[MLS PREVIEW] The regional rivals Columbus and Chicago, separated by a five-hour drive and just two points in the standings, meet for the only time this season at Crew Stadium.
COLUMBUS (6-7-10) vs. CHICAGO (7-10-5)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
They played a 0-0 tie at Toyota Park last month and Chicago won, 3-2, in June. The goalless game kicked off a five-game winless streak for the Crew, which heads into this match during which it has scored only four goals.
Defender Chad Marshall has been sidelined for the season with post-concussion problems but the Crew will have Marcos Gonzalez back from suspension.
Striker Andy Herron, acquired from the Fire during the SuperDraft last January, is sidelined with an ankle contusion and is on the trade block as well. Coach Sigi Schmid is talking with clubs to shore up his back line as well as the forward slots prior to the Sept. 15 roster freeze date.
The Fire, too, is shorthanded, particularly in midfield. Justin Mapp is sidelined with an ankle sprain and the team has released Thiago to make room for Colombian defender Wilman Conde.
Chicago generated just seven shots last week in losing to New York, 1-0, as the Red Bulls midfield smothered most of the Fire's attacking efforts. Freeing up Cuahtemoc Blanco will be a primary objective, of course, but squelching Guillermo Barros Schelotto and containing Frankie Hejduk will be just as vital.