Columbus is sitting on 49 points (14-11-7), only one behind the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final playoff birth in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Crew’s opponent, D.C. United, have all but locked up their spot in the postseason. D.C. is in third place in the East with 54 points (16-10-6). Their last game was a 1-0 away win in Toronto on October 6th, improving their unbeaten streak to five.
The Crew most recently escaped with a point against Sporting Kansas City on October 7th, tying the game at one in the 91st minute with a near-post header from Eddie Gaven.
Saturday night’s game (7:30) will be the third meeting between the two teams this year. The previous two games have ended in 1-0 wins for the home side.
For Columbus, every active player is healthy minus the exception of central defender Julius James, who will miss the game due to a hamstring injury. Carlos Mendes is the most likely option to slide directly in for James at the back. Other possible options include moving Josh Williams to the middle and inserting Nemanja Vukovic on the left, or simply placing Eric Gehrig or Danny O’Rourke in James’ position.
Eddie Gaven and Dilly Duka are the most probable duo to start on the wings, while a pair consisting of O’Rourke, Milovan Mirosevic, or Chris Birchall should start in the middle. Federico Higuain will remain in his withdrawn forward role slightly behind Jairo Arrieta.
D.C. will be without last year’s league MVP, Dwayne De Rosario, who is still out from a season-ending knee injury. Forward Chris Pontius has picked up the scoring slack, leading the team with twelve goals while also chipping in with four assists.
Prediction: Crew 1-1 D.C.
A sell-out home crowd will help D.C. pick up a point against a Crew team that should be furiously fighting for their season to continue past their last game against Toronto on October 28.