Just one point out of a postseason berth in the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew host Chivas USA on Wednesday for a match it must win to return to the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
Columbus lost to Red Bull New York on Saturday, its second straight loss after a six-game unbeaten streak that ended with four consecutive wins. In the tight East standings, the short skid was enough to drop the Crew to sixth.
With just the top five teams from each conference advancing to the postseason, Columbus (12-10-6) cannot afford to drop points against Chivas USA (7-13-7) in the midweek clash at Crew Stadium.
"If we're going to go to the playoffs we have to win that game for sure," said Crew midfielder Milovan Mirosevic."From the first minute we have to show that we want to be there, and that's our target now."
Columbus has been a different team since the additions of Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta during the season, and back-to-back road losses against the New England Revolution and New York can be forgotten with a win against Chivas.
"We have to forget and we have to move on," Crew midfielder Dilly Duka said on Saturday after a 3-1 loss to New York. "You have to think about that home game (against Chivas USA), it's a crucial game and it's a good game to get three points, we're looking at the playoffs so we have to forget and move on."
Columbus and Chivas tied their two meetings last year, but with a solid 8-3-2 record at home this season and points at a premium, the Crew will be in search of the full three points. A win would move Columbus into fifth place.
Chivas sits on the foot of the Western Conference, level on 28 points with the Portland Timbers, but remain in the playoff chase. Fifth place in the Western Conference is just nine points away.
The Goats have done the majority of their damage away from home, posting four wins and five draws in 13 road fixtures to earn 17 of their points this year.
Chivas dropped a 2-0 decision to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, but the club did play well for stretches, and still has a lot to play for in Columbus.
"The good thing about it is that the possibility (of making the playoffs) is still there, we just have to pick our heads up and keep working hard," Chivas midfielder Shalrie Joseph said.
"We have a quick turn around next week in Columbus; we just have to pick our heads up and try to win the next one."
Chivas will have to navigate its trip to Columbus without Joseph, out because of accumulated yellow cards, and coach Robin Fraser, who was sent off against San Jose.
"Robin has been there on and off the field, and Greg Vanney has done a great job being assistant coach," Joseph said. "He can replace Robin like that, they work off each other."
Chivas midfielder Nick LaBrocca kept the postseason in sight as well, and knew a win in Columbus this week could be the spark the club needs to make a run in the final weeks of the season.
"We just need to get wins, we just need to win against the right teams," said LaBrocca. "If we can get hot now then we can be in good shape."