The Chicago Fire have jumped into playoff position and have a chance to solidify their top five standing against the Columbus Crew, a team still harboring playoff hopes.The Chicago Fire can put a firm hold on an Eastern Conference playoff place with a road win against a Columbus Crew side that has yet to give up on its own playoff aspirations.
The Crew returns to Columbus after last week's impressive 2-1 win in Columbus, but another win against the Fire will be needed to keep Columbus in the post-season conversation.
The Fire comes in with a 6-2-3 mark in the past 11 league matches, a run that helped catapult Frank Klopas' side into fifth place in the East. Mike Magee's MVP-caliber season has continued, and he will be the focal point of Chicago's chances of escaping Crew Stadium with a victory.
Boosting Chicago's playoff drive has been the arrival of impressive newcomers Egidio Arevalo Rios and Juan Luis Anagono, who have both stepped in to take on important roles in the squad. Arevalo-Rios has helped solidify the central midfield while Anagono has given the Fire a strong striker for Magee to play off of.
Columbus did well to contain the Impact attack last week, limiting Montreal to just one goal, but Chicago's attack has looked more dangerous in recent weeks, with Joel Lindpere and Patrick Nyarko providing the width to help Chicago stretch the field.
Chicago could also give a start to former Crew midfielder Dilly Duka, who has shown some good flashes in 2013 since being acquired, and who enjoyed a stellar outing against the Crew earlier this season.
For the Crew, having Federico Higuain orchestrate the attack is key, and Chicago will try to have Arevalo Rios and Jeff Larentowicz limit Higuain's touches and space. The Fire also have the players to neutralize the Crew's set-piece threat.