PREVIEW | Columbus hosts Philadelphia with playoffs on the horizon

Columbus Crew SC (13-9-8) returns to MAPFRE Stadium to host the fifth-place Philadelphia Union (14-12-4) on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET, in an Eastern Conference match-up that is bound to have significant playoff implications on the line. 

As part of the match, Crew SC will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 MLS Cup Championship, which will include a halftime ceremony honoring members of the MLS Cup-winning squad.

Last Saturday, Columbus collected its fifth straight home victory after defeating the Colorado Rapids, 2-1, thanks to respective goals from Gyasi Zardes and Federico Higuain.

Zardes opened the scoring in the 17th minute, notching his 50th career MLS regular-season goal and tying his personal career-high with 16 regular-season goals. Meanwhile, Higuain provided the helper on Zardes’ tally to go along with the game-winner in the 57th minute en route to MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honors. The Argentine now stands fourth all-time in Club history with 12 game-winning goals 

►#CLBvCOL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

In similar winning fashion, Philadelphia is coming off of a 2-0 home win over Sporting Kansas City. In preparation for their U.S. Open Cup Final match in Houston on Sept. 26, the Union saw a fresh Starting XI against SKC, as Jay Simpson, who got his first start of the year, scored a brace to secure three points for the home side.

Saturday's match marks the third meeting between Columbus and Philadelphia this season, with Columbus most recently coming out with a 1-0 victory on May 9 at MAPFRE Stadium.

In that meeting, Zardes found himself on the end of a deflected Cristian Martinez cross for the game-winning tap-in. After a scoreless road draw in the clubs' first match-up on March 17, the 1-0 victory was goalkeeper Zack Steffen’s first home shutout of the season.

►#CLBvPHI MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

At training on Tuesday, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter spoke on Philadelphia's recent momentum, having won five of their last seven road games and seven of their last nine overall.

“I think Philly is a team that, as they got their group together, as they consolidated, as guys got used to the League, their quality is coming out,” said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.

“Highlight guys like Dockal and Medunjanin, Picault is doing a great job, Burke has really come on and they have a good group of young defenders. CJ Sapong is always dangerous. So, I think they just got used to playing with each other and they got used to the League. It’s a team with quality and I think either way they’re going to come here extremely motivated." 

As the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs quickly approach, Saturday’s match will be pivotal in deciding post-season contention and positioning. Columbus currently sits at fourth in the East with 47 points, just one point ahead of Philadelphia, as both have played 30 games, though Columbus' plus-one goal differential stands above Philadelphia's minus-two. All-time, the Black & Gold are 12-8-2 against the Union.

Following Saturday, Columbus travels to Stade Saputo to take on yet another Eastern Conference playoff contender, the Montreal Impact. The match kicks off on Saturday, October 6 at 3 p.m. ET. 

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