Chicago (2-2-6) at Columbus (3-4-4), 7:30 p.m.
Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Crew returns home with the hope of snapping an eight-game winless streak as the Crew welcomes the Chicago Fire to Crew Stadium on Saturday.
Columbus started its season with three straight wins, but has failed to collect three points from a game since March 29, and the team faces a Fire side that enters the match on a two-game winning streak.
Chicago failed to win any of its first eight games, but Frank Yallop's men snapped that skid with a 5-4 win at Red Bull New York that was followed by a 2-1 triumph over Sporting Kansas City last Sunday.
Sporting was missing a number of players in that match, including defenders Matt Besler, Lawrence Olum and Aurelien Collin, and Chicago was able to take advantage with a pair of goals from Mike Magee in the opening 15 minutes.
On Saturday, Chicago will have a similar situation with Columbus, which will be without defenders Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis.
But Yallop doesn't think the absences of those players will be a big factor for his team on Saturday.
"We said the same with Kansas and that was a tough game," Yallop said. "I never look at the week ahead on paper and I would never tell the team that. It's always tough."
The Fire could be missing a handful of players themselves as Bakary Soumare, Alex and Patrick Nyarko are unlikely to feature, while Magee left practice on Thursday with a sore calf.
Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter will have a number of decisions to make regarding his back line, and he got a chance to get a look at a few of them in a friendly on Tuesday with Dayton.
Among the players who Berhalter has to choose from on Saturday, he got a chance to see Kevan George, Ben Sweat and Eric Gehrig in action, while Hector Jimenez remains an option at right back.
Chad Barson got the call against Portland last time out, and he believes that no matter who plays in defense on Saturday, that they have enough versatility to get the job done.
"It's obviously a big rivalry - Crew and Fire," said Barson. "No friendly acquaintances. It's going to be a challenge; we know that. They're a talented team. They have a very good attacking presence. The ability to get minutes as a back line [at Dayton] and to get more familiar with each other [was important]. Guys have been itching to play that haven't had a lot of minutes so far, so I think we'll be ready."