CHICAGO (Sept. 1, 2022) – Chicago Fire FC will travel to Ohio’s capital to face Columbus Crew 2 on Saturday, September 3 at 7:30 p.m. CT. The Fire will try to build on its first winning streak of the year following a pair of victories against NYCFC II and Toronto FC II. They will look to avenge two home losses to Crew 2 on their first visit to brand new Lower.com Field. Coverage of the match begins five minutes prior to first kick on MLSNEXTPro.com.
The Fire (6-10-5-2) last took the field on Thursday, August 25, when they faced a hot Toronto FC II squad hoping to extend a 10-game unbeaten streak. Despite plenty of pressure from the visiting side, Chicago took a two-goal lead courtesy of Richard Fleming III and Missael Rodríguez before Steffen Yeates scored off a rebound from a missed penalty kick. Chicago withstood a barrage of shots from Toronto to win 2-1 and earn back-to-back victories for the first time this season, after routing NYCFC II 5-0 the previous Saturday. Thus, the Fire staved off elimination from playoff contention as the season enters its final weeks.
In contrast, Columbus (14-3-4-1) has already wrapped up the Central division and now eyes the top seed in the Eastern Conference following a 2-0 defeat of Philadelphia Union II last Saturday. Defender Jake Morris added his first goal of the season before Jacen Russell-Rowe added his league leading 16th tally of the campaign late in the second half. With that score, the Columbus forward broke a potential tie with Orlando’s Jack Lynn (15) for the league’s golden boot. The Fire will be challenged by Russell-Rowe and his teammates, who boast the second most goals in MLS NEXT Pro (49).
KEYS TO THE MATCH
The Battle for the Boot. What looked like an easy golden boot for Victor Bezerra has been anything but in the last few weeks. After Bezerra opened the scoring in the team’s 5-0 romp over NYCFC II, Josh Penn came into the match in the second half to score a brace. Then Missael Rodríguez came in for the fifth and final goal, before scoring the winner against Toronto in the following match. The last tally marks four goals in the last five matches for Rodríguez. With some expected fireworks against Columbus, Cincinnati and Miami to end the season, who knows who will come away with the boot?
No Qualms Quintos. Injuries and departures have afflicted the defense as the season winds down, but Ryan Quintos has been a mainstay on the back line. The former Academy defender now leads the team in minutes played with 1525. Despite only being 18 years old, the Glen Ellyn, Ill. native has shown plenty of discipline on the field, with only 12 fouls committed and four yellow card bookings. He is expected to finish out the year with the Fire, joining the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer program in January of 2023.
Stayin’ Alive. The current winning streak has kept the Fire alive in the MLS NEXT Pro playoff picture. The task will not be easy against a Columbus side that has had Chicago’s number this season, but if they can come away with three points, an eliminated FC Cincinnati 2 side awaits them on the road. The regular season then concludes with a potential “six-point match” against Inter Miami II at SeatGeek Stadium. Regardless of the math, the Fire will look to finish their inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season on the right foot – whether as a spoiler to other Eastern Conference teams or playing for silverware in the postseason.
HOW TO WATCH
Chicago Fire FC II will face Columbus Crew 2 on Saturday, September 3 at Lower.com Field in downtown Columbus, Ohio. First kick is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. CT and the match stream will start five minutes prior on MLSNEXTPro.com.