"Now it gets interesting, right?"
Those were the words of Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter moments after his side defeated Chivas USA last Sunday. That match was the Black & Gold's final meeting with a Western Conference opponent in 2014. From here on out, it's nothing but Eastern foes for the Crew.
Not only are all of the opponents from the Eastern Conference, but the context of the standings and the individual opponents themselves make for what should be an incredible conclusion to the MLS Regular Season. The Crew currently sits at fifth place with 36 points. Six of the seven matches to finish the year come against clubs currently between 31 and 39 points. It really is that tight in the East, with a razor-thin margin for error that surely ups the intensity and meaning of each individual encounter.
"Now's the fun part of it," continued Berhalter. "We worked hard to get ourselves into this position and these are big games. We basically have seven six-point games coming up. I'm excited. I think the guys are excited and looking forward to it."
The Crew is set to meet Houston, Montreal and New York once, with two matches left against both New England and Philadelphia.
"It's pretty crazy how you're playing all those teams that are right there," said Justin Meram. "One loss puts you out of the playoffs, one loss puts you into the playoffs, that's how tight it is. Like I said on Sunday after the game, it's six points a game here on out. You just have to take every game as a final."
That's what should make the final seven weeks of the season so exciting: the movement that occurs with each result. Fortunately, the Black & Gold seem to be hitting their stride at the right time ahead of this crucial string of matches.
"We knew coming down the stretch that these couple games, the last little stretch here, were going to be a very important part of our season," said Eric Gehrig. "We take the season game-by-game, but these are the most important games to us. We feel like we're in a good stride here, playing some good soccer, got some confidence going and we're looking forward to playing the competition.
"That's going to make or break it."