Back in action from an off-week from MLS competition and an international friendly against FA Cup champions Wigan Athletic, the Crew hosts the New England Revolution in an Eastern Conference matchup on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio). In seventh-place and a point behind the Revolution in the Eastern Conference standings, Saturday's match is the first of five-straight for the Black & Gold against intra-conference opponents.
As it aims to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs, a run of positive results would likely put the Crew back in the hunt for a postseason berth.
"We're two teams kind of on the same boat and a win is huge," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. "It's that time where you've got to start making moves. We say it every year: 'It's the dog days of summer.' This is the time where teams make that stretch. You look at LA last year: they weren't that successful early on, but then they started pounding out wins and earning points. I think we're capable of that and we need to start doing it."
Added Head Coach Robert Warzycha: "Every game left [against Eastern Conference teams] is worth six points. We can take away points from the teams in front of us and win games against teams below us."
Eleven out of the Black & Gold's 14 remaining matches come against Eastern Conference foes. Eight of those 14 matches will be played on home soil, where the Crew has a 3-3-3 record this season. Improving that record will be crucial in the Black & Gold's playoff hopes.
"All games are important from here on out," forward/midfielder Dominic Oduro said. "Every game we play, we need to strive for three points. We take every game seriously. It's not cool to be sitting on the outside, looking in and counting every game or hoping some team will draw or whatever.
"We have to do our job and let everything else take care of itself."
After missing the Crew's 1-0 win against the Portland Timbers on July 7 and last week's friendly with Wigan due to a shoulder injury, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum returned to training on Thursday and could be in-net for the Black & Gold against the Revolution.
"It felt alright," the 'keeper said after Thursday's training session. "Once you're in the game, you don't think about it too much. I'm hoping if I do play on Saturday, that is going to be the case. You just get in there and the adrenaline takes over and you don't have to worry.
"It wasn't the most comfortable thing in the world because I don't think I'm quite at 100-percent, but close enough to play."
If he is not feeling up to par when Robert Warzycha selects his roster on Saturday, the 30-year-old netminder will not put his health -- or his team's performance -- in jeopardy.
"I'm still hopeful to be back," he said. "Obviously there's no reason if it doesn't feel good to put the team in danger of using a sub for me when we have [Matt] Lampson. I'm not going to push it. If it's not there, it's not there. If I miss this weekend, I should be 100-percent for next match. I hope to play on Saturday."
Gruenebaum is currently fourth among all MLS goalkeepers with 65 saves this season. His 18 career shutouts are good enough for third-best in club history.
BATTLING THE HEAT
With temperatures consistently hitting the mid-90s this week, the Crew has moved its training sessions two hours earlier than normal to battle the summer scorcher. Though it is expected to be cooler this weekend, the Black & Gold will have to battle heat and humidity as well as the Revolution on Saturday.
"We've started training earlier, but it's still 90 [degrees] by 9:00 a.m.," Gruenebaum said. "You can tell guys are tired, it takes a toll in training a little bit. You take ice baths, stay hydrated."
However, Gruenebaum says the heat won't stand between the Crew and three points.
"We're professionals," he said. "We don't have anything else to do, so there's no excuse."