Crew going for home-and-home sweep of Union (Jul 26, 2017)

BY AP • July 25, 2017

The nature of the home-and-and home set between Columbus Crew SC and Philadelphia Union that continues Wednesday in Chester, Pa., makes it feel like a playoff series.

Unfortunately for the Union, that may be as close to the postseason as they get if they drop a second straight match to the Crew.

By losing 1-0 to the Crew (10-10-1) in Columbus on Saturday, the Union (6-9-5) fell eight points behind the Crew for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

It's desperation time for the shorthanded Union when the teams play at Talen Energy Stadium.

Philadelphia managed just three shots, none on goal, Saturday and had the lone score by Columbus' Justin Meram deflect off Union defender Joshua Yaro for what could have been deemed an own goal.

"We actually had a lot of possession, but there wasn't a lot of purpose with the possession," Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said after the game. "We didn't make Columbus backpedal or have any difficult situations to deal with."

The Union were without goalkeeper Andre Blake and midfielder Chris Pontius because of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, as well as leading scorer C.J. Sapong (ankle sprain) and midfielder Fafa Picault (hamstring).

Blake and Pontius also will be absent Wednesday. Sapong has been cleared to play but Picault is questionable. Also, midfielder Roland Alberg returns from a suspension.

It will paramount for the Union to break the Crew's new-look defense that features three center backs. The change has resulted in consecutive 1-0 wins at the expense generating less offense.

"We know we're not going to get a lot of chances but we have the quality to finish our chances," forward Kekuta Manneh said.

Winning low-scoring games has not been the Crew's forte but that is changing.

"There's confidence in the back line," Meram said. "The guys know they're going to be strong. They might bend a little bit but not break for each other. That gives us confidence to go out there and score goals knowing how good our defense has been playing."

Meram set a career high with his ninth goal to tie him for the team lead with Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara. Higuain (ankle) will not play.

The Crew, 3-7-0 on the road, play the first of three straight away matches. Philadelphia has won five of the past six at home, outscoring the opposition 11-3.

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