As bad as it was to blow a chance to pick up points against the Eastern Conference’s worst team, the Columbus Crew would surely feel much worse if they wasted one Sunday against the West’s worst.
Especially with Chivas USA missing the man who has accounted for more than half of its scoring.
Chivas has only one point in the last six-plus weeks even with Erick Torres playing most of that time and now faces a third match in eight days as it visits Columbus, which has had a week off following a setback to its playoff push.
The Crew had been on a 4-1-1 run before losing 2-0 at Montreal last Saturday. While the Impact are the East’s only team which is seemingly out of the playoff hunt, Columbus (8-9-9) is part of a crowded battle for the conference’s final three postseason berths.
"We’re in a dog fight right now and we know how sensitive this situation is," coach Gregg Berhalter said. "We have eight games left, so that’s eight more finals that we need to play, like it is our last game."
Berhalter said his club is "concerned" with Chivas even though the club is 0-7-1 since winning in Vancouver on July 12.
Chivas (6-14-6) did halt a 597-minute scoreless streak – third-longest in league history in a single season – in a 4-2 loss to Seattle on Wednesday.
"I’m expecting them to come here and fight," Crew forward Ethan Finlay told the team’s official website. "In the second half of their last game after Seattle, after going down 4-0 at half, they came back and fought."
Columbus, though, won’t have to be concerned with Torres, who didn’t play Wednesday and remains on international duty with Mexico. The star forward has scored 14 of Chivas’ league-low 23 goals.
"I think they miss Torres, obviously because of his record so far of scoring, but I think they have some good alternatives," Berhalter said.
Ryan Finley replaced Torres in the starting lineup this week and scored his first goal of the season. Finley has appeared in 13 games for Chivas this year after spending his 2013 rookie season with Columbus.
"Hopefully we get a good result," Finley told Chivas’ website. "It’s going to be a good challenge. The team is looking forward to it on Sunday."
Chivas also will be missing midfielder Oswaldo Minda and defender Bobby Burling due to yellow-card accumulation, the same reason Columbus will be without Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani. That duo had started 10 straight games together in the central midfield.
Chivas’ Carlos Bocanegra (concussion) is not expected to return, though the former U.S. team captain announced this week he would retire at the end of the season.
These teams haven’t played since the Crew’s 3-0 road win in the 2013 season opener. The all-time series is even at 6-6-4, but Chivas is 0-4-1 in its last five at Columbus.