David Cath, ColumbusCrewSC.com
In looking to move on from a tough result in Portland on Wednesday, Columbus Crew SC turns its focus to an upcoming stretch of games with ever-increasing playoff implications, starting with a home bout against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, Sept. 22 at MAPFRE Stadium.
The Black & Gold (12-9-8) currently sit in fourth place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference with 44 points, just one point ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia and five behind third-place New York City FC.
First, however, stand the Rapids (6-16-6), who come in having lost four straight overall. As Columbus returns to MAPFRE Stadium for the first time since a 2-1 victory over NYCFC on Sept. 1, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter is taking the positives from Wednesday’s result – the fight, the grit, the depth – and is prepping for a team with everything to play for in Colorado.
“I think in general the guys didn’t give up, and I think that’s important,” Berhalter said.
“I think we fell short in some key areas of the match that ended up hurting us…But overall I think that the spirit of the guys is what I’m proud of. Our goal right now is to regroup and focus on the game on Saturday.”
Through 14 home matches, Crew SC is 9-2-3 this season and enters Saturday’s showdown on a four-match home winning streak, with five different scorers totaling eight goals in that span.
Overall, Crew SC has witnessed 15 different players find the back of the net this season, recently led by three goals in the last four games from midfielder Niko Hansen.
Following Wednesday’s loss, Crew SC captain Wil Trapp spoke on the challenges Colorado presents and what will be key to pushing the home win streak to five.
“It’s a team that if you give them chances, they can still punish you, and so we have to understand that we have to be the aggressors,” Trapp said.
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When scoring first at home, the Black & Gold are 7-1-2. The Rapids, who were mathematically eliminated from post-season play last weekend, are a combined 2-15-2 when conceding the opening goal, but will have a slight edge in terms of fresh legs.
“They didn’t play mid-week, I don’t think, so they’re going to be a little bit fresher than we are,” Trapp said. “So we have to step onto the field with an intensity and level of focus that transcends the fatigue and understand that they’re going to try and play spoiler.”
Crew SC is 1-2-2 in its last five matches versus Colorado, having lost last year’s match by a 2-1 count on the road, with Federico Higuain recording Columbus’ lone goal.
Kickoff against Colorado is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET as part of Hispanic Heritage Night at MAPFRE Stadium. Following Saturday’s match, the Black & Gold are back at home to host Philadelphia on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Notably, Crew SC’s game against the Union will cap a three-match, seven-day sojourn for Philadelphia, which starts Sunday, Sept. 23 against Sporting Kansas City and concludes at Columbus.