First, a bit of math:
With 31 points, the Chicago Fire aren’t technically eliminated from playoff contention, but it will take a spectacular closing act to even sniff the postseason. The Fire have six games left, including Saturday’s match in Columbus, and Chicago will need to win at least five of those to have a realistic chance of advancing out of the regular season for the first time since 2017.
Not impossible, but certainly not likely, especially if you’ve watched this team over the last month. On Wednesday, the Fire grabbed a point away from home in a draw with the New England Revolution. It wasn’t a bad result in a bubble, but considering the circumstances, it wasn’t nearly good enough. It’s not really surprising, considering most things in the Georg Heitz/Sebastian Pelzer era haven’t worked as planned. It’s year three of this project, and the Fire are closing out yet another season having dug themselves way too deep of a hole.
How’s Shaqiri feeling?
After playing the closing 10 minutes in New England, and asking to come out in the loss to CF Montreal before that, Xherdan Shaqiri is again listed as questionable for the Columbus match with the quad tightness issue that’s bothered him at times this season.
“Where we are right now, three points is what we need,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said of the decision to play Shaqiri in New England. “We weren’t just going to settle. Had this game been back in May or April, Shaq would not have played tonight. It’s a situation that we need to get our best players on the pitch, if possible. If it’s physically possible.”
Don’t Remind Me
Last time these two teams met, the Fire jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the half, before conceding three straight in the second half to lose 3-2. A tactical shift by Crew coach Caleb Porter was the spark, leaving Hendrickson and the Fire with no answer for Columbus’ speedy wingers. The loss was especially painful for Hendrickson, who watched his old club and his old boss get the better of him in their first matchup against one another. Hendrickson was, of course, on Porter’s bench as an assistant when the Crew won MLS Cup in 2020.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Fire. Gaga Slonina is ranked third in MLS in clean sheets, with 11. He’s two back of NYCFC’s Sean Johnson, and one behind Philadelphia’s Andre Blake.
And, Federico Navarro leads all of MLS with 114 tackles, 13 ahead of Claudio Bravo. Both Navarro and Slonina have had solid individual seasons despite the team’s overall lack of success.
How to Watch
Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire
MLS Match Day #29 | Saturday, September 3 | Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. CT
Streaming: CF97 Live (available for free at ChicagoFire.com or the Chicago Fire mobile app for fans watching within 75 miles of Soldier Field)
Out of Market Streaming: ESPN+
Talent: Tyler Terens (play-by-play guy/Hobart College legend), Tony Meola (color commentator/Hall of Famer/possesses a unique ability to tolerate Terens more than most)
Follow Us! @CHGO_Fire
QUESTIONABLE: Javier Casas, Jr. (right lower leg), Rafael Czichos (left knee), Xherdan Shaqiri (left quad), Federico Navarro (left quad)
OUT: Gastón Giménez (right hamstring), Stanislav Ivanov (right quad), Wyatt Omsberg (left foot), Jairo Torres (left lower leg)
QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Zelarayan – Right thigh injury
OUT: Pedro Santos – Right thigh injury
Next Up for Chicago
Saturday, September 10 vs Inter Miami | SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview | 7:00 p.m. CT, WGN
Tuesday, September 13 at CF Montreal | Stade Saputo, Montreal, QC, Canada | 6:30 p.m. CT, WGN
Saturday, September 17 vs Charlotte FC | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7:00 p.m. CT, WGN
Saturday, October 1 at FC Cincinnati | TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH | 6:30 p.m. CT, WGN
Saturday, October 9 vs. New England Revolution | SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview | 1:30 p.m. CT, WGN
The Crew are, not surprisingly, heavy favorites. PointsBet has Columbus to win at -105, a draw at +270, and a Fire victory also at +270. I have no reason to believe PointsBet is wrong on this one. Crew win 3-1.
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