Crew-Union Preview

Sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture but still

very much in contention, the Columbus Crew know they can’t afford

to leave points behind going forward.

Seeking a season-best third consecutive win, visiting Columbus

tries to take advantage of what appears to be a favorable matchup

Wednesday night against the offensively challenged Philadelphia

Union.

The seventh-place Crew (10-8-6) sit three points behind

sixth-place Montreal and four back of D.C. for the fifth and final

playoff berth in the East, but they have at least one game in hand

on all of the teams they’re chasing. With 10 games remaining and

Saturday’s showdown with the Impact looming, Columbus understands

the importance of Wednesday’s contest.

“We are in the time of the season that we have to win games if

we want to even think about the playoffs,” coach Robert Warzycha

told the Crew’s official website. “Winning games gets us into the

playoffs. We have to be thinking about one thing: how can we go to

(Philadelphia) and get three points.”

While Columbus suffered a 1-0 loss in its last visit to PPL Park

on April 14, it carries plenty of momentum into this one. The Crew

are coming off back-to-back victories, beating New England 4-3 on

Saturday behind two goals each from Federico Higuain and Jairo

Arrieta.

Arrieta scored the winner in the 86th minute, his fifth goal in

eight games with Columbus.

“I think we’re motivated every game to get three points,” said

captain Chad Marshall, who has a chance to become the club’s

all-time leader in minutes played with 81 on Wednesday.

“I think we know at this point in the season how important each

game is, especially against Eastern Conference rivals. We’re going

to be looking to play better than last time we went (to

Philadelphia) and trying to get three points.”

Though things seem to be looking up for the Crew – especially

with Higuain making a major impact with three goals and two assists

in his first three games with the club – they’re just 1-3-2 over

their last six road games.

Their goalkeeper situation is also uncertain. Andy Gruenebaum

had played every minute before suffering a lower back contusion

Saturday. He was replaced by Matt Lampson at halftime, and it’s

unclear which player will be in net Wednesday.

“(Gruenebaum) said he’s feeling much better than (Sunday) or the

day before,” Warzycha told the league’s official website. “The way

he is progressing he may play but we may not use him because we may

need him for the next game (against Montreal).”

The Crew could benefit from facing a Union club that’s struggled

to generate much offense of late. Philadelphia (7-12-4) has totaled

two goals while posting an 0-2-2 record this month.

While the Union played to a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake

on Friday, their fans had plenty to cheer for during Danny Cruz’s

home debut.

“I haven’t been here that long at all, but I feel so comfortable

and I was overwhelmed with the fan support,” Cruz, acquired from

D.C. on Aug. 16, told the Union’s official website.

“It’s been such a whirlwind experience and everything has

happened so quick. To be wearing this uniform makes me proud, and

I’m going to do all I can to help the club win a whole lot of

games.”