BRIDGEVIEW – Columbus Crew SC took a three-game winning streak into Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Fire for the second time this season after playing to a draw in the season opener. The Fire scored early and held Crew SC scoreless throughout the match to secure the, 1-0, home victory.
Columbus Crew SC (3-2-1, 10 points) came into the game atop the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference standings while the Chicago Fire (2-1-2, 8 pts.) advanced into second place following the match.
Chicago netted first on a Nemanja Nikolic goal off a through ball from Dax McCarty in the 22nd minute.
Chicago has undergone some change since the 1-1 draw in the first meeting with Crew SC. They added World Cup winning German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger on March 21. Schweinsteiger was held scoreless by the Black & Gold in his second game in action.
Crew SC outshot the Fire 12-11 and won the possession battle with a margin of 54.5 percent during the matinee match in the Windy City.
Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter had to deploy an unconventional lineup in Bridgeview due to injuries and an attempt to stop the Fire’s attack.
Defender Harrison Afful sat due to a left-hand injury and was replaced by Héctor Jiménez. This was the defender’s first action of the 2017 MLS season. Jonathan Mensah also sat due to a hamstring strain and midfielder Federico Higuain was not included in the matchday 18 due to an ankle injury.
Midfielder Mohamed Abu started.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who has played every minute this season, played through an illness and had some acrobatic saves throughout the match. Nicolai Naess played all 90 minutes as well. The Norwegian defender and Steffen are the only members of the Black & Gold to play every minute this season.
Artur was a bright spot for Columbus on Saturday, manning the midfield. The 21-year-old from Brazil recorded 41 successful passes on the opposition’s half and won two take-on’s.
22’ – CHI – Nemanja Nikolic (Dax McCarty)
Defender Alex Crognale made his third start in four games for the Black & Gold Saturday afternoon. The Crew SC Academy product from Gahanna headed three clearances, completed 25 passes on the opposition’s half, and won two balls aerially.
Crew SC moved the ball masterfully once again during the match as they out passed Chicago in both volume and percentage. The Black & Gold made 504 total passes compared to the Fire’s 436. They also passed accurately at an 86 percent clip. Columbus was in the top-2 of both categories entering the game in all of MLS according to Opta.
Crew SC and Chicago will meet one more time this year to settle the season series on August 12 at 7:30 p.m. at MAPFRE Stadium.