Columbus Crew SC lost in San Jose and then made several moves at the end of the transfer window. It was a busy week for the Black & Gold. The Pedro Santos era is about to start while Ethan Finlay was traded and the team collected resources for next season. Crew SC is still on the edge of the red line with Orlando, New England, and Montreal looking to overtake them.
On the field, the Chicago Fire come to town. Federico Higuain is close to returning, but he’ll still likely be missing from the starting lineup. Right back Harrison Afful is also likely not fit enough to play. Santos is still awaiting his P-1 visa and isn’t eligible to play. Without those key starters, Gregg Berhalter has fewer choices to change up the lineup and try to grab Crew SC’s first win in four games.
The Fire will likely have a full strength lineup. The key man remains Bastian Schweinsteiger. He makes the team go, but he’s surrounded by talent in midfield with Dax McCarty and Juninho able to provide support, but it’s the attack that strikes danger in opposing defense. Nemanja Nikolic has 16 goals to lead the team and place second in the league. David Accam has an additional 12 goals and 7 assists from the wide position.
Keys to the match:
Squad Goals: That’s what it’s down to. Without Higuain, the Crew SC offense has lacked sharpness and a cutting edge. No one has been able to pick up the slack consistently and Columbus desperately needs someone to step up in key moments. That doesn’t mean to take all the weight, but players like Justin Meram have to get into those soft spots in the defense and make the right pass, Ola Kamara needs to finish the half chance he’ll get, and Kekuta Manneh has to really test the defense with his speed.
The backline shuffle: No one acquitted themselves well in the game in San Jose. Nico Naess lost his mark, Alex Crognale overcommitted on another goal, but Jonathan Mensah put in another poor performance. Berhalter is going to have to try and figure out a defensive combination that can provide steel and limit mistakes. Honestly, it probably shouldn’t include Jonathan.
The Schweinsteiger Challenge: The German midfielder has really reinforced Chicago’s form in 2017. The Fire started well, but Schweinsteiger keeps this team humming. The offense is deadly while the defense remains organized and keeps it tidy in the back. His influence can’t be overstated. It will be a big challenge for a couple players who have struggled recently. Wil Trapp’s form has dropped off during the team’s busy stretch while Artur has struggled with the demands in the midfield. They will have to play to their best level if Columbus wants to slow the German and the rest of the Fire down.
How to Watch:
Date/Time: Saturday Aug. 12th, 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, OH)
Watch: CW Columbus, Spectrum Sports (Channel Guide)
Stream: MLS Live
Listen: CD102.5 FM (English Broadcast) La Mega 103.1 FM (Spanish)