Columbus Crew 2 to will attempt to get back to the team’s winning ways against Chicago Fire II on Saturday. Crew 2 is coming off of a first loss in eight games last week in a thumping from Rochester New York FC, 4-0, and hope to start a winning streak at the same place the Black & Gold began their last one, at Seatgeek Stadium in Chicago.
Crew 2’s loss last week was only the team’s second on the season, snapping a jaw-dropping seven-game winning streak. The Black & Gold’s first loss came at the hands of Inter Miami II on the first day of the season and Columbus has found a way to remain victors in each of the next seven games. Crew 2 looked out of sorts in the performance against RNY FC, not only losing, but being crushed by a very Rochester side.
“Right now, I can tell that they are mad, in a good way. They felt they were not themselves,” said head coach Laurent Courtois. “More important is for us to find our identity back, which I feel we kinda lost. It’s not the fact that we lost the game, it’s the fact that at moments. Some of us, we’re not ourselves.”
A large reason for the loss could be the fact that Crew 2 was without star young forward and leading scorer, Jacen Russell-Rowe, who was called up to the first team just days before the Crew 2 match. Russell-Rowe is second in MLS NEXT Pro in goals, with six so far on the year. However, Courtois was not making excuses for the loss, saying, “We stick to the same game plan,” and adding, “No excuse for us, great for him to be able to have experience with the first team. We should be able to perform the same way.”
Crew 2 defender Justin Malou spoke about what it meant to see Russell-Rowe called up as well.
“It means a lot, because that’s the level we want to reach,” he said. “Every time you come on the field or training, you know you have to come with it because there are people watching. It raises the standards.
Russell-Rowe was the third call up for Crew 2 so far with defender Phillip Quinton and forward Noah Fuson doing so earlier in the season for the first team’s U.S. Open Cup match.
Columbus may be running into Chicago at the worst possible time, as Fire II is coming off of the team’s most convincing win of the season, defeating Toronto FC II 6-2. Chicago got out to a hot start, largely led by 21-year-old forward Josh Penn, who scored a hat trick by halftime. Surprisingly, Penn came into the game with zero goals, but quickly found ways to be extremely dangerous in the attacking areas.
Fire II has not done well this season, sitting in ninth out of 10 places in the MLS NEXT Pro’s Eastern Conference, only obtaining 10 points out of nine games. Crew 2 has already played Fire II in Chicago this season. Interestingly enough, Seatgeek Stadium was where Crew 2 began the seven-game winning streak, defeating Chicago 1-0 back in early April. Fuson was the only scorer in the first match, gifting the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute. However, there is a great argument this is a very different Fire II side and the recent performance backs it up.
Saturday will be a game of who is in the best form currently. Kickoff starts at 8 p.m. ET at Seatgeek Stadium in Chicago and then Crew 2 is back at home to get revenge on Inter Miami II at home at Historic Crew Stadium on Thursday.