COLUMBUS, Ohio – No one with the Crew is saying that their home match Tuesday against Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago is a must win, considering it will only mark the halfway point of Group B play in the CONCACAF Champions League.
But the three points are critical if the Crew want an early advancement into the quarterfinals and have one less thing to worry about on their busy docket.
MATCH PREVIEW: Columbus vs. Joe Public FC in Champions League
While Columbus can’t clinch a spot with a victory, having results over the next two weeks go their way would render the final two matches meaningless.
If the Crew (1-1) beat Joe Public (0-1-1) on Tuesday, and Mexican side Santos Laguna (2-0) defeat Municipal (0-1-1) in Guatemala later in the evening, then Columbus are comfortably second, five points up for the final qualifying position.
A win at home against Santos on Sept. 21, coupled with a draw between Joe Public and visiting Municipal two days later (they tied in the first meeting), would give the Crew an insurmountable seven-point advantage with a pair of road matches remaining.
“It’s very easy to look too far down the road and miss what’s really important, which is to go out and play really well our next game at home and try to get back on the right foot,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Yet the Crew are cognizant that any chance to take the foot of the gas pedal would be welcomed.
“We have to prioritize what is the most important thing for the team,” coach Robert Warzycha said.
For him, that means winning the Eastern Conference, where they have a four-point edge on New York with six games left.
Furthermore, the players are still interested in making history by winning a third straight Supporters’ Shield for having the best record in the regular season. Columbus are currently three points behind leaders Los Angeles in that race, after the Galaxy beat the Crew 3-1 last Saturday.
“We still want to get the Supporters’ Shield,” midfielder Brian Carroll said. “We still have a chance. We’re close enough.”
There is also the final of the US Open Cup on Oct. 5 at Seattle.
“Some games we are going to rotate the players because some games are more important than others,” Warzycha said.
Several starters will be rested Tuesday and forward Emilio Renteria will serve a one-game suspension.