Columbus, OH – The Columbus Crew host the Philadelphia Union on Saturday in what is undoubtedly a crucial match for both teams.
Columbus and Philadelphia are the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Crew in first place with 37 points and the Union hot on their heals with 34 points. Philadelphia also has a game in hand.
For Union head coach Peter Nowak, the tilt with the Crew is massive, and that mentality has spread to his team.
"I think everyone realizes that this is a very important game for us," Nowak said.
The Union have tied three straight matches in MLS play and are trying to regain the form that saw them pull into first place earlier in the season, before the Crew stole the top spot following a string of impressive results.
"The last couple of weeks were not easy for us," Nowak told MLSsoccer.com. "But we've got to go back to where we started and play the game we did in the first 19 weeks, when we were consistent and aggressive. We need to go back to that."
Columbus has impressed all season long, setting the pace in the Eastern Conference without any big-name stars.
Nowak attributes the Crew's success to a real collective team effort paired with finding the right personnel.
"I think the collective effort of Columbus shows that winning in Major League Soccer is not about single, individual players," the Union head coach told MLSsoccer.com. "Collective effort is more important than anything else. I think Robert [Warzycha] has found a good formula right now, finding players that have nothing to lose, finding players that whatever comes their way they'll make the best of it."
Perhaps what is most impressive about the Crew is their ability to come back from adversity.
They are the only MLS side that are undefeated (2-0-4) when trailing at halftime, and 21 of the Crew's 27 goals have come in the second half.
The Crew have won three of their last four matches, most recently defeating the New England Revolution 3-1 at Crew Stadium on August 13th. Consistent with much of their season, the Crew trailed at halftime, only to respond with three second-half goals en route to a win.
Crew Stadium has also been something of a fortress for the Crew, as they have posted a 7-1-4 record at home this season.