Crew plays Impact aiming for streak-starting win
The beauty of the MLS standings is that you're never truly out of it, particularly as the season goes on and the importance of intra-Conference games increases. A three-match winning streak can vault a team from the bubble to the top of the pack. That's the case for the Crew right now – despite its recent stretch, the Black & Gold are just three points out of fourth place in the Conference.
That fact is chief on the minds of the Crew this week as it aims to get back to winning ways on Saturday against Montreal.
"I don't know what the pressure's there for, to be honest … I don't know why the guys feel pressure," said Sporting Director and Coach Gregg Berhalter. "We're three points out of a playoff spot and there's 15 games left in the season. We want them to play soccer, we want them to play well, we want them to stick to what we're doing. There shouldn't be pressure in that. A byproduct of doing all of those things is winning."
Winger Justin Meram went as far as to do some quick mental math.
"At this point, you have how many games left, 15? You need about 30 [more] points [to make the playoffs]," said Meram. "[With] 15 games, you're averaging two points a game. You can't get two points, it's either three, one or zero. You have to balance it out with ties and wins going forward.
"Ties aren't necessarily bad, especially against Eastern Conference teams. Each game now is six points, right? We really need to, at home, take advantage of that."
The close nature of the standings and the fact that the Crew is truly right in the thick of things has helped it stay even-keeled in preparation for Montreal.
"That's why you try not to get caught up in it," said Berhalter, on the standings. "You try to keep your eye on the big picture. We're right in it. A win tomorrow puts us again right in it. We'll be fine. For us, in my opinion, it's about not having halves like the first half against Kansas City and parts of the New York game. That, to me, is what I'm more upset about in general."
Berhalter pointed out that the Black & Gold's last two matches have come against the defending Supporters' Shield and defending MLS Cup champions. Now, last-placed Montreal visits Crew Stadium, but the Impact has been playing far better of late, particularly defensively. Montreal has allowed just three goals over its last four games after conceding 26 over its first 16.
"They're a good team, but we're a good team," said Meram. "If we just possess the ball and keep them away from the ball as much as possible – they have good players: Di Vaio, McInerney, Mapp, Bernier, Felipe – their attack is really good. We just have to weather a little bit of their storm, and when we have our chance we need to put it away."
"[Montreal has] been better recently," added Berhalter. "They've done a lot to regroup and start playing better. I think it's a good team."
The bottom line: the Crew knows that even a small winning streak can make all the difference in the Eastern Conference, and Saturday presents a great opportunity to start one with a home match.
"I think every game there's urgency," said Berhalter. "We wanted to beat Kansas City as well. We have those aspirations to beat a team like Kansas City. Against Montreal, we're playing a home game and we want to get three points."