On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox played and defeated the New York Yankees in a cornfield, and aside from the gloriousness of the Tim Anderson walk-off and that it was an incredible baseball game in general, there was a metric ton of schmaltz. It was an exercise in weaponized nostalgia from a sport that guilds its history in gold and makes it the ideal for which we should all strive.
This is not a bad thing for a sport to do. Sport, especially spectator sport, is about passion and there is nothing that drives passion more than nostalgia. In a striking coincidence, The Chicago Fire will play the Columbus Crew for the 70th time in their history. The Crew are the Fire’s most frequent opponent and earliest rival, and the legacy of the two clubs are entwined. They played the last game at the first purpose-built soccer stadium in the country. One of the greatest strikers in American history, Brian McBride, started his career in Columbus and ended it in Chicago.
The legacy of MLS, and the American game, will take place once again at Soldier Field on Sunday. How perfect.
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs Columbus Crew: 16W-13D-6L (0-1-0 in OT 0-0 in Shootouts) , 53 GF / 41 GA, 61 pts out of 105
The wheels have fallen off the Crew in the last month. Since their 2-0 victory over the Fire in the middle of June, they’ve won only once, in Atlanta. In the last 3 games, they've lost to NYCFC, DC United, and Atlanta. They’ve also been outscored 11-4 in those last three, showing a remarkable vulnerability on defense in the last couple of games.
First thing’s first, this is an aggressively attacking lineup, almost too aggressive, but I think the defense has earned some trust in their ability to contain dangerous strikers like they have to play against his week. Aliseda should be slotted behind into the midfield if he’s able to go, and if not, Fabian Herbers would slide in and allow for Stanislav Ivanov to make his second start for the Fire. He showed some good things as well as rust his last time out, and he should have some fun challenging the Crew defenders 1v1.
Keys To The Match
Keep It Simple: The Fire are playing very well at the moment, in large part because they’re keeping the game simple. Pass, pass, pass, cross, shot is how the Fire’s best-attacking movements go, and how Luka managed to score two goals in eight minutes last Sunday. They need to keep that in mind against a Columbus Crew team that’s currently in free fall. They can’t try to overcomplicate attacking movements. If they make smart runs and make the simple pass, they should have a good time against the Crew.
And if you needed more motivation not to overcomplicate things, the Bears have a preseason game at Soldier Field Saturday afternoon, so the field is going to be torn to hell. Direct route one football is probably going to be the best strategy anyway/
Say “No” to Zardes: Gyasi Zardes is the best thing going today. Coming off of his run with the US at the Gold Cup, the arguably best American striker is back to terrorize MLS defenses and those who forget his MLS level quality. This is not to take away from Columbus’s bevy of options in attack. Lucas Zelarayán and Derrick Etienne are also dangerous, and the specter of Bradley Wright-Phillips always looms over Crew games. However, the Fire are going to need a dedicated defender on Zardes at all times. Make someone else beat you.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live/ ESPN+ (Out of the Chicago Market)
I feel pretty okay about this, but at the same time, the Fire can’t score any goals without relying on the genius of an individual player, no matter how good their defense gets. 1-0 to Columbus.