The Columbus Crew have an opportunity for their longest unbeaten streak in three years Sunday night but will have to overcome a number of absences, most notably the high-scoring Kei Kamara.
FC Dallas, meanwhile, will have most of its top goal scorers away on international duty when it faces Columbus for the only time this season.
The Crew (11-8-8) haven’t gone unbeaten in five consecutive games since a 4-0-2 stretch Aug. 15-Sept. 1, 2012, but are on the verge of accomplishing that feat after a 2-1 win at New York City FC last Saturday. Federico Higuain had a goal and an assist as Columbus improved to 3-0-1 in its last four contests and 5-1-2 in its past eight.
Article continues below ...
Those results have put the Crew just three points behind Eastern Conference leader D.C. United, which is off this week, but D.C. has two more wins than Columbus.
The Crew could leap over the also-idle New York Red Bulls for second in the East by improving to 5-0-3 in their last eight home games. Their seven-game unbeaten streak on their own field is their longest since an 8-0-4 run from 2012-13.
Columbus, though, is slated to have nine players away with their respective national teams, including one of the league’s top scorers. Kamara, who has a career-best 18 goals, is with Sierra Leone for its African Cup of Nations qualifier against the Ivory Coast.
"This team has a ton of depth. We can put players in and the quality doesn’t drop," forward Jack McInerney said. "We train the same way all week. We’re going to go out there and put a performance in like we should, like we have been the last couple of games."
The Crew are expected to have their other three top goal scorers, including Ethan Finlay (eight goals, 13 assists), while FC Dallas (12-8-5) might not have four of its top five.
Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele are on international duty, and Mauro Diaz’s status is unknown because of an injured quad that’s kept him out since a 2-0 loss to Chicago on Aug. 2. That defeat started a three-game losing streak that Dallas snapped last Saturday with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
Castillo scored his team-best ninth goal but is now off preparing with Colombia for Tuesday’s match against Peru.
"It’s a perfect opportunity for guys who haven’t played much to step up and make it count," midfielder Victor Ulloa said. "Those three points are huge for us."
Jesse Gonzalez could make his third MLS start in place of an injured Dan Kennedy (knee). At 20 years and 96 days old, he became the third-youngest in league history to record a shutout last weekend.
Dallas is 1-11-7 in its last 19 visits to Columbus, including 0-4-2 in the past six. The Crew are 3-1-3 in the past seven meetings overall and unbeaten in the last three.