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Crew aims to halt skaky spell versus Fire
The Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew SC play for the third and final time in the regular season Saturday but the matchup in Ohio will be their first in more than four months.
Much has changed since then.
For instance, the Fire's 2-1 win in Bridgeview, Ill., on April 8 was just the second game for German World Cup star Bastian Schweinsteiger in a Chicago uniform and the team entered the match with one win in its four outings.
Chicago (12-5-5), coming off a 4-1 thrashing of New England on Aug. 5, is second in the Eastern Conference.
"They're a different team," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. "They've defined their playing style much more."
Schweinsteiger has led the resurgence from his midfield position while forward Nemanja Nikolic has 16 goals, second-most in MLS.
"A guy like Schweinsteiger came in and completely changed their team for the better," Crew defender Alex Crognale said. "He makes things click for them."
Columbus (10-12-2) is in the midst of some overhaul as well as it returns to Mapfre Stadium after an 0-1-2 trip.
The Crew this week signed Portuguese midfielder Pedro Santos as the club's third Designated Player. However, he isn't expected to get his international transfer clearance in time for Saturday's game.
Meanwhile, longtime midfielder Ethan Finlay was traded to Minnesota.
Another Designated Player, Federico Higuain, is recovering from an ankle injury and is expected to miss his sixth straight match, but Columbus still has the duo of Ola Kamara (11 goals) and Justin Meram (nine goals).
The Crew are sixth in the East but play six of the next eight at home where they are 7-3-1.
"They're a very solid team, especially when they are playing at home," Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic said.
The match is a homecoming for Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson, the Columbus native and Ohio State product who played 16 games for the Crew from 2012-15. This will be his first start versus Crew SC in Mapfre Stadium.
"Honestly, I want to prove that I can play on any team in the league, not just Chicago, and I would have had an opportunity there," he said. "I want to prove that obviously they should have kept me."
Jorge Brava was the Fire goalkeeper for the 1-1 tie in Columbus in the March 4 season opener as well as the meeting in April.
Updated August 11, 2017