Beating a team twice in less than a week is difficult no matter the circumstance, but that is exactly what the Columbus Crew SC are tasked with Sunday in ESPN’s nationally televised game of the week. After playing a complete game and notching their first win away from home Wednesday the Crew SC return home to face the same Chicago Fire team.
What a difference one midweek match makes for the feeling around an MLS season. After getting beaten easily in their weekend match against Montreal, Columbus responded by passing around the Chicago Fire for a deceivingly close 1-0 result. Fans were calling for massive changes following the Montreal match, but head coach Gregg Berhalter mostly stuck with his normal game plan, with a few notable lineup changes. Into the side, he inserted Wil Trapp and Chad Barson.
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Trapp, in particular, made all the difference, allowing the rest of the squad to play more freely as his deep-lying positioning snuffed out key Chicago counter attacks before they even began. The back line also looked much improved as Trapp was able to shield them from oncoming attackers.
Now that the Crew SC return home to Columbus to face the Chicago Fire, what has changed? From a personnel standpoint not much, Joevin Jones and Kevan George are still away with Trinidad and Tobago. Adailton will be back from his yellow card suspension, so look for him to slot in the central defense. Lastly, Chicago attacker David Accam might be back to full fitness. Accam would be one to watch if he does figure into the starting 11 as he impressed as a substitute during the midweek match.
For Columbus expect the squad to come out very focused on the task at hand. On the Columbus Crew SC website Tyson Wahl said, “I think there’s a certain confidence level, but we also know that Chicago’s a good team,” he says. “We also know that they’re going to make adjustments. We also know they have a very good attacking quality. We’re not going to rest on [the last match], we need to improve.”
At this stage in the season, the Chicago Fire should be getting desperate for points and that is a dangerous thing for the inconsistent Crew SC. The Fire are six points off the last playoff spot, with an attack tied for second to last in the league in goals, but the aforementioned Accam is their leading scorer and his pace could be a problem for the Crew SC backline.
It will be interesting to see what changes Berhalter will elect to make as this is the Crew SC’s third match in eight days. In a perfect world, it would be great to see the exact same lineup, but during the long MLS season that is unrealistic. The question is who will get a rest. From a marketing standpoint, it is unlikely to see Ethan Finlay, Kei Kamara, or Federico Higuain get a rest as the Crew SC will want to showcase their star players on national television. Perhaps this is the match Cedrick Mabwati gets his first appearance for the club in Justin Meram’s normal spot.
For the all-time series, Chicago still retains their advantage at 24-15-15.
The match is set to begin at 5 o’clock ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2.