Chester, PA – It figures to be an even affair when the Philadelphia Union host the Columbus Crew at PPL Park on Wednesday.
Not only are the two sides coming off of 1-1 draws at the weekend, but they also played to a tie of the same score when they faced one another on April 6 in Columbus.
Philadelphia (5-5-4) and Columbus (4-4-5) enter the contests with similar records that underline how neither club has been able to manage any semblance of consistency.
The Union are 3-3-2 since April 21, collecting points in consecutive matches just once over that eight-match span.
But while Philadelphia has failed to build upon good results, the club has managed to rebound from adversity quite nicely.
After a 4-1 home thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 15, the Union ran out to a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire. They followed that win with a disappointing 5-3 road loss at the Montreal Impact's Stade Saputo, but picked up a point on Saturday with a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC.
Toronto was reduced to 10 men late in the first half, but the Union still conceded the opening goal. It took a last-gasp equalizer from Jack McInerney to spare Philadelphia's blushes.
"To give up a goal like we did is really disappointing especially when we had the game in control, it just shouldn't happen," Union manager John Hackworth said. "Full credit to our guys because they were great in trying to fight back and even though it wasn't pretty, it was effective when you're down. To get one back and get a result here on a day like (Saturday) is good for us."
All things considered, it has been an impressive start to Philadelphia's season. With 19 points through 14 games, the club is more than halfway to reaching the 2012 season's final tally of 36 points.
Columbus is right on Philadelphia's heels, though. Both clubs have aspirations of making it to the MLS postseason, the final spot of which is held by the Union.
The Crew, who trail the Union by two points in the Eastern Conference table, come into the match riding a three-game unbeaten streak, one match shy of the club's best run of the season.
The key for Columbus to achieve success is getting striker Federico Higuain going. When the Argentine is on song, the Crew are far more dangerous, and he scored for the second match running to help his side to a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo last time out.
Higuain's form has become even more crucial given the injury to Eddie Gaven. The midfielder tore his ACL in a U.S. Open Cup victory last week that will force other Crew players to fill the void and provide Higuain with quality service.