For the second time in 10 days, the Crew will square off with its long-standing rival as it welcomes the Chicago Fire to Columbus on Saturday (8:00 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio). Though the Black & Gold have fallen in its previous two meetings with the Fire this season, Robert Warzycha and his team can learn from both defeats in preparation for the weekend match.
"We know [Chicago's] players very well," Warzycha explained. "They're a good team. I don't think the stats show how good they are. They can win against any team in the League, so it's going to be a tough test. Hopefully we can win this time."
The Crew took an early lead and maintained control of last week's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss against the Fire in Bridgeview, Ill., but conceded two goals to the Men in Red in the defeat. Building off their first half performance will be key on Saturday.
"Last Thursday in the Open Cup game, I thought we had a great first half and I thought we should have scored a couple more goals," defender Tyson Wahl said. "I think we were really well-organized and I think we out-played them in that loss."
Added forward Dominic Oduro: "I think we played well, especially considering that we mixed [starters and reserves] when we played in the Open Cup. We kept the ball really well the first half, it was just unfortunate."
This time, however, the Crew will have momentum in its corner after defeating the first-place Montreal Impact, 2-0, last week in Columbus.
Since joining the Fire on May 25, forward Mike Magee has scored in all four matches he's appeared in for Chicago -- including last week's Open Cup win over the Crew. The former LA Galaxy striker is currently third in MLS with eight tallies to his name in 2013.
"[Magee] is scoring goals," Warzycha said. "They have a player who is a good finisher, good in front of goal. It shows in their later results."
Likely to pair with Chris Rolfe in the Fire attack, cohesive defending from the Crew backline will be crucial in containing Chicago's two-headed monster in front of goal.
"[Magee and Rolfe] definitely have a unique pairing up top because they are so similar," Wahl explained. "Their movement off the ball is great. It's not like they're the fastest or most athletic guys, but they're both extremely smart and they both make really sharp runs. There is a lot of interchange and 10-yard diagonal runs that we have to watch out for.
"We really have to have good coordination between the centerbacks and Danny O'Rourke if that's who is playing."
SOUMARÉ BRINGS STABILITY
Acquired from the Philadelphia Union in May, Malian centerback Bakary Soumaré brings veteran experience and a physical presence in his return to the Chicago backline. Alongside defending MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry in central defense, the Crew attack will have a difficult task in breaking down the Fire on Saturday.
"Soumaré is an experienced defender," Warzycha said. "He played not only in Chicago previously, but played also in France. He brings experience to their backline."
Chicago has posted a 1-0-2 record and allowed three goals in the three MLS matches Soumaré has played in since re-joining the Fire.