Columbus Crew SC (6-7-6) looks to turn the page quickly as this week features a rare opportunity: two games, two cities, one rivalry.
The Black & Gold will travel to Bridgeview, Illinois on Wednesday to take on the Chicago Fire (5-9-3), only to switch roles four days later when Crew SC plays host to Chicago on Sunday in a nationally-televised match on ESPN2.
“It’s a quick turnaround, that’s what you want as a player—as quickly as possible, to get back on the field and forget about the last one,“ midfielder Wil Trapp said after notching 45 minutes in Crew SC’s 3-0 loss in Montreal last Saturday. “It’s difficult to put your finger on one specific thing. It’s just a mentality, a confidence. I just think our mental approach needs to be improved.”
Captain and defender Michael Parkhurst says each game is important because of how close the race in the East is currently.
“The Eastern Conference is tight. There are no bad teams in this League, every team is capable of beating everyone,” Parkhurst said. “We look at [Chicago] as an Eastern Conference foe, as a rivalry game, and it’s one that we want to put a good a performance out and get three points from.”
After conceding first in its previous seven MLS matches, Crew SC is looking for a good start against the Fire on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET, Parkhurst stressed.
“We need to have a good performance, keep that zero as long as possible, hopefully get a shutout, at least into halftime, and give ourselves a chance to get ahead in the game,” he said.
Wednesday's match will be the second of the season between Crew SC and the Fire. Both teams met at MAPFRE Stadium on May 22, when Chicago scored a stoppage-time equalizer for the 2-2 draw.
“It’s always a tough game when we play Chicago,” Parkhurst said. “As you saw early in the season, they came back on us in the last couple of minutes and tie it up. That left a really bad taste in our mouth from that game. We want to get back, make it right, and get three points this time.”
Parkhurst says success for the Black & Gold needs to start in the back.
“It’s bringing the correct amount of energy. It’s playing within our game-plan and sticking to that game-plan, no matter what happens in the game,” Parkhurst said. “Those things we haven’t really done. We need to be tight in the back, first and foremost, especially on the road.”
Wednesday’s match will mark the 54th game played between the two clubs, with Chicago holding the overall record advantage at 24-14-15.
“It’s a good opportunity to practice what we’re preaching,” Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. “Chicago’s going to be a good team. They just beat Seattle. They’re on an uptick, so they’re going to be challenging. We know that, and it’s up to us to deal with it.”
In a tightly-packed Eastern Conference, only eight points separate the last-placed Chicago Fire from the second-place New York Red Bulls, making Crew SC two matches against the Fire all the more important.
Following the trip to Bridgeview, MAPFRE Stadium will be rocking on Sunday as Crew SC looks to continue its success at home. The Black & Gold are unbeaten in eight of their 10 matches in the Capital City, and excitement hasn’t been hard to come by. Five of those 10 matches ended with a goal differential of just one, most recently against the New York Red Bulls and the New England Revolution. Both of these matches featured come-from-behind victories for the Black & Gold.
“There’s no easy games. We just have to stick to our game-plan and get as many points as we can,” Trapp said. “We have them away and home so we treat this a little bit like a playoff series, and try to get four or six points out of it.”