After consecutive losses to Eastern Conference foes New England and Toronto, the Columbus Crew sit in eighth place, three spots from a playoff berth. The team has only 13 matches to make up a seven point deficit that has them trailing New England, Houston and Chicago for the final playoff place in the conference. When the team travels to Houston this weekend, everyone is aware that if there ever were a "must-win" game, it comes this weekend.
"Houston's a good team, and they're relatively close to us in the table, so it's a must-win," midfielder Wil Trapp said. "We need a win any way we can get it. Three points is necessary now. There's definitely a little bit of a fire in us now because those last two losses hurt pretty bad."
The fire that Trapp alluded to has been seen in practice leading up to the crucial match, and Dominic Oduro, the team's leading goal scorer, says the increased intensity is evident.
"It shouldn't come to this, but it is something that we need to do. We should be comfortable right now and just go out and play games, but it has come to the point where we need to get on each other to make something happen," he said.
"And sometimes that's all you need. It's been really intense, there's a lot of communication in a positive way. Sometimes, you need to scream a lot, but at the end of the day it's still positive and you're trying to get better."
Head Coach Robert Warzycha says that despite the importance of the impending match, he doesn't feel overwhelmed at the possibility of the team making a run, and thinks that a good result could be exactly what the team needs to turn the season around.
"It's no different than the previous game. We put ourselves behind the eight ball, and obviously the thought is exactly the same: have the best performance and win the game," he said. "You wish to win all the games. Is that possible? Yes, it's possible."
Lacking in both wins and goal differential, the first two tiebreakers for playoff seeding, the Crew may have to do just that. But with two matches against New England and Houston, and another hosting Chicago, the team has the opportunity to right the ship if they can find the form that has been missing all season.
"We have to find the first win," Warzycha said. "We have to have more confidence. If you're confident, you talk more, and you believe it. We're not talking about fixing one thing. We're fixing believing, and about believing we're a good team capable of winning games."