The Crew and Fire will meet for the 59th time in history across all competitions on Saturday when the Black & Gold host the Men in Red at Crew Stadium. Over the past 16 years, the rivalry between the two clubs has blossomed into one Major League Soccer's best. Here are a few reasons why.
When the Fire joined MLS in 1998, it spurred a natural geographic rivalry between the two clubs. In its first two seasons, the Crew had no choice but to hold D.C. United as its top nemesis. Though the Black & Gold met United in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals in 1997 and 1998, D.C.'s supporters often overlooked the Crew for the club's closer competitors in New York/New Jersey and New England. The expansion of MLS in Chicago gave Columbus a rival of its own that would match the drama of the rivalries on the East and West coasts.
THE 1998 U.S. OPEN CUP FINAL
In the rivalry's inaugural season, the Crew and Fire met in the Final of the U.S. Open Cup at Soldier Field in the Windy City. Originally intended to be played in Hampton Roads, Va., Hurricane Bonnie postponed the Final by nearly two months and Soldier Field was controversially selected as the match's host stadium. Deadlocked at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the Black & Gold fell in Golden Goal overtime following Frank Klopas' 99th minute strike. While the Crew would be left with the runner-up medals, the Final added fuel to the budding rivalry.
The Nordecke or Section 8? Even when the Crew and Fire aren't playing, the Twittersphere remains buzzing with trash talk between the two supporters' sections. With just over 300 miles between the two cities, hundreds flock to support their team on the road when the two sides meet to create one of the great rivalry atmospheres in MLS.
Crew original and U.S. Soccer legend Brian McBride broke hearts in Columbus when he returned from Fulham in the Barclays Premier League to join his hometown Fire in 2008. However, McBride's move was hardly out of the ordinary, as 17 players have donned both the Black & Gold and Chicago Red since 1998. Just before the 2013 season, the Crew dealt winger Dilly Duka and the rights to Robbie Rogers to Chicago in exchange for Dominic Oduro. The move has worked out for both sides as the Ghanaian striker currently leads the Black & Gold with 10 goals this season and Duka has been a steady contributor for the Men in Red. The Fire traded Rogers' rights to Los Angeles for Mike Magee, who leads Chicago with 10 tallies since joining the club back in May.
2008 EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Ask any Crew fan: the 2008 MLS Cup was won in the Eastern Conference Final against the Fire at Crew Stadium. In a battle between the top two clubs in the League, Brian McBride put the home side and his former team on its heels early with a 29th-minute strike. But in the second half, Chad Marshall and Eddie Gaven found the net via Guillermo Barros Schelotto assists to lift the Black & Gold to its first-ever MLS Cup Final appearance. The rest is history.