LIVERPOOL – The Columbus Crew still have a chance to clinch a team-record fifth consecutive postseason berth, but they're running out of time.
The Philadelphia Union could be completely out of the playoff picture when these teams finish their three-game season series at Crew Stadium on Saturday night.
Columbus (13-11-6) has dropped three of four and is sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot. The Crew have found the back of the net three times in those four contests, but they've surrendered seven during that stretch.
"The big thing is we're allowing the other team to score two or three goals," coach Robert Warzycha told the Crew's official website. "If we continue to do that, we're not going to be in the playoffs."
Some of those concerns could be eased with the Crew finishing out their schedule with three of four at home. Columbus has allowed six goals - three came in one game - during a 5-0-1 run at Crew Stadium, and the club has a chance to win five straight home games for the first time since July 18-Sept. 26, 2009.
The Union (8-14-6) are 0-2-3 in their last five on the road going into their only visit to Columbus this season.
"I think Columbus is a team that hasn't lost at home in a long time, they are a good team and they showed that when they came here (in a 2-1 Crew victory Aug. 29)," coach John Hackworth told the Union's official website. "So for us, we feel like we need to go back there and do the job against a team that's fighting for a playoff spot and for us, the only way we can stave off elimination is to get a result - a 'W' and that's what we plan to do."
That could be a tall order for a club that has the fewest road goals in MLS with eight and could be without Freddy Adu, who scored twice in a 3-1 win over Houston on Sunday.
Hackworth's claim also isn't completely accurate. Even with a victory over Columbus, Philadelphia would be denied a second straight postseason appearance if the Dynamo defeat New England on Saturday.
The Crew would be satisfied to knock out the Union and keep pressure on Houston with a win, but the club might have to start thinking about putting even more pressure on net as the first playoff tiebreaker is goals scored. Columbus has 36 - the fewest among the top seven teams in the East.
"It's about trying to win the games and get as many points as we can," Crew leading scorer Eddie Gaven told MLS' official website. "We want to get as many goals as we can as well, but more importantly than that, if we can win 1-0 that'd be better than tying 3-3."
Gaven scored a stoppage time goal Aug. 29. The Crew lost 1-0 in the previous road game in the series April 14.
Columbus is undefeated in Philadelphia's two visits.