Crew View: Tiebreakers present challenges for Columbus

Federico Higuain (center)

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Forget for a moment that the Columbus Crew’s 30 points put them seven behind fifth-place D.C. United for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and six back of Montreal.

The numbers to keep an eye on as the Crew gobble up the games-in-hand over the next few weeks are points per game and goals per game.

Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Houston helped the latter category that is the first tiebreaker, but hurt the former. The Crew (8-8-6) remain within striking distance of third-place Houston and Chicago (41 points) because they have played three fewer than the Dynamo and two fewer than the Fire.

WATCH: Crew draw vs. Houston

Also, D.C. United has played one more match and Montreal five more than the Crew.

But based on the Crew’s 1.36 points per game, only Montreal (1.33) has a worse average of the four teams directly above them: Chicago are at 1.71, followed by Houston (1.64) and D.C. (1.61).

Columbus are finished with Houston for the season after a pair of ties, but they play Chicago, D.C. and Montreal one more time each.

If they finish equal in points with any of them the first tiebreaker employed this season is goals scored. And that’s not good for the Crew, who have the fewest goals (23 goals in 22 games) of all the teams currently vying for that final playoff spot.

“That’s how it is,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com recently. “We don’t have to agree with [the tiebreaker rule] but that’s what it is going to be. We have to score more goals.”

The second tiebreaker is goal differential. The Crew sit with a minusone differential, with Montreal trailing (minus-five). Houston (eight), D.C (seven) and Chicago (four).

Higuaín to the rescue

If the Crew are going to make up ground in the final 12 matches new Designated Player Federico Higuaín could be the difference. The Argentine forward (above, center) assisted on Eddie Gaven’s goal, set up several other opportunities and almost snuck in a free kick, all in 45 minutes of his debut.

“He was very active, all over the field making runs,” midfielder Eddie Gaven told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “That’s what we need from our forwards. He’s going to be a huge asset for us.”

Gaven’s tribute to Urso

Immediately after scoring, Gaven kissed the No.15 patch on his jersey that honors rookie midfielder Kirk Urso, who passed away Aug. 5.

“That was the very first thing that came to my mind,” Gaven said. “That was just wishing Kirk was out there with us. He’s in our hearts obviously. We’re playing every game this season for him.”