Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha said he won’t worry what other teams are doing while the Crew are idle until playing at New England on Oct. 15.
But results over the next 10 days will impact his team as the end of the regular season edges ever closer.
The Crew are only four points ahead of the final qualifying berth. Warzycha knows his team needs a big finish to insure they make the playoffs in the congested Eastern Conference.
“Forty-four points is not going to give us the playoffs,” Warzycha said. “We have to win the games.”
If New York loses to visiting Los Angeles Tuesday and there is a winner in the Portland-Houston match on Oct. 14 then the Crew can clinch a playoff spot for the fourth straight season with a victory over the Revolution.
In fact, because of the tightness of not only the Eastern Conference for the top three positions and a first-round bye, but also for the remaining four wild-card spots, there are other matches of interest to the Crew. Columbus (12-12-8, 44 points) are equal in points with Philadelphia for second in the conference behind Sporting Kansas City (45 points) but the Union hold the tiebreaker (goal differential: +7 to the Crew’s -3) and have a game in hand. Houston are fourth with 43 points.
The Crew, who end the regular season Oct. 22 at Chicago, would love to finish atop the East for the third time in four years to ensure home field to the MLS Cup on Nov. 20 in Carson, Calif., where they won their only title in 2008.
There’s going to be movement in the standings by the time they take to the Gillette Stadium field because every team in the playoff race will have played at least one match; New York and Philadelphia will have completed their second earlier in the day.
“It really is on us and how badly we want it,” midfielder Kevin Burns said. “I don’t think anybody is going to give us anything, so we have to earn it.”
If it comes down to winning their final two road games the Crew may be in trouble. They have a 3-9-3 away mark and have been outscored 23-11 while being shut out seven times. Since winning 2-0 at Real Salt Lake on July 30 in possibly their most complete game anywhere this season, they have lost four straight on the road.
However, midfielder Danny O’Rourke said Sunday’s 2-1 win against D.C. United in the home finale - which ended a six-game winless streak - is an indication of better performances ahead.
“Every team goes through the ebbs and flows, especially with the injuries,” he said. “We may be one of the most decimated teams with injuries this year but once we get everybody back, hopefully for this playoff push and into the playoffs, we can be a very good team.”