REACTION: Black & Gold becomes playoff contender with win over Fire
Without a doubt, Saturday's match against the rival Chicago Fire was a must-win for a Crew side desperate to stay in the playoff hunt. Entering the clash, the Fire sat four points ahead of the Crew in the fifth and final playoff spot with just over a month of soccer left to be played in the 2013 MLS Regular Season.
After a back-and-forth start that was to be expected in a rivalry match with such playoff implications, the Crew struck first as Dominic Oduro found the net on a far-post to put the Black & Gold ahead after 15 minutes. Oduro's strike was the charge the Crew needed in front of its home fans in the playoff-like atmosphere at Crew Stadium.
"[Oduro's goal] swung the momentum big because I think [the Fire] had a little bit better of the play in the first 10-12 minutes," Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss admitted in his post-match press conference.
"That certainly swung the game for them because they were probably feeling pretty good in the first 12 minutes, and rightly so."
Chicago would face more adversity 13 minutes later as centerback Bakary Soumaré would be sent off for denying Jairo Arrieta a scoring opportunity with a sliding challenge. Bringing more pressure in the second half, Federico Higuaín and Bernardo Anor added goals to seal the result at 3-0.
"We knew this was a huge game," goalkeeper Matt Lampson said after recording his fifth shutout of the season. "It's a six-point swing if we want to keep our hopes alive, we had to come out and really get after them.
"We played a hell of a game. From top-to-bottom, every single player just played their hearts out and we showed how good we can be."
Following the win, the Crew has a little bit of control of its own destiny with four matches left to play. Though two of those matches come against the New England Revolution, who currently sits two points ahead of Columbus in fifth place, the Black & Gold could use some help from other clubs' losses.
It starts next week with a road tilt against FC Dallas.
"We're going to go to Dallas and hopefully get a result," Oduro said.
"If we take care of business, hopefully other teams will help us out in making the playoffs."