Sports are famous for rivalries, two teams whose supporters don’t like each other at all. Two teams that have met each other so many times that the games have become local lore. The stories of these matches are passed down in families, recounted in stories in local pubs by fans. I am thinking that some fans go so far as to refuse to wear the colors of the opposing team. Soccer has many of these infamous rivals, Fans gather in pubs to watch the latest version of EL Clasico, the game between two Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. You are hard pressed to find any Fire fan who can’t recount tales of the bitter rivalry between the Fire and the Columbus Crew; which can trace its roots all the way back to the start of MLS. So many Fire faithful travel to Columbus that it has been nicknamed “Firehouse East.” The Fire will host the Crew at Toyota Park this Saturday. The fan hatred has spawned a nick name for the Crew, I would rather not list here as it involves an expletive.
So what is it that has led to such a bitter rivalry, one reason is proximity Columbus is only a 6 hour bus ride from Chicago. Second, it is sheer numbers, the Fire will play the Crew three times this season, with two Firehouse East invasions to Columbus. The Fire hold a 14 win 6 loss 10 draws record in matches played in Chicago. Saturday will be the 60th all-time meeting between the Crew and the Fire. Columbus has a 10 match unbeaten streak in the series 5-0-5. So how will the latest edition play out? Will the Sea of Red in the stadium cheer a victory or will the small corner of yellow Crew fans come in and spoil the party? The Fire spoiled the Crew party in the 1998 Conference final which the Fire won.
There are connections to both teams among the players and coaches. Crew assistant Coach Josh Wolf played for the Fire from 1998-2002. While Fire Goal Keeper Matt Lampson played for the Crew from 2012-2015. Fire Assistant Coach Eric Gehrig began his playing career with the Crew in 2011-2014. Crew midfielder Dilly Duka played for the Fire during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Fire faithful will be hoping that the color “Men in Red” will add another victory to the long legacy of this rivalry. That the color yellow will face a long sad ride back to Columbus.