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Tactical Thoughts - Chicago Fire host the Columbus Crew

Will the Fire choose their "standard" formation - will they choose the formation which stymied New York City FC - or will they try something different?

How should the Chicago Fire lineup against the Columbus Crew Saturday?
How should the Chicago Fire lineup against the Columbus Crew Saturday?
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

From a confidence standpoint, last week's 1-1 draw against a determined Orlando City side that was a man up for 60+ minutes demonstrated that Fire coach Veljko Paunovic and his players can adapt on the fly no matter what the game throws at them.

This week will present a new challenge in the form of Chicago's biggest rival and the 2015 MLS Cup runners-up.

Lining up the Columbus Crew

From a tactical standpoint, there has been no reason the Crew are 0-2-0 at this point in the season. Both against Portland in Week 1 (loss 1-2) and at home to Philadelphia in Week 2 (loss 1-2), Columbus dominated ball possession for long stretches and was very dangerous on the counter. This is a very experienced squad with great attacking options, plenty of speed and strong coaching. This will certainly be a strong tactical test for the young Fire squad.

Paunovic and his coaching staff will need to choose which tactical alignment they will use to start the game against the Crew - and that choice will depend upon whether they try to put Columbus on the back foot with pressure and ball possession or try to absorb pressure and attack the Columbus back four with pace on the counterattack.

If the Fire come out and try to absorb pressure, they will probably come out in their standard 4-2-3-1. The only question is who goes at right back - Rodrigo Ramos, Eric Gehrig, Michael Stephens or Johan Kappelhof?

On the other hand, if the Fire come out on the front foot and try to press the Crew while maintaining possession in order to control the tempo of the match, they will probably start in their 3-4-1-2. In the lineup below, Razvan Cocis starts in place of Arturo Alvarez in order to provide more cover for the rookie Ramos, who would be getting his first MLS start.

At this point in the season, Paunovic will probably choose from either of those two formations, as the Fire have shown their ability to play very well out of both structures.

However, since it's early in the season - the time for trying different alignments with different player combinations - and Columbus' attack is so dependent on Federico Higuain to pull the strings from the front of midfield - let's propose something radical, another new formation.

For your consideration, the Fire start Week 3 in the 4-1-4-1.

The advantages of this alignment allow Paunovic to get both Alvarez and Goossens onto the field in the center together, it isolates David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike in one-on-one battles with the Crew's outside backs, it allows Matt Polster to cut off the inside passing lanes to Higuain and it allows the Fire to step up to put pressure on the Columbus back four. The two disadvantages are the defensive requirements on Accam and Igboananike as well as the pressure on Polster to remain calm and composed for 90+ minutes.

Which formation do you prefer?

What weaknesses do you see in the 4-2-3-1? The 3-4-1-2? The 4-1-4-1?

Do you think the Fire should be aggressive tactically at home or try to contain Columbus and score on the counter?