A battle of two classic powers in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus Crew: Andres Mendoza may be having the worst PR week of any Ohio footballer, and with the Terrell Pryor fiasco far from over, that's saying something. The Peruvian, however, seems to be unfazed by the criticism as he joined Emilio Renteria on top of the Crew scoring charts with his fourth of the campaign. With Jeff Cunningham on the pitch and a penalty awarded, it seemed Cunningham getting MLS goal number 133 was coming. But Andres Mendoza got the ball, and after a lengthy discussion between the two that also involved Sebastian Miranda and captain Chad Marshall, coolly slotted home his spot kick. Mendoza may not be the most likeable striker to ever grace the pitch, but football is a results business, whether the fans like him or not.
Chicago Fire: The Fire return to action Sunday after a satisfactory performance at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park's opener. Despite coming out with yet another scoreless draw, the Men in Red can take quite a lot of positives heading into this one. Sean Johnson has kept his back line ship shape as it helped him in earning a second consecutive shutout. Midfielder Daniel Paladini is just begging for his screamers to go in so be prepared when he lands a rocket against Columbus. Chicago’s midfield army is also becoming the one to beat. From game to game, the four-man line is showing a more collective approach to the game. The Paladini-Pause bond is another strengthening factor as the season develops and will be even more dangerous when Marco Pappa returns from Gold Cup duty.
Columbus: The Crew have conceded goals early of late, and in their past three games, they have been scored on in the ninth, fourth and seventh minutes respectively. Much like the U.S. national team in South Africa, the Crew have been fortunate to have dug themselves out of the hole, but the Black and Gold know that sooner rather than later they will not be able to keep coming back every game. Wednesday night, the home team found itself behind early again after Jamison Olave bundled his way past his marker and scored off a well worked corner. Whether its focus as a unit or as individuals, the Black and Gold must clean up their early game defense to keep chase with the best in the East.
Chicago: Eleven games without a win certainly highlights the downside of this team. The Men in Red are struggling to find goals. Diego Chaves last found the back of the net in a 1-1 tie against Houston back on April 23. Gaston Puerari last scored a goal on March 26 in the club’s last league win against Sporting KC. Finally, Orr Barouch last scored on May 14 in a 2-2 tie at Toronto. Barouch’s goal marks the last goal coming from a Fire striker. May 28 marks the last time the Chicago Fire got on the scoresheet. Defensive aspects seemed to be finally improving but now the other side of the seesaw is stuck. Goals need to start coming soon and the Fire strikers need to find their form as soon as possible.
Columbus: Robert Warzycha made a brilliant change at halftime, replacing the underwhelming Kevin Burns with Justin Meram, with Meram out wide and Emmanuel Ekpo going centrally. The switch worked wonders for the home team's attack, as Meram drew the penalty that leveled the score and his pass to Andres Mendoza set up the second goal. While Salt Lake seemed to try and see out the game, Warzycha gambled by bringing on another forward, and the Crew benefited. Even though the Crew have not played their best soccer, they still sit in third in the east, and with a win Sunday could jump as high as first. After a poor run of form in May, things may be heating up in the summer for the Crew.
Chicago: The Fire will most likely stick to their recent formation and team selection. Nothing major should change against Columbus. We’ll see Sean Johnson in goal, with Ristic, Cuesta, Gibbs and Segares in the back, Bone, Pause, Paladini and Oduro in the midfield, with Chaves and Nazarit pairing up on the front line.
Columbus: Both teams will be playing for the second time this week, but the Fire will be on their second road game while the Crew will be playing at home for the second time. The Fire played around 100 minutes of soccer on Thursday, so fatigue may have a big impact on the match.
Chicago: The Fire are already at a club record in a longest streak without winning a game, with a win Sunday marking their first win since March 26. Fire supporters will also come in large numbers as every Section 8 season ticket holder received a free trip to the June 12 road trip to Columbus.
Justin Henley: The Crew have an opponent that played on the road less than 72 hours before and is winless in all competitions since March. This is a game the home team should win, and it will in a convincing 3-0 performance.
David Gubala: Chicago manages to come away with a 2-1 victory over Columbus with a late goal coming from Daniel Paladini.
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