Ok folks, the day of hate is nearly upon us. Playoff spots are on the line, it's Fire vs. Crew, and it will be a completely sold out, rocking Toyota Park Saturday Night. If there's a better formula for an epic MLS game I haven't seen it. The Men in Red will look to notch 3 more points over their rivals, while moving within 1 point of 1st place Sporting KC, who beat New York Wednesday. The Crew will be coming into a place where no Eastern Conference team has won in nearly 2 years. The Fire have the home field advantage, and with our newly formed attack force, I think the Fire will wlak away with all 3 points tomorrow night.
I took some time to exchange questions with Matt Jericho over at Massive Report. Although the exchange will be shorter than normal, it's still filled with some delicious content. So kick back, relax, enjoy, and ready yourself for complete and utter Fire domination tomorrow. First question is below, the rest is after the break...
Hot Time In Old Town Asks Massive Report
1. After two straight devastating conference losses, has the Higuain bounce started to fade a bit? (via James Coston)
The loss to New England was a poor showing by the whole team, but I'll chalk Higuain's performance in that match partially to his inexperience dealing with the horrid bounces you get off the concrete in New England. He didn't play more than 5 minutes in the NY match, so I'd give him an incomplete for that one. He had some moments in Wednesday's match against Chivas, (including being involved in the play leading up to the goal), but I'm hoping for and expecting more out of him tomorrow.
2. How excited are Crew supporters about this match as compared to previous years? (via James Coston)
The consensus between the Crew fans at Wrigley Field right now is they are very excited. There's a lot on the line for Columbus after DC's win last night and to stay in contention for the playoffs it's a must-win.
3. Will Andy Gruenebaum play after his Injury in NYC? (via Ruben Tisch)
Yes, he played the full match and got a clean sheet against Chivas Wednesday so he will be good to go Saturday.
4. What will be the key matchup or matchups in your mind Saturday night against the Fire? (via Ryan Sealock)
I think Rolfe v Marshall will be key. He's a solid player and can be dangerous. Chad is a quality player, but has been shaky in the last few matches. My hope is Chad has his "A" game and can shut him down.
5. What Fire player does Columbus fear the most and who will they gameplan around? (via Ryan Sealock)
Oduro is dangerous. He's a speedy guy and we are going to need to make sure the defence is standing strong and holding their line against him.
Bonus: Score prediction and who gets the goals:
2-1 Columbus, we are overdue for a win at TP. I think goals from Arrieta and Higuain for Columbus and Rolfe for Chicago.
Massive Report Asks Hot Time In Old Town
1. What elements do you attribute to Chicago's recent surge in the standings?
A lot of factors contribute, but the big ones that stick out are good, consistent defense and goal scoring. Sean Johnson has solidified into a top keeper at the young age of 23. Our backline, featuring German International Arne Friedrich, has been playing steady and well. Austin Berry is the favorite for rookie of the year, Gonzalo Segares is good like always, and Jalil Anibaba has had his ups and downs but is starting to find his footing at a position (RB) that is not his natural position. Right now, there isn't room for him at CB, but I suppose that any team would like to have the problem of too many good CB's and not enough spots to play everyone in.
Goal scoring has been a key the past month. I don't have to tell anyone that last year and the early part of this year featured the Fire as a "one trick" pony. Shut down Dom Oduro, and you have a good chance to win. Game planning for only 1 guy is not too complicated. The Fire have spent the last couple of months strengthening the roster. Arrivals of Chris Rolfe (his 2nd stint with the team), Sherjill MacDonald, Alvaro Fernandez, and Alex have injected new life into the Fire attack. We now have a handful of players that can put the ball in the net, and they have been doing so lately. It's great to have a wide cast of players that can contribute offensively so other teams can't just key on one or two players. Frank Klopas has assembled this sort of team now and it is starting to fluorish.
2. Kansas City and Chicago are both surging right now. Do you think they have what it takes to overtake KC before the end of the season?
Definitely. In my article the other night ahead of the NY/SKC matchup, I stated that if the Fire had to play either team, I think we match up better and would do better against KC. Not to say SKC isn't good, but Chicago has long held SKC's number. We are 2-0 vs. KC this year, notching wins at home and at Livestrong. We will go for the sweep on September 28th. I would say beating the #1 team in the East 2 (and hopefully 3) times in the regular season is pretty impressive. The Fire seem to find that extra gear when they play KC and that's not something I see changing soon.
3) What do you believe Columbus needs to do in this match to get a win? What does Chicago need to do?
For us, score goals. If we can get a consistent 2-3 goals every game, we will be hard to stop because our defense is certainly capable of keeping opposing teams to less than that. We have only given up more than 2 goals in a single game 1 time this season (an off game vs. DC). That includes games against some high scoring offenses like New York, San Jose, and Seattle). In other questions exchanges this season, when asked the same thing, lack of scoring was usually my answer. Not enough output from Oduro. That has been fixed and multiple players are contributing goals. Sherjill MacDonald has been great for us so far, and Flaco seems to be finding his footing now. Rolfe has also been stellar.
For Columbus to win, I think you will need Higuain to get back to the form he was in previously. I think a win is going to take 2-3 goals. The Fire do occasionally have defensive lapses but this is more the exception than the rule. The Crew will need to create goals and find a way to beat the Fire defense.
Bonus: Score prediction and who gets the goals:
I am going with a tough fought Fire win 1-0. Sherjill with the goal.