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Crew-FC Dallas Preview

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The Columbus Crew's surge under interim coach Brian Bliss has them back in the Eastern Conference playoff discussion with four matches remaining.

A late-season slump is making it more difficult for FC Dallas to get into the postseason fold in the West.

Columbus seeks back-to-back road victories for the first time in more than three years while dealing Dallas a third consecutive defeat Sunday night.

The Crew (11-14-5) had dropped eight of 11 after a 1-0 loss to Seattle on Aug. 31, leading to the dismissal of coach Robert Warzycha on Sept. 2. They've bounced back under Bliss, the team's technical director, to win three of their last four.

Columbus ended a seven-game road losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Montreal on Sept. 14 before Dominic Oduro, Federico Higuain and Bernardo Anor scored in a 3-0 win over Chicago on Sept. 21.

The Crew are in eighth place in the East, behind Philadelphia, New England and Chicago.

"If you can win some games, you can climb the standings rather quickly," Bliss told the team's official website. "In this league, anything is possible."

A season-best third straight win would give Columbus consecutive road victories in league play for the first time since May 20 and 23, 2010.

"I think a lot of people maybe counted us out, but this team has a lot of character," rookie defender Chad Barson said. "We have a lot of pride. I don't think we ever counted ourselves out. We all believed that we needed a few games where we got results to jumpstart us back into the playoff race."

Dallas (10-9-10) is trying to do the same despite getting off to a solid 8-2-3 start to the season. It has gone 2-7-7 since, falling 2-1 at Colorado on Sept. 14 before last Sunday's 1-0 loss at New York.

Matt Hedges' own goal decided the match against the Rapids, and Erick deflected a ball into his own net against the Red Bulls.

"Our last two games we have been beaten on own goals,'' coach Schellas Hyndman said. "I think if we're looking to get in the playoffs we have to get points. Our objective when there was eight games left was to win four. We felt like we could get 12 points. Right now we've won one and lost two.''

The slump has dropped Dallas into eighth place in the West, five points behind Los Angeles and Colorado, which are tied for the conference's last playoff spot.

"We must now face Columbus at home. We have to win that game," midfielder David Ferreira said. "If we want to make the playoffs, we have to win at home."

Dallas went 7-0-1 in its first eight home matches, but needed a 3-1 win over Vancouver on Sept. 7 to end a 0-1-4 stretch at Toyota Stadium. Despite Dallas' struggles, Bliss is anticipating a tough contest.

"Dallas is probably a better team than their record states. I think we are as well," Bliss said. "It's going to be a tough test because they're in the same boat. They've got to get points, and I'm expecting that at home, they're going to come out guns blazing."

Columbus is 3-1-2 in the last six meetings with Dallas.



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