(Photo credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)
If the Philadelphia Union want to distance themselves from one of the teams directly behind them in the Eastern Conference, they'll need to break a winless streak against the host Columbus Crew on Saturday.
Philadelphia has not won in Columbus in more than seven years and is just 2-11-4 in matches played in the city.
The Union (14-8-8, 50 points), who have clinched a playoff spot, are third in the conference, a point behind Orlando City with four matches left.
Columbus (14-9-7, 49 points) has also secured a postseason spot and is tied for fourth with the New England Revolution and Atlanta United. The Crew have played one fewer match than Atlanta and one more than New England.
"It's a good challenge for us for what comes ahead in the playoffs," Crew defender Malte Amundsen said.
Philadelphia had a chance to gain some breathing room Wednesday but drew 1-1 at home with FC Dallas. Quinn Sullivan had the Union's goal.
The Crew have not played since their 1-1 tie at Dallas last Saturday, when a Dallas own goal accounted for Columbus' only tally.
"As bad as it hurts, guys, we sit in third place, a point out of second, and we can control our own destiny -- that's the reality of things," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "We know who's coming in (to Philadelphia): we have Atlanta, Nashville and an end-of-the-year Decision Day game against New England. Obviously, a tough test against Columbus where we'll be tired, they'll be fresh. But anything is possible in this league."
While the Union have a 4-0-2 record in their past six matches against the Crew, they just can't find success in Columbus.
Since a 2-1 victory on Aug. 24, 2016, the Union have five losses and three ties there while scoring just one goal (Nov. 1, 2020).
Still, the Crew, which lost 4-1 at Philadelphia in the season opener on Feb. 25, know they will be tested by the 2022 MLS runner-up.
"We see ourselves as one of the top teams, so to play against other teams that also have that view around the league, it's always good to see where you're at," Crew defender Sean Zawadzki said.
The Crew are 11-1-3 at home, including 8-0-2 in the past 10 matches.
--Field Level Media