The celebration following Justin Meram's 89th minute winner on Wednesday night has concluded as the Crew begins preparations for Saturday's road match against the Chicago Fire. The Black & Gold has faced quick turnarounds for much of the past month and a half having played 11 matches since August 1, but this time the challenge comes against a surging Frank Klopas-led side that has lost just once since mid-July.
Saturday will be the third meeting between the two sides. The Crew and Fire split the previous meetings this season, each 2-1 results. In the last match between the two rivals, a June 23 trip to Toyota Park, the Crew conceded two goals to The Men in Red within the first half hour. Robert Warzycha's side couldn't find an equalizer playing against 10 men for 61 minutes in the defeat after Fire midfielder Gonzalo Segares was sent off in the first half.
The Crew will look to avoid the same fate this time around in the Windy City.
"We started off slow when we played [in Chicago] last time," Eddie Gaven said following Thursday's training session. "[The Fire] scored two goals early on us. That's a tough hole to try and come out of, on the road especially. I think that's going to be our main focus: to not come out flat, come out strong. If we do that, we'll be fine."
It will be a very different look Fire squad compared to the previous two matches. The Fire's climb up the Eastern Conference standings has been fueled by new additions such as Brazilian midfield maestro Alex, former Seattle Sounder Alvaro Fernandez, and Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald to compliment the speed of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro in the Chicago attack.
"[The Fire] have had a lot of changes in the team," Crew right back Sebastian Miranda explained. "It's going to be a very hard game. They have very fast players at forward, very good players with their feet."
Despite the Fire's recent run of success, the Black & Gold will carry some confidence of its own into Saturday's match following Wednesday's win against Chivas USA as the playoff race in the East tightens.
"Last night was important, but the most important is always the next [game]. That's it," Miranda stated. "We have to think about what we did good or bad, and try to play the same way or better on Saturday."
"We really needed the win to get back into the playoff picture," Gaven added. "It was huge being able to get a win at home in a game that was very tight. It took us 89 minutes for us to finally be able to break them down, but at the end of the day three points is three points. Everybody here is very happy we were able to win and hopefully we keep the momentum going Saturday."
The Crew sits in fifth-place on the Eastern Conference table, one point ahead of D.C. United. United will face the Philadelphia Union on Thursday night (8:00PM ET/ESPN2) before hosting Chivas USA on Sunday.