LYON, FRANCE – No team is better than the Columbus Crew when trailing at halftime. With first place at stake, the Crew would likely prefer not to play from behind this time.
Columbus looks to pad its Eastern Conference lead Saturday night and stay undefeated against the Philadelphia Union, who will try to extend their franchise-record road unbeaten streak to five.
Down 1-0 at the break, the Crew (10-7-7) defeated New England 3-1 last Saturday to improve to a league-best 2-0-4 when trailing at the half. Twenty-one of the club's 27 goals have come in the second half.
"Even when we were down 1-0 first half we played very well, especially the first 30 minutes," coach Robert Warzycha said. "The first goal (an own-goal) came from nowhere but after we did dominate.''
The Crew were pleased that defender Julius James scored for the first time this season and oft-injured Emilio Renteria also found the back of the net, but a complete effort is still the goal.
"Trying to put that together for a full 90 (minutes) is going to be tough because there's going to be stretches where (Philadelphia is) going to have possession and we're going to have to be tactically strong and mentally tough," midfielder Josh Gardner told the Crew's official website.
The second-place Union (8-5-10), three points behind Columbus, earned their third consecutive draw by tying FC Dallas 2-all last Saturday.
Sebastien Le Toux converted two penalty kicks as Philadelphia played its first match with midfielder Freddy Adu, who started and played 62 minutes. It was his first MLS action since 2007 with Real Salt Lake.
"He showed some flashes of what he can be and he is going to be a very important piece for us going forward," defender Danny Califf told the Union's official website.
Philadelphia coach Peter Nowak, a former teammate of Warzycha's on the Polish national team, said the club might not be done adding pieces as the Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline approaches.
"At the end of the day, we're happy to add Freddy Adu, but we're still looking," Nowak said.
Philadelphia, 1-0-3 in its last four away from PPL Park, is looking for its first victory over Columbus after losing both matchups during its inaugural season of 2010. The Union fell 2-1 at home to the Crew last Aug. 5 and 3-1 at Columbus on Oct. 24.
Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven took over in goal in the 86th minute of the second match after William Hesmer suffered a fractured right shoulder in a collision with Califf.
Gaven (Achilles') is doubtful for Saturday, and it's uncertain whether Hesmer or Andy Gruenebaum will be in goal.
"It's still a competition," Warzycha said. "I'm not saying Will is going to play every game the rest of the season, but if he is going to be solid, he is going to play most of the games."