Whitecaps, Crew put 5-game unbeaten streaks on line (Sep 16, 2017)

They might be separated by thousands of miles and a country border, but the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew both have their sights set in the same direction: the playoffs.

The sides are two of the hottest in MLS heading into Saturday’s matchup in Vancouver, with both riding five-game unbeaten streaks — the longest of its kind in the league in 2017.

It’s been wins for the Whitecaps (13-9-5) in four of those five games, propelling them to the top in the Western Conference. And while the club sits tied with the Portland Timbers in points and one and two points ahead of Seattle and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, Vancouver holds games in hand on all three teams, all of whom will hit the pitch on Saturday.

“It feels good,” rookie right back Jake Nerwinski told mlssoccer.com after his team’s triumph against Minnesota. “But we want to be there at the end of the season. It’s good to be in first now but we’ve got seven games left, so in seven games we want to be in first. We’ll be happy then.”

The Crew, meanwhile, are looking to record their first six-game game unbeaten streak since June 2012. To do so, Gregg Berhalter’s squad will have to find a way past its struggles on the Canadian west coast, where the Crew have won just twice in seven matches.

“We need to show ourselves, to prove to ourselves that we can go into hostile environments, difficult opponents on the road and bring something back,” Berhalter told the Columbus Dispatch. “I think we showed that against Salt Lake, against a tough opponent on short rest and we responded and we’re going to have to do it again now.”

Columbus (13-12-4) sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, two points back of third-place Chicago. But the team also has its eyes on the rear-view mirror. Atlanta United is one point behind in fifth, the New York Red Bulls are two back, and the Montreal Impact sit seven points back with two games in hand.

The game marks the first meeting between the two teams since the Crew sent midfielder Tony Tchani out west for forward Kekuta Manneh back in March. In 21 starts with the Whitecaps, the 28-year-old, who spent more than five full seasons in black and gold, has scored three goals and an assist.

“At the start, it was a little bit different because of the playing style, me coming from Columbus,” Tchani told The Dispatch. “New city, new team, too, and that was something I had to adapt to and it’s something that for every player it takes a little time. It took me months to learn but I think things are getting together.”