quickly.

The key on the breakout will be the play of the defensive core. The back line duo of Glauber and Chad Marshall will have to be aware of outlets to move the ball forward. The defensive midfield will likewise have to look to move the ball to the skill players quickly.

Federico Higuain will likely be tied up by Jeff Larentowicz and Logan Pause which means Ben Speas and Eddie Gaven are going to have to work to link up with the Argentine and allow him the room to roam wide and either get open or pull the defense out of shaped and give Gaven, Oduro, or Speas to work one on one.

Crew on Defense: Chris Rolfe is the true danger on this Chicago team. He's adept at finding the seams between the defense and midfield. Warzycha adapted to the danger that Patrice Bernier presented last week with O'Rourke and Viana tasked to quickly close him down. Expect to see O'Rourke drop behind Viana to take up that space that Rolfe fills.

Daniel Paladini has set up three goals for the Fire while recording one himself. He hasn't been a full time starter, but he's shown he's capable of some magic. The attention paid to Rolfe has given him a little more freedom. It's important that Viana and O'Rourke manage the danger that the late arriving Paladini presents.

The edges of the defense will be tested. Joel Lindpere has played a vital role on the left side of midfield as he's able to play narrowly and add to the team's numerical advantage in the middle. Josh Williams will have to be cognizant of his movement as Lindpere looks for seams to attack.

Final Walkthrough: The Fire will be pressing for a win after a rough start to the season. The pressure for a result is squarely on the home team. They'll likely start with a lot of pressure and try to grab the early advantage. It's very important that the Crew weather the initial storm and then find their footing. If they are able to do that, they may be able to get the first win in Chicago since 2006.

Crew 1 - Fire 1