Columbus Crew boss Caleb Porter is keen to ensure that his side’s MLS Cup destiny remain in their own hands ahead of the visit of Portland Timbers this weekend.
The Crew sit seventh heading into the latest matchday, though recent results have conspired to check their momentum.
There is no panic yet from the coach however, who stresses that they remain the masters of their own future.
“It’s still in our hands,” Porter said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. We can be disappointed about everything that’s happened the last two games, which is my point, but the most important thing is that we’ve got everything in our hands. It’s in our control.
“Last year, it wasn’t. We needed results and things to go our way. This year, when we make the playoffs, it’s because we took control in these last four games, starting with Portland. I like knowing that you have to take care of business in the last four games and knowing if you do, you’re going to be potentially in the top four.
“I think that’s still the goal for us. We get one win, we potentially could be in fifth place. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s just get the three points and see where we’re at. I love that we can take care of business and we know we’re in the playoffs. A lot of teams don’t have that luxury right now.”
Opposite number Giovanni Savarese meanwhile says his side will not approach a Crew side on the back of quickfire matches as a laggy opponent.
“For us to be naive and think that they are going to be tired on Sunday, that’s not going to be the case,” he added. “They’re going to be ready to play and we have to be ready to step up and put in a good game.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Columbus – Cucho Hernandez
Fast established as arguably the midseason buy of the year in the MLS, there’s a curiosity for just how high Hernandez can fly with a full season next term. His nine goals is joint-top for the club this campaign – and in just 14 games too.
Portland – Jaroslaw Niezgoda
The Polish striker continues to offer key strengths to the Timbers up front. His nine strikes are top for the team in MLS this term.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Timbers have won five of their last six meetings with the Crew (L1) beginning in 2015. Including the MLS Cup triumph in 2015, Portland has won three of its last four visits to Columbus, including a 3-1 win in its last trip in 2019.
– Columbus has drawn its way into playoff contention this year, sharing the points an MLS-high 14 times. Despite losing only two of its last 18 games (W6 D10), the Crew are one of two teams yet to win consecutive matches this season (San Jose).
– The Timbers have won four straight matches dating back to late August. All four wins have been by one-goal margins as only four teams in MLS history have won five or more consecutive matches by a single goal, most recently the Red Bulls in April-May 2012.
– Cucho Hernandez leads MLS in shots per 90 minutes (5.9) and is tied with the Union’s Mikael Uhre in non-penalty goals per 90 (0.76) among players with at least 1,000 minutes played this season.
– Eryk Williamson has recorded eight assists in just over 1,000 minutes this season. In fact, Williamson’s 0.68 assists per 90 minutes are second only to league assist leader Luciano Acosta (0.76) among players with at least 1,000 minutes played this season.