The Columbus Crew have less than a month to determine the success of this year.
Between now and the regular-season finale on Nov. 7, the Crew have six games to make up the six-point gap that stands between the reigning MLS Cup champions returning to the postseason or beginning an early offseason.
“That pack is pretty tight,” head coach Caleb Porter said of the clubs fighting for a spot in the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. “Yes, we’re two wins out, but there’s a bunch of teams in that pack. They’ll be a few that falter – everybody's playing everybody. We just need to go on a run, and we need to win our home games. That was always the goal – to win our home games.
“I think and believe that we’re going to be right there, because there’ll be some teams that falter. But we’ll know, as the next games go on, whether or not it’s in our hands or not. All we can control is the next game and playing better.”
As Porter mentioned, the Crew can only control the games they play and how they perform, specifically at Lower.com Field. The good news, though, is the Black & Gold have one of the best home records in the league, and at a time when they need wins the most, they’re about to play four home games in their final six matches.
Columbus has won four-consecutive home games, including last month’s Campeones Cup title over Liga MX side Deportivo Cruz Azul. Beginning with Saturday night’s matchup with Inter Miami CF, the Crew need to win their next four home matches – or earn some points on the road – if they want to hoist another trophy in 2021.
Here are the remaining home matches this season:
- Oct. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF (11th)
- Oct. 23 vs. New York Red Bulls (ninth)
- Oct. 27 Orlando City SC (fourth)
- Nov. 7 Chicago Fire FC (12th)
Join us for the regular-season finale at Lower.com Field on November 7 vs. Chicago Fire FC
In terms of who the Crew could’ve played at this point in the season, it really doesn’t get any better. With the club 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, all four home games are either against teams they’re directly competing against for a playoff spot or against a side that is basically a lock to miss the postseason (Chicago).
Now, combine that with the team’s home record this year, and suddenly what once looked like a long shot to make the playoffs is suddenly well within reach.
If we’ve seen one thing from this Crew side since Porter became the coach in 2019, it’s that the club is capable of generating momentum at crunch time.
In 2019, the Crew took 11 points from their final six matches, and although they missed the postseason, that had more to do with the club’s start to the campaign than the second half of the season.
In 2020, Columbus earned 10 points from their final six games and carried momentum into the MlS Cup Playoffs. That run ultimately culminated in the club hoisting a trophy in early December at Historic Crew Stadium.
Now they’re trying to achieve the same again in 2021. Yes, they currently sit outside the playoffs, but they have the proven experience to go on a late run.
In terms of just league matches, the team is unbeaten in 76.9% of MLS home games this season. Add the side’s unbeaten percentages from 2020 and it’s even more proof that Columbus has historically been one of the league’s toughest teams to play when they’re at home with Porter at the helm, especially late in the season.
Had the Crew lost three home matches at any point in the last two seasons, the commentary would’ve been, “It happens, we go again.” That the three losses were consecutive this summer – and recently – leaves an uneasy feeling.
But the truth is that Columbus is great when it can host a home match, and when the club needs points now more than ever, it’s on the cusp of four home games that will define the season. The Crew can control their fate. It’s up to them to decide where they’ll finish on Nov. 7.
These might not be the circumstances the team hoped for, but high-stakes home games to determine the season certainly beats the alternative. Let’s see what happens Saturday night.