Ooh, time to get my Columbus Crew hate on!
Honestly, I cannot even muster any of my usual rage against our Midwestern rivals as the Chicago Fire travel to the hellhole that I imagine Columbus to be to face the Crew. That’s the issue when both teams find themselves sharing the bottom slots of the Eastern Conference. The Fire have reclaimed their rightful place in the cellar of the MLS and frontrunners to take the Wooden Spoon award for the second straight year. The Crew aren’t much better, with 32 points in 30 matches and needing a miracle to sneak themselves into the playoffs. Thankfully for them, they get to play the Fire twice in a row. The two teams face off at 6:30 p.m. and airs on CSN Chicago Plus.
As noted, the defending Eastern Conference champions find themselves on a last gasp to defend the title, sitting eight points behind DC United for the last playoff spot (and needing to leapfrog New England and Orlando). Their only hope is that their static style of mediocre football and depending on a Kamara to score for them will lead to some late-season wins.
No, not Kei Kamara, who was unceremoniously traded to New England earlier this year after some locker room issues, but Ola Kamara, the Norwegian striker whose 15 goals in 23 matches lead the team. He does a little bit of everything well, and he’s someone the Fire will have to contain if they have any hope of leaving Columbus with points.
As it’s been for years, Columbus’ attack comes from the speed in the midfield, as players like Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram can cut through a defense like scissors through paper and fit the perfect ball to Kamara in the box. While they push forward, Will Trapp and others do their best in the holding midfielder roles. Trapp especially is adept at stealing the ball away from careless midfielders and finding passing lanes to get the Crew back on offense.
Of course, the Crew wouldn’t be among the worst teams in MLS if everything they planned went according to plan. It’s as though every other player has transferred their scoring prowess to Ola Kamara, as only Finlay (6) and the other Kamara (5) have more than four goals for the team this season. If the Fire can keep Ola off the board, Columbus will struggle.
When the midfielders push forward, it leaves the defense especially vulnerable. Their 49 goals allowed in 30 matches ties them along with the Chicago Fire among the lower-half of the league. The back four is susceptible to to speedy attacks and a quick counter, which would have made them a perfect match for the Fire about 6 weeks ago when it looked as though things were looking up.
The only thing I know is that tonight’s match will probably be really ugly, as two crap teams will try their best to end the season on a high note. With the Fire’s recent poor run, it’s tough to see anything less than a 2-0 Columbus victory.
What are your thoughts and predictions? Leave a comment below?