BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Rivalry is a word that gets thrown around a lot in MLS and if you asked five Fire fans who they thought of as the team’s top rival, chances are you could get five different answers.
The word means different things to different people but recent years have seen the Fire’s enmity with the Columbus Crew grow to something more.
“It means a lot to for me when play against these guys,” Patrick Nyarko told Chicago-Fire.com. “It’s hard to forget losing to them in the playoffs my rookie year. We played them a lot my first few seasons and it always felt like we couldn’t beat Columbus.”
The stinging playoff defeat he refers to is the 2008 Eastern Conference final where former Columbus striker Brian McBride gave the Men in Red a 1-0 halftime lead at Crew Stadium only to see it undone by the superb play of Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the 2-1 defeat.
TICKETS: Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew Saturday at 7:30pm
Nyarko is also right, wins against the Ohio side weren’t aplenty early in his career.
Nyarko tallies both assists in 2-0 Fire win (10/8/2010)
Aside from a 3-2 U.S. Open Cup qualifying victory over the Crew earlier that year, the Fire couldn’t beat Columbus, going 0-3-4 in seven MLS matches from 2008-10 against the yellow-clad team.
Still, the Crew’s advantage in the series mostly changed at the end of 2010 when the Fire welcomed their closest geographic rivals to Toyota Park on October 8.
Though basically eliminated from postseason play, that night unsung midfielder Peter Lowry converted a fantastic chance to score the 600th regular season goal in club history before McBride tallied one last time against his former side.
Nyarko set up both goals helping the side to a celebratory 2-0 victory on the club’s 13th anniversary night.
“In terms of the season, that win didn’t mean much but I think it did give us a slight upper hand on them.”
The victory began a return to Fire dominance of the series, as the team has gone 5-1-0 against the Crew since.
Even with a slight Fire advantage of late, the 2010 victory was the only match that wasn’t decided by one goal.
"The games against Columbus are so hard-fought, they’re almost always going to be ones that can go either way.”
As Nyarko has grown into a veteran role with the club, the gain in traveling support from both sides has served to further fuel the rivalry.
Larentowicz, Nyarko preview Columbus
“Fans are very passionate and we see their dedication when it comes to games against Columbus – especially on the road.”
In 2011, 400 Fire supporters helped will the team to a dramatic 1-0 victory at Crew Stadium, marking the first win in Frank Klopas’ tenure as the team’s head coach.
Last season, a club-record 600 made the trek east as the Fire suffered their only recent blemish against the Crew in a 2-1 defeat.
Sitting with a 1-4-1 record after a tough opening schedule and early season injury struggles, the Crew’s arrival at Toyota Park, where they’re 1-5-5 against the Fire since 2006, will be a welcome sign for Nyarko and Co. on Saturday after a difficult 2-1 away defeat to Houston.
“It’s very vital we get a result on Saturday. The same way we played against New York is needed against the Crew. We needed that win and the guys played unbelievable and we’re looking for the same kind of response.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose that game in Houston and I kept telling the guys, if we play like this, we’re not going to lose many games. That attitude and determination we need to bring on Saturday with a little bit more concentration to get the points.”