It was a tale of two halves yet again last Saturday night, this time is wasn't how the team played but, in my opinion, it was how the referee and linesmen called the game.
In the first half, it seemed that the calls were going for the Revolution as they took were able to take a 2-1 lead into the break behind goals from Rowe and Sene. Despite missed calls that could have given cf97 control of the game, unfortunately it went the other way. The Fire were able to get one back through their new DP Juan Luis Anangonó, though, which should help his confidence.
The second half was a different story - the Fire were able to equalize on a questionable goal from 'Magic Mike' Magee, about 5 minutes after Sene was incorrectly ruled offside on a breakaway. The Men in Red were then able to complete the comeback when a poorly cleared corner found Alex at the top of the box and he was able to find the back of the net through traffic.
Another comeback win for Frank and company means that the Fire are now in a playoff spot for the first time this season. This week cf97 has their playoff lives in their own hands as they travel to Columbus to take on the Crew Saturday night. This is a huge game for both teams - a win would see the Fire retain the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot for another week, while a yellow team win would see them climb right back into the playoff race.
The Crew are coming off of an impressive comeback win in Montreal as the off-field changes have impacted the on-field results. The ownership of the Crew changing hands - and the firing of long-time Columbus legend Robert Warzycha - has injected some life (or fear, as I think of it) into the team that now has their individual jobs to play for. This could turn into a trap game for the Fire as the Crew will be looking to salvage something in the season series as cf97 have beaten them 3 times this season already.
Interim head coach Brian Bliss has only one short term injury concern as Danny O'Rourke is listed as questionable for this week's game. My guess is that he will repay the team that came back and beat Montreal in Montreal last weekend with another game to start. So this is what we see from the team in yellow:
Did Frank finally find an offensive lineup for the Fire? Sure seemed like it. Since they actually had a week in between games Frank will probably go back to his normal lineup with Rolfe up top and plug in Alex for Lindpere. This is a lineup I think Frank should go with if he is planning on winning from here on out for the rest of the season:
- Rios vs. Higuain- In my mind this will be the most crucial matchup when it comes to slowing down the Crew attack. Frederico Higuain is the creative centerpiece of the Crew's lineup, and almost every single Crew attack goes through him. Look for 'Cacha' Rios to mark him all over the field in order to limit his touches and ability to link the backline and Columbus' attackers. If Rios is successful in taking Higuain out of the game, the Crew will have to resort to playing long balls to their speedy attackers. This will make the Crew become one dimensional in attack and give the upper hand to the Fire.
For the Crew I'm going to go with Dominic Oduro. The former cf97 forward who was essentially dealt for Duka and Magee, has yet to score against his former employer but should be looking to get one. He already has 10 goals this season only 2 behind his total from his first year in Chicago. The speedy forward has been lined up on the outside as a winger as of late but still finds opportunities by blazing past the opposition's defense. The Fire's back line must be aware of him at all times and know where he is on the field. There aren't many players in any league that can keep up with his speed, but playing him physically can take him out of a rhythm before he gets in one.
Pending on if he starts or not, I'm going to go with Juan Luis Anangonó. The Fire's 7-figure transfer-fee DP finally got his first goal in MLS and will be looking to get more. This is crucial to his confidence level because if Klopas starts using him off the bench again where he only sees 20 to 30 minutes of playing time his development could become a much harder process. This could lead to seeing him become another Puppo or Nazarit and this team certainly does not need that especially going forward into the coming seasons. Frank should play him as much as possible and use Chris Rolfe coming in off the bench until he regains form which he has been missing all season long.
Like I said earlier, this game could turn out to be a trap game for the Fire. Coming off an emotional win last weekend against the Revs, Frank and company now have their fate in their own hands. The Men in Red basically have to match the results of the other teams that are below them in the standings. This is a time for urgency in every game - and a time for cf97 to get off to some fast starts in order to not play from behind.
This game is likely to get a little rough for both teams as they both look to get the full 3 points. If the Fire can control Higuain and not let the speed of Oduro burn them, then the Fire can take the points back to Chicago. This week I'm going to go with a 3-1 win for the Fire with Anangono, Magee, and Berry getting the goals to keep cf97 in the playoff bubble for another week.