With four out of six matches in May coming on the road, the Crew looks to close out April with three points at home on Saturday when it hosts the New York Red Bulls (7:30 p.m. ET / Time Warner Cable SportsChannel). After winning its home opener 2-1 against the Philadelphia Union on March 22, the Black & Gold have lost and drawn its last two matches at Crew Stadium against Eastern Conference foes Toronto FC and D.C. United.
Captain Michael Parkhurst knows his side must be better at home if it hopes to go into a hectic summer that will be halted by the 2014 FIFA World Cup on top of the Eastern Conference table.
"These home games are really important for us," the defender said. "We've dropped points now two times in a row and we really can't afford to make it a third. It's a tough stretch we're going to enter the week after this. We have to take these points when they're here for us."
Continued Parkhurst: "Even when it's a tough opponent, we have to expect three points out of ourselves [at home], especially when we're heading into a summer where we could be missing some players as well. We need to get those points now, give ourselves the good of being toward the top of the League."
The Red Bulls visit Columbus riding back-to-back wins, including a 4-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo at home on Wednesday night. Unlike Toronto and D.C.'s gameplan of beating the Black & Gold via the counterattack, Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter fully expects the Red Bulls to come in and expect to take their game to the home side.
"I don't think New York is going to [drop and counter]," Berhalter admitted. "I don't think it's in their DNA. I think they're a very attack-oriented team. They're a very strong team in possession and I think it can be set up to be a fantastic match if both teams look to play. "
Echoed Parkhurst: "The way they play, they're a little more open than D.C. I think that they attack a little bit better with numbers. I don't expect them to pack it in, but if we concede an early goal and their legs get heavy, it's going to be difficult for us."
For just the second time this season, Berhalter will have to shuffle his starting lineup following Bernardo Anor's red card against United last week. Though replacing Anor will prove difficult, neither Berhalter nor his players expect a dropoff in on-field chemistry.
"It's difficult [replacing Anor], but I think we'll come up with the right solution," said Berhalter. "I think there are some guys that have been itching for playing time and I think the beauty of this is that it's a chance to give guys minutes when they want them. It's up to them to perform and take their chance."
Added midfielder Wil Trapp: "Everyone, first team or second team, is always ready to play. We play the same style on both sides. It's just plugging another guy in there."
The Crew is currently second in the Eastern Conference on 11 points, behind Sporting Kansas City on goal differential after six matches this season.