I wish I could write about this like it’s just another game. Even just another Columbus rivalry game. I wish I could offer some tactical breakdowns and talk about what a result would mean for the Fire at this stage of the season and how important it is to not roll over for That Yellow Fucking Team. I wish— and I suspect a lot of Crew fans would agree— that I could pretend that it was still a year or more ago.
But this isn’t another just game. Because Anthony Precourt is a fucking 80s movie villain and he’s preparing to take an MLS OG club out of the town that nurtured it for three decades now, for no better reason than because he can. Columbus doesn’t want this. Austin definitely doesn’t have a consensus on this. Nobody wants this except Precourt and Don Garber, but that’s apparently enough to make it happen, with no other reason than “because fuck you that’s why.”
(Disclosure: I’ve previously written for MLS Digital. Here’s all the work I’ve done for them.)
And so because of some rich assholes who just do whatever the fuck they want whenever they want, Columbus is about to lose their team and we’re about to lose our biggest rivals. This could be our last trip to Firehouse East. So no, it’s not just another game.
I mean look, it’s Columbus, they’re our rivals, I’m not immune to bouts of schadenfreude. I know there are corners of CF97 fandom that are delighted to see the Crew disappear, who don’t believe in any kind of intraleague solidarity, who believe that this “Major League Friendship” business is a load of horseshit. Fine. Whatever. Just keep in mind: our own position isn’t so solid, and the carrion birds are circling. There but for the grace of Ante Razov.
CF97 all-time MLS record vs Columbus Crew: 25-18-18, 86 GF / 91 GA, 93 pts out of 183
CF97 away MLS record vs Columbus Crew: 10-8-12, 39 GF / 55 GA, 38 pts out of 90
The Crew have grabbed seven points from their last three games and are unbeaten in their last five. They haven’t lost a game since April 7th, when they got beat by... hey, look at that! It was us!
I’m going to be honest and say I cheated a little bit here. I was trying to come up with a projected lineup and kept shooting blankets. Then I saw the lineup guess on MLS’ preview for the game and said, “yeah, sure, that works.”
Collier playing a little further back, Basti at the tip of the diamond, Katai in a free-floating role underneath Niko. I think this could work.
Keys To The Match
Mo Means Mo: The Fire have posted two solid defensive performances in a row, thanks in no small part to rookie d-mid Mo Adams. As Adnan explained yesterday, Adams was crucial to the Fire’s win over Montreal in midweek, and that was down largely to the kid’s ability to keep Ignacio Piatti in his back pocket. He did the same thing last weekend against Atlanta by mostly managing to contain Miguel Almiron— which is, to be clear, no small feet. There’s no reason to believe that Adams couldn’t replicate those performances while man-marking Gyasi Zardes, who is, uh, not quite on the same level as Piatti and Almiron. In other words, Adams just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing.
Back To Front: Last year the outside back tandem of Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster constituted the best fullback pair in MLS. A lot of the Fire’s creativity and ability to exert pressure on the opposition was due to Vincent and Polster pushing forward and overloading the flanks. Polster is still injured and there’s no firm timetable on his return, so that weapon in the 2017 Fire’s arsenal has laid dormant. But Kevin Ellis, against all rhyme and reason, has found his mojo and remade himself into a competent attacking fullback. If Ellis can keep it up, him and Vincent can potentially give Columbus enough problems to force some scoring chances.
Keep Your Heads Down: This could very well be the last Fire v Crew game at Firehouse East. Emotions will be running high. The heat from the crowd will be immense. With the Fire relying so much on their rookie class, it’s not inconceivable that the atmosphere could get into their heads. No matter what, this team needs to hold their collective nerve. It may not be just another game, but the Men In Red have to pretend that it is for 90 minutes.
How To Watch
Television: CW Columbus, Spectrum Sports Ohio
Will the Fire manage to make their mark on Firehouse East one last time? Or will That Yellow Team get the last laugh? Let us know in the comments!