COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM
7:30 pm ET (MSG)
First place in the Eastern Conference is on the line in Columbus when the Crew and MetroStars do battle on Saturday evening - but both teams could come out of the match knowing they've secured a playoff berth with a victory (the Metros would then also need the New England Revolution to lose to Colorado, while that result would then guarantee the Crew qualify for the playoffs regardless of Saturday's result in Columbus). The Crew haven't lost in nearly three months while moving to the top of the table, while the MetroStars ended a four-match winless run in their last game, a comeback from two goals down to the Revolution.
What follows are the scenarios under which each club can clinch a berth in the postseason.
COLUMBUS clinches with a:
(a) win vs. MetroStars
(b) New England Revolution loss
(c) New England Revolution tie
METROSTARS qualify with a:
(a) win vs. Crew + New England Revolution loss or tie
(b) tie vs. Crew + New England Revolution loss
(NOTE: The Crew own the tiebreaker vs. the New England Revolution with a 2-0-2 regular season record. The MetroStars and Revolution tied their season series at 1-1-2 and the subsequent tiebreaker per League regulations is final regular season goal differential)
For the Crew it would mark a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs after a one-year absence (the Black-and-Gold failed to qualify for the playoffs in both the 2000 and 2003 seasons). The MetroStars could qualify for their fourth postseason appearance in the last five years (the team missed out in 2002).
At the end of the season four teams qualify from each conference and advance to the home-and-home, aggregate goal MLS Cup Conference Semifinals (No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3). The two teams left standing in each conference will meet in the Conference Championships with the winners advancing to MLS Cup 2004 at The Home Depot Center on November 14 (live on ABC Sports at 3:30 p.m. ET).
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Tom Supple; JAR (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Hilario Grajeda
MLS Career: 105 games; FC/gm: 26.5; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 29; pens: 19
Games involving Crew: P13 W6 L7 T0; FC/gm: 26.1; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 3; pens: 2
Games involving MetroStars: P23 W7 L14 T2; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 10; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW - OUT: DF Stephen Herdsman (L groin strain); GK Matt Jordan (R calf strain) ... METROSTARS - OUT: MD Michael Bradley (R foot stress fracture); MD Mark Lisi (R ankle sprain); MD Joselito Vaca (R knee MCL sprain); DOUBTFUL: MD Gilberto Flores (L ankle ruptured tendon); QUESTIONABLE: DF Tenywa Bonseu (L Achilles tendonitis)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: MET: Ricardo Clark (through Sept. 18)
YELLOW PERIL: CLB: Nelson Akwari (20 CP); Frankie Hejduk (20 CP); Chris Wingert (19 CP) ... MET: Amado Guevara (18 CP); Jeff Parke (19 CP)
ALL-TIME (30 meetings): Crew 15 wins, 40 goals ... MetroStars 13 wins, 41 goals ... 2 draws
IN COLUMBUS (15 meetings): Crew 7 wins, 23 goals ... MetroStars 7 wins, 25 goals ... 1 draw
The Columbus Crew have had 10 days off since extending their club record winning streak to 12 games with a dramatic 1-0 victory away to the San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 8. The Crew defeated a California club for the second time in four days as they maintained their hold on the top spot in the Eastern Conference, now on 37 points from 24 matches, one ahead of the MetroStars but with a match in hand.
The MetroStars ended their four-match winless streak in dramatic fashion, coming back from a two-goal deficit to defeat the New England Revolution 3-2 at home on Saturday evening, pulling back to within a point of the Eastern Conference lead. The MetroStars are on 36 points from 25 matches, one behind the Columbus Crew, but having played one more game.