The Columbus Crew are starting to find their way after a recent rough patch.
While winning hasn’t been easy for the Chicago Fire, they could be looking forward to a visit from the Crew.
Hoping to match its longest winning streak of the year, Columbus tries to avoid a sixth consecutive loss in Chicago on Saturday night.
The Crew (6-7-8) struggled through an 0-3-4 slump before posting back-to-back 2-1 wins, beating Montreal on July 19 and New England last Saturday. Federico Higuain scored his team-leading seventh goal and Ethan Finlay added the tiebreaker in the 84th minute against the Revolution for Columbus, which snapped an eight-game win drought on the road.
"In the Montreal game, we came from behind and then the last stretch we had to grind it out and we did it. This game, same type of environment and we did it. That’s the difference right now," said coach Gregg Berhalter, whose team opened 3-0. "You need these games to build the team. You need to be battle tested, and games like this battle test you."
The Crew are seeking a third straight win over the Fire in league play after taking this year’s first meeting 2-0 at home May 24. However, earning another three points could prove difficult in Chicago, where Columbus hasn’t won since 2006.
The Crew have been outscored 10-4 during the five-game losing streak at Toyota Park, leaving them at 0-6-4 in their last 10 road meetings in the series. Columbus was also outscored 6-3 in back-to-back losses in Chicago in U.S. Open Cup play in June.
The Fire (3-5-12) enter the weekend mired in a 1-3-6 stretch, and they’re tied for the fewest wins in MLS and lead the league in draws. Chicago played to a scoreless tie against Vancouver on Wednesday, with Sean Johnson making two saves to record his third clean sheet.
"Trying to get a win is the next plan. It is what it is," coach Frank Yallop said. "We’re obviously not ready to go and take a game over and win, because we would’ve done that by now. Not losing is sometimes a good thing, but at this point in the season we need to win."
Chicago, which had scored at least one goal in each of its first nine home games, is 1-2-7 at Toyota Park.
"I think we’ve played well enough to get more wins out of the ties, but maybe there should be some losses in there, which means more points," Yallop said. "I don’t know, I can’t put a finger on it."
Chicago’s Quincy Amarikwa is tied with rookie Harrison Shipp for the team lead with six goals, but Amarikwa has scored only once in the last 10 games.