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Opposition Report: What to expect from the Columbus Crew during tonight’s match against the Fire

The Crew are battling injuries, but will be on an emotional high in front of a sellout crowd for the final match at the old Crew Stadium

Chicago Fire FC v Columbus Crew SC
Luis Diaz #12 of Columbus Crew and Miguel Angel Navarro #6 of Chicago Fire compete for the ball during their game at MAPFRE Stadium on August 20, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Heading into tonight’s game with the Chicago Fire, the Columbus Crew sit in the 7th and final playoff spot in the east, with a 3-2-2 record—not exactly the best start for the defending MLS champions.

So, can this Crew team live up to the expectations set by last year’s squad? And how is the fanbase feeling about the final match at the old Crew Stadium? We caught up with Pat Murphy from Massive Report to find out.

Patrick McCraney/Hot Time in Old Town: I’m sad to see you guys leaving Historic Crew Stadium, and I’m not even a Crew fan. It’s outdated, but it’s a special place. How are you feeling heading into the final match?

Pat Murphy/Massive Report: I think most people have mixed feelings about this situation. On one hand, Crew Stadium has a special place not just in Crew history but in U.S. Soccer history, and I’m not just talking United States-Mexico games. This stadium started the trend of building these stadiums across the league, taking MLS into a new era.

With that said, there’s a brand new stadium downtown that will be among the best in the league. Having seen parts of it, I can’t wait to get down there for the first game. Crew Stadium was simple. This new stadium will have all the bells and whistles and shows progress of the Crew as a franchise.

As for me personally, I will be sad not to see games at Crew Stadium any more. I more or less grew up going to games there and it holds a special place in my heart. Fortunately, they’re in the process of converting it to the team’s practice facility, so it will still be a part of the club.

Patrick: As for the team: it wasn’t the strongest start for the Crew this season, but after a couple of 2-1 wins things are looking up. Can this year’s team be as good as last season?

Pat: For sure. This team hasn’t been remotely healthy this year. The biggest offseason signing, Kevin Molino, is yet to play in 2021. Gyasi Zardes, Lucas Zelarayan, Artur, Darlington Nagbe, Milton Valenzuela and Jonathan Mensah are all starters who have missed time with injuries early on. Add in the Champions League games that created match congestion and it was easy to understand the relatively slow start.

With that said, the Crew is not far off from where many MLS Cup winners have been early in the season after. Now most of those teams didn’t repeat or contend for the Supporters’ Shield, both things this team has stated as goals. If the Black & Gold get healthy, I think both goals are within reach.

Patrick: The Fire are bad right now, but this is MLS and any team can pull off an upset now and then. What will the Crew need to do to prevent the Fire from coming in and spoiling Saturday’s farewell party?

Pat: It’s funny you mention this because head coach Caleb Porter said the same thing this week. He was very complimentary of the Fire and cautioned that if the Crew don’t play well, they can easily lose this game. The key for Columbus will be making Chicago play defense and not letting the visitors’ attacking players get going because there’s certainly firepower on that end. That and not overlooking the Fire because of the team’s record.