Fire look to break through against Crew

The Chicago Fire will go for their first victory of the season when they host the Columbus Crew on Saturday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

Chicago (0-2-1) hopes to jump-start its 2018 campaign after earning one point in its first three games. The Fire lost one-goal decisions to Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United FC before playing the Portland Timbers to a 2-2 draw one week ago.

“We have some parts of the game where we are doing the right things, but we have to try to do it for 90 minutes,” Chicago midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said to the team’s official website. “If we want to win something or if we want to play in the playoffs, we have to do all these things. Hopefully, we can show that this weekend.”

The season has started much better for Columbus (3-1-1), which reached the Eastern Conference finals last season. The Crew have victories over Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and D.C. United. Columbus played the Philadelphia Union to a scoreless draw and lost 2-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

On the road, Columbus is 1-0-1. New York City FC is the conference’s only other team without a regulation loss away from home.

“We’ve been good in that respect,” Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter told the team’s official website. “We’ve given up very few chances away from home. I think the collective defense has been really good. It’s a group mindset getting behind the ball, getting good shape and being difficult to break down when we have the ball. Also, exerting control.”

Forward Gyasi Zardes has stepped forward as the top playmaker on Columbus in the first five games. The 26-year-old Californian has four goals, which is tied for second in the league, on 15 shots.

Midfielder Federico Higuain ranks second on the Crew with a pair of goals. The 33-year-old from Argentina has 50 career markers since joining Columbus in 2012.

On the opposite side, Chicago forward Nemanja Nikolic leads his team with three goals in three games. The 30-year-old from Serbia led MLS with 24 goals in 2017.

Schweinsteiger leads the Fire with three assists. His teammate, defender Brian Vincent, has two assists to go along with one goal.

Despite individual successes, the Fire have experienced more than a few defensive breakdowns.

“We didn’t want this start, but we also know that this is a long season,” Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic said to the team’s official website. “We still have time to fix it.”

Columbus expects a difficult opponent that will be hungry to end its winless streak. The Crew rallied for a 3-1 win over Chicago last season after giving up the opening goal.

“I think they’re going to come out very strong,” Zardes told his team’s official website. “It’s going to be a tough battle for us. We have crafty midfielders, they have crafty midfielders. We have good defenders, they have good defenders.

“I’m curious to see how it all plays out. Hopefully, we’re victorious.”