COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Crew met two of their three main objectives in Saturday's 3-2 win over Philadelphia, but the one that got away is troublesome.
First, they got the three points and kept the pressure on the teams above them in the playoff chase. Also, their offensive output – equal to the club's goal total in the previous four games combined – could play an important factor in the case the first standings tiebreaker (goals scored) comes into play.
But allowing a pair of goals after building a 2-0 first-half advantage on a pair of Jairo Arrieta tallies left Crew defenders disappointed and didn't quite help in the goal differential department: the second standings tiebreaker.
“You look at the win first, but there’s definitely stuff we need to sort out,” captain and center back Chad Marshall told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “We didn’t play well in the second half. You don’t want to give up a two-goal lead for sure.”
Highlights: Crew outlast Philly 3-2
A controversial game-winner by Milovan Mirosevic in the 87th minute – replays showed he was offside on the play – enabled the Crew (14-11-6, 48 points) to remain just one point behind fifth-place Houston for the final Eastern Conference postseason spot with three games left. Columbus are also three points behind fourth-place D.C. United.
However, by not clamping down on the Union, the Crew’s goal differential improved only slightly – Columbus have scored 39 goals and conceded just as many -- while Houston and D.C. United, who have scored more goals than the Crew, are in the black by seven and eight goals respectively.
More telling is the fact that Saturday's match marked the fourth time in five games that the Crew has conceded at least two goals.
“The first half of the year we were one of the tops in goal against,” left back Josh Williams said. “It seems like we’ve been on a constant slide here. This week we’ll work to shore up the back line.”
A marked improvement
The Crew may be outside the playoff picture in the East, but they have already improved on where they finished in 2011.
The Black-and-Gold's 14 wins, 48 points and 10 home victories this year are all one better than last season's total in each category.
And Columbus still have three matches remaining to improve on those numbers: Sunday’s game vs. Sporting Kansas City, an away match at D.C. United on Oct. 28 and a home game vs. Toronto FC.
False start for Duka
Dilly Duka did not dress for Saturday’s game because of a leg injury suffered Friday, according to manager Robert Warzycha, who would not specify how long the midfielder could be out.
This comes after Duka missed the Chicago match on Sept. 22 for personal reasons. Chris Birchall took his place at wide midfield on Saturday for his first action in four games.
Birchall might return to his preferred defensive midfield spot for the KC match because Danny O’Rourke will be suspended due to caution-points accumulation.
Craig Merz covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.