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Massive Predictions: Crew vs. Chicago Fire

How does the staff think Thursday game against the Fire will play out?

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Chicago Fire Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By the time Thursday’s game against the Chicago Fire kicks off, it will have been 21 days since Columbus Crew SC took the field in an official match. It will also be 174 days since the Black & Gold last played a game at MAPFRE Stadium.

The Crew had a successful run at the MLS is Back Tournament, winning all three group games — ones that counted toward the MLS regular season standings — before falling in a penalty kick shootout to Minnesota United. Now Columbus is back and ready to take part in Phase 1 of the MLS’s 2020 regular season as the top team in the league’s standings.

Chicago has not been so fortunate, sitting at 12th place in the Eastern Conference. But it’s a strange, COVID-19 filled year, so you never know what’s going to happen in an MLS game.

Despite the uncertainty, Massive Report asked our staff to give their predictions for the Crew’s game against the Fire.

Collin Johnson

The Fire is still an unknown entity under new head coach Raphael Wicky, with only one win in the first five matches under the new manager. The team’s one win against the Seattle Sounders is impressive but the two subsequent, goal-less losses, against the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps were a step back from the opening-round match of the MLS is Back Tournament.

The Crew is likely to see a Fire team that defends and looks to counter attack much like Minnesota United was able to do in the knockout rounds of the tournament. Will Columbus continue to struggle to create chances against teams that prefer to defend or have Caleb Porter and his coaching staff made the necessary adaptations in their system that this team will need if it looks to compete for an MLS Cup? My money is on the latter.
Columbus Crew 2 Chicago Fire 0

Thomas Babcock

So MLS is Back (again? even more?) with the regular season and the Black & Gold kicks off at home against the Chicago Fire. Three new players have joined Columbus with Grant Lillard coming from Inter Miami, Emmanuel Boateng from D.C. United with Axel Sjoberg going the other way and Fatai Alashe from FC Cincinnati. These moves give Columbus additional depth on the wings, defense and in the center of the midfield, in addition to another Ghanaian joining up with Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful.

Despite getting knocked out of the MLS is Back Tournament, it is important to remember the Black & Gold are undefeated in the regular season with four wins and one draw, resulting in a total of 13 points so far. Meanwhile, Chicago has only one victory from its five matches counting towards the regular season standings.

In terms of how that will translate onto the field, Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan have been game-changers in the midfield and Gyasi Zardes has continued to score goals for Columbus. I do not predict that will change for this match and likewise, I expect the Crew defense to look like the team that did not concede a goal during the group stages of the tournament. I am feeling a confident Columbus victory at MAPFRE Stadium.
Columbus Crew 2 Chicago Fire 0

Thomas Costello

Chicago and Columbus had two different MLS is Back Tournaments. The question will be can the Crew continue that form with the Phase 1 restart? I think the team can, and will, against the Fire. Chicago’s offense will have a hard time against a strong backline. Gyasi Zardes and Luis Diaz will find themselves on the scoresheet at the match’s end.
Columbus Crew 2 Chicago Fire 0

Patrick Murphy

Another extended layoff for the Crew is over with teams returning to MLS play this week, this time in home markets. How teams handled the last few weeks will go a long way in how they perform in these next six games, or Phase 1, as MLS is calling it. I think the Crew’s approach was good, ramping up for what will be another busy stretch.

The Fire is not a good team and showed it over its first five matches of MLS play. This is a side that struggles to score goals and is going against a team that is yet to concede from the run of play. With that said, I expect Chicago to sit back and look to frustrate Columbus with little space, similar to Minnesota United. If the Crew can get in behind the defense and, especially if the team scores early, I think this can be a relatively easy game. If not, it could be as frustrating as that final game in MLS is Back.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Chicago Fire 0

Andrew Atkins

MLS is back again? Merry Crewsmas again? I’m losing track with all the restarts, sorry. What I haven’t lost track of is the Crew remains undefeated in the regular season and, despite losing some steam in its later part of the MLS is Back Tournament run, the Black & Gold are still one of the best looking clubs in the league.

I look for the Crew to stay at the top of the Supporter’s Shield standings against its long-time rivals who have failed to impress in 2020.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Chicago Fire 0

Orri Benatar

Well, Thursday is going to be a pretty historic day. The Crew’s home match against the Fire will be in front of no crowd and will be the first major professional sporting event in Ohio in five months. The Black & Gold have the edge with no travel while the Fire will be arriving at MAPFRE Stadium on Thursday. With the traveling and the Crew’s squad depth being better than Chicago’s, Columbus will keep the unbeaten run going and get to 16 points in the East. Nice to have MLS back again.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Chicago Fire 0

Doug Hildreth

The last time we saw The Crew in action, the toll of a condensed schedule definitely showed in the team’s performance. I expect some time off and some fresh legs coming in via trades to help reinforce efforts. Throughout the group stage, the Crew was one of the strongest teams with the most cohesion in the MLS is Back Tournament, More time together will only help that. With a Chicago Fire team that struggled in the tournament coming in, I expect the Crew to restart the regular season strong.
Columbus Crew SC 3 Chicago Fire 1

Guilherme Torres

The Chicago Fire has been quite unpredictable in 2020. From beating defending champions Seattle Sounders to losing to theoretically weaker opponents San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps only a few days later, anything can happen when the Fire takes the field.

With that said, the truth is that Fire has a weak roster and is currently in the early stages of a rebuilding process. The Crew seems to be much more ready and capable than its opponents, so I expect a solid win with no hiccups.
Columbus Crew 2 Chicago Fire 0

Jay Homan

As MLS returns to a regular season setup, there is one thing we can expect to see from the Crew: a stingy defense. Through six matches, the Crew has only given up two goals and neither came in the run of play. The question is, where are the goals coming from the rest of the season? Gyasi Zardes and Lucas Zelarayan have carried the team so far, but will anyone else step up when they inevitably have an off game? Fortunately the Chicago Fire seems prone to give up a couple goals per match regardless of the opponent. Which will help the Crew restart its season... again.
Columbus Crew 2 Chicago Fire 0

Nick Hudak

The regular season is back upon us and the Crew faces a familiar opponent in the Chicago Fire. Thankfully, Chicago has had an exact opposite start to the season that Columbus has enjoyed. There’s really not much to say here except the known fact that the Black & Gold should resume their campaign as comfortably as the group stage of MLS is Back finished up.
Columbus Crew 3 Chicago Fire 1

Adam Miller

The Crew returns to MAPFRE Stadium and also returns to winning ways in this one. The Black & Gold will be fresh off of a long break and looking to continue in their hot league form that sees them at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Fire, meanwhile, has taken only four points from five games so far in MLS regular season play. The Crew will win this one in dominating fashion provided the team can finish off its scoring chances.
Columbus Crew 3 Chicago Fire 0

What is your prediction for this game? Let us know in the comment section below.