Points, more specifically lost points, are crucial in the home stretch of the MLS season, which makes the match between the Chicago Fire and the host Columbus Crew on Wednesday magnified.
The Crew (13-9-6, 45 points) sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, one spot below securing home field for the playoffs. But they squandered a late two-goal lead and lost 4-3 in stoppage time at Orlando City on Saturday to prevent them from moving into second place.
"We are going to move forward," Crew coach Wilfried Nancy said. "I'm happy that we're going to be able to play Wednesday with a quick turnaround. This is the best thing for us. Not only Wednesday but also all the games that are coming because we need to move on. We need to move forward and to be better in terms of this kind of situation."
Each team has six matches remaining, but the Fire (8-11-9, 33 points) are in a more perilous position after a 0-0 tie at CF Montreal on Saturday. Chicago is 10th in the East, two points behind D.C. United for the final postseason spot.
The Fire had lost four straight before the draw. They also have one goal during the five-game stretch and have been blanked in each of their past four matches.
"Look, we're a good team, we're in a little bit of a downslide and we've got to find our way and show our character to get out of this. We're still in it," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "It's always going to be a battle in the end. That's how it always is in MLS and the parity within the league but it's getting pretty tight right now and every game that we play is a playoff game. We can't hide from that. You can't sugarcoat that."
The Crew lead MLS in goals per game (2.04) but will be going against 19-year-old goalkeeper Chris Brady. He made four saves vs. Montreal for his seventh shutout of the season.
"When you look at goalkeepers, the one thing you look from the outside is a presence. He really has a presence. He's growing," Klopas said. "He's really young but he's really maturing."
Cucho Hernandez leads Columbus with 10 goals and 11 assists. He had one of each in the Orlando match. Kei Kamara has a team-high five goals for Chicago.
—Field Level Media