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#CLBvCHI Numbers and Words: Fire look to close first place gap at Crew SC


Matchup Chicago Fire (12-5-5, 41 pts.) at Columbus Crew SC (10-12-2, 32 pts.)
Date Saturday, Aug. 12 • 6:30 p.m. CT
Location Columbus, Ohio • MAPFRE Stadium
TV CSN Chicago Plus (Pregame Show: 6:00 p.m.)
Spanish Radio Univision América 1200 (WRTO)
Injuries, Suspensions, Lineup Projection MLS Match Preview

Following a big win in their return home last weekend, the Chicago Fire are back on the road on Saturday for a third and final 2017 regular season meeting with Columbus Crew SC (6:30 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus). The Fire are unbeaten against their Eastern Conference rivals in two meetings so far this season, drawing 1-1 on opening day back in early March and taking full points in a 1-0 victory at Toyota Park in April. With both teams jockeying for position in the conference playoff race, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind ahead of Saturday night:

Key number: 1

Columbus return home Saturday night having earned just a single point from what was a three-game road trip, a feat that mirrors the Fire's own fortunes from their recent three-game away stretch in July. Crew SC will be desperate to right the ship and begin separating themselves from the bottom half of the Eastern Conference in front of the home fans on Saturday. Crew SC are 7-3-1 at MAPFRE Stadium this season, where the Fire will look to snap a winless skid in Ohio as the quest for the playoffs starts heating up.

Matchup to watch: David Accam vs. Kekutah Manneh

They don't figure to line up across from one another directly, but Saturday's match looks like a juicy one for two of the league's paciest playmakers. Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter has trotted out different combinations of three-man back lines in recent weeks, meaning their could be space behind the fullbacks for Accam -- who scored the lone Fire goal in their 1-1 draw in Ohio on opening day -- to latch onto on the counter. On the flip side, Manneh has been allowed to freely roam the Crew SC final third in a role underneath forward Ola Kamara, and has been one of Columbus' top chance creators in his 12 games played this season (0.83/90 mins).

One Big Question: Can the Fire snap their six-match winless streak in Ohio?

The Fire haven't won in Columbus since June of 2013, a stretch of six consecutive matches that they'll look to end this weekend. For the Fire -- who sit three points back of Toronto FC at the top of the Eastern Conference -- it would be a firm message of intent sent to their biggest Eastern Conference rivals as well as a crucial pickup towards both playoff seeding and the Supporters' Shield standings.

DP Debut?

Columbus made one of the biggest splashes of the recent transfer window with the signing of 29-year-old Portuguese midfielder Pedro Santos, giving Crew SC a third Designated Player for the first time in club history. Most recently of Sporting Clube de Braga of Portugal's Primeira Liga, Santos is expected to add a firm presence to the middle of the park for Crew SC, which also recently said goodbye to club mainstay Ethan Finlay when he was traded to Minnesota United FC. Though he has arrived in training it's unlikely Santos will have a visa in hand allowing for his a debut on the weekend, but even so, it's safe to say the Fire will be facing an energized Columbus side eager to begin a move up the table. 

Sizing Up The Series

The Fire hold a 25-17-18 all-time regular season record against Columbus, including a 10-11-8 record in matches played in Ohio. After a 1-1 draw on opening day back in March of this season, the Fire took full points in a 1-0 win at Toyota Park on April 8.

Quote of the Week:

"I'll tell you a lot better after Saturday how it feels, but I'm very excited."

Ohio State product and former Crew SC Homegrown 'keeper Matt Lampson looks set to make his first start in his home state as a member of the Fire on Saturday night. Hear Lampson's full thoughts on his upcoming return in the interview above.

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