The Crew entered Saturday night’s match at D.C. United knowing nothing short of a win would keep playoff hopes alive. Then, the team conceded a goal three minutes into the game. 

But then, something changed, and the Crew played like the Crew again.

The reigning MLS Cup champions found an equalizer before halftime, added two more in the second half, and left Audi Field with their biggest road win of the season at a time when it was needed most.

With the 3-1 win against D.C. United on Saturday night, the Black & Gold are two points outside of the seventh and final Eastern Conference spot in the push for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs with one match remaining. It’ll take a win next weekend – and help from other results – to make the postseason, but the Club showed on Saturday night that everyone has a reason to believe.

“We have a bunch of guys that believe in our quality, believe that we can be in the playoffs and expect to be there,” said head coach Caleb Porter, who returned to the sidelines following a three-game absence due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. “Obviously, we’ve cut it tight and we’re going to rely (on) the last game and midweek on a few results. I sure hope we get in, because we have to be one of the most dangerous teams and the way we played tonight.

“There’s not a team that can beat us if we play that way on both sides of the ball. We got performances in every single position, across the board good performances. We defended well, we attacked well, we scored three goals, and again we showed up with a really good mentality.”

Despite conceding a goal to USMNT international Paul Arriola three minutes into the match, the visitors responded during first-half stoppage time when Lucas Zelarayan converted a penalty and equalized the match before the interval.

The Crew took the lead in the 66th minute when Darlington Nagbe collected the ball and sprayed it wide to Pedro Santos. The Portuguese winger gained possession near midfield, beat a defender and dribbled toward goal before lofting a chip past Bill Hamid.

Ten minutes later, Zelarayan delivered another stunning long-range strike toward the bottom right corner of the goal, giving the playmaker his fourth in three games.

“We had to play to win, and I think the mentality should be that every game we have to win,” Santos said after the game. “Even when we play away, we have the quality, we have a very good team and we can win games on the road. We almost got one (win) at Nashville (SC) and we played very well. We didn’t start the game well but after the goal we conceded, we started to play our game and when we play with confidence and quality, we can score goals.”

With the win, the Crew sits ninth in the Eastern Conference standings with 44 points from 33 games. Seventh-place New York Red Bulls have 46 points but have two games remaining.

“When you get good performances from individuals, and collectively you execute and you come ready to fight and focus, that’s what we’re capable of,” Porter said. “What I’ll say is our record is 6-2-2 in the last 10 games, so we have performed extremely well and you know obviously we’re cutting it close, but we’re healthy, we’re flying, we’re in form, and we’re peaking. 

“Listen, I think it’s in the cards. I believe. If we need to score goals in the last game, we’ll score goals. If it’s going to come down to goal differential, we’re going to score goals. Again, we’re taking care of what we can take care of.”

The Crew’s final regular-season match is next Sunday against Chicago Fire FC at Field. That’s the same opponent as the Crew faced to close Historic Crew Stadium earlier this year. If Columbus can replicate that performance and other results go the Club's way, the Crew can compete for another MLS Cup.

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