Crew vs. Fire rivalry set to be renewed
As MLS' charter club, the Crew has played five different MLS opponents more than 50 times in the regular season. Four are predictable – the Black & Gold's fellow original Eastern Conference clubs in New England, New York, D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City. The fifth is the Chicago Fire, a rivalry that has grown over the years and is set to be renewed on Saturday.
Despite the Fire not joining the league until MLS' third season, in 1998, Columbus and Chicago have faced-off 51 times in the regular season, a figure that represents just under nine percent of the Black and Gold's all-time total of 581 matches.
The Crew has struggled against the Fire historically, amassing a record of 14-24-13 all-time, but the Black & Gold have won the previous two regular season meetings and are now gunning for three in a row, both against the Fire and overall this season.
Ahead of the 52nd all-time meeting between Chicago and Columbus in the regular-season, let's take a look back at some of the series' most memorable moments.
The Crew and Fire first met on June 6, 1998 at Soldier Field in Chicago in a match that the home side won by a 2-0 final. Richie Kotschau and Peter Nowak tallied for the Fire.
With the Fire entering the League in 1998 and Crew Stadium opening in 1999, Columbus and Chicago played just one match at Ohio Stadium. It occurred on July 9, 1998, and it was a resounding 3-0 result for the Black & Gold. Stern John, Rob Smith and Brian McBride scored for the Crew. It was the clubs' second all-time meeting and the first-ever win for the Crew over the Fire.
The Black & Gold record for goals in one match is six. They've done it three times, but not since October 26, 2003, when they accomplished the feat against the Fire. Curiously enough, Chicago got out to a 2-0 lead in that match before the Crew exploded to win 6-2. Brian McBride and Edson Buddle each notched a brace, with Jeff Cunningham and Freddy Garcia tacking on goals off the bench. All six goals came in the final 45 minutes, a total that still marks the club's record for most goals in a half. The Black & Gold also registered 16 shots on goal in the match, which is still the club record as well.
FIRST VISIT TO TOYOTA PARK
The Fire opened Toyota Park on June 11, 2006 against New England. Columbus made its first visit there on July 29 of that same year, drawing 0-0 in what was the first of 12 regular season visits to the Fire's soccer-specific stadium, with number 13 slated for Saturday.
Ethan Finlay's first goal in Crew Stadium occurred on May 24, 2014 against Chicago, a goal now known for Finlay's celebration as the Crew winger ran to the Nordecke and held up a "15" with his fingers in memory of Kirk Urso.
The Crew has scored 75 regular-season goals against Chicago. No player has tallied more times in a Black & Gold kit against Chicago than Jeff Cunningham, whose 13 goals against the Fire edge out Edson Buddle's seven for tops in Crew history. Across his career MLS tenure, Cunningham has scored 20 times against the Fire – eight clear of Taylor Twellman's 12 for most in League history.