Columbus Crew SC (4-4-2) has made a habit of winning at MAPFRE Stadium this season, and defender Hector Jimenez has a succinct explanation for why that is.
“Atmosphere, our fans,” Jimenez said. “Being at home and having that mentality that we’re not going to lose.”
In five home games this season, Crew SC is 4-1, having scored 13 goals and recorded 12 assists – the most of any team in Major League Soccer. After being shut out in San Jose last weekend, the Black & Gold look to revitalize their offensive prowess against rival Chicago Fire (3-5-1) this Friday night.
Chicago is returning to Columbus for the first time since May 2014, when Crew SC shut out the Fire, 2-0. On paper, the Black and Gold’s home record bodes well against Chicago’s away record (0-3-1); and Columbus hasn’t lost a regular season home game against Chicago since June 2013.
But historically Crew SC has experienced mixed results against the Fire. Columbus is 14-24-14 all-time against Chicago, with a 9-10-6 record at home.
Most recently, the Chicago Fire hasn’t been burning quite as hot. The team comes to Columbus on a three-game winless streak. Nevertheless, Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter expects a tough matchup on Friday night.
“We know [Chicago] is a dangerous team and it’s going to be a tough game, so I think we just want to continue to dictate the game, especially in our stadium,” Berhalter said.
Though a variety of factors influence the outcome of a game, Berhalter attributes Crew SC’s mentality for its home success.
“I know that we’re very aggressive [at home]. It may be a slightly different mindset,” he said.
It will take a team effort to subdue a dangerous Chicago Fire squad, Jimenez said.
“Moving the ball around, that’s when we’re at our best in getting Pipa [Higuain] and Kei [Kamara] involved,” he said. “Kei is leading the League right now so we have to make sure to get the ball to him and Pipa, so they can do their thing and hopefully get us some goals.”
Chicago’s defense will certainly want to keep a close eye on Higuain and Kamara, who together have scored as many goals as the entire Fire team (9).
Midfielder’s Ethan Finlay (2 goals) and Justin Meram (3) complete Crew SC’s attacking diamond.
Meram said he is looking forward to Friday’s nationally televised match as a way to rebound from last weekend’s loss in San Jose.
“We need to bounce back,” Meram said. “It’s a new week, we’re at home, we’ve got the fans. We’re going to prepare what we need to do and just do the small things right.”
At MAPFRE Stadium, the Black & Gold seem to be doing more than just the small things right. Crew SC is looking for its fifth win in six games at home this season, having scored 10 goals in its last three home matches while sporting the best home goal differential in Major League Soccer at plus-eight.
Meram is looking to add to the home goal tally when he faces his past travel roommate Eric Gehrig. The former Crew SC defender is returning to MAPFRE Stadium for the first time since joining the Fire.
Despite the friendly off-field relationship between the two, Meram said may be experiencing a bit of memory loss for 90 minutes.
“We grew together during the most important times of our life,” he said. “I absolutely love the kid, but on Friday I won’t know who he is until after the game.”
Given Crew SC’s home dominance this season, the Chicago Fire may want to forget whom they are playing, as well.
Friday’s matchup sure will be a can’t-miss affair. If you’re still looking for tickets, get them here. Take advantage of the Crew SC Beer + Brat Pack (2 tickets, 2 beers and 2 brats, starting at $30 a person) and the After Work Happy Hour ($4 beers + $2 hot dogs) and then cheer your Black & Gold to victory!
And in case you aren’t able to make it to MAPFRE Stadium for this nationally-televised game, tune in to Univision Deportes or Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. For instructions on how to watch the match in English via SAP, visit www.mlssoccer.com/sap. You can also catch the match on CD102.5 FM or 103.1 FM La Mega.