Anything less than a win Saturday will automatically eliminate the Columbus Crew from playoff contention. And depending on how other results go, the same could be true for the New England Revolution.
Those are the stakes going into the teams' meeting Saturday at Gillette Stadium. While New England is one point out of the final Eastern Conference playoff slot, the long-shot Crew are four points out. Although Columbus ended September in good shape thanks to a three-game winning streak, a home loss to Sporting Kansas City followed by a bye week has seen the Crew's odds grow slim.
The Revolution, who are unbeaten in four and coming off a 1-0 win at the Montreal Impact last weekend, will need to shuffle their lineup with Lee Nguyen suspended and Saer Sene sidelined by a broken leg and dislocated ankle. Dimitry Imbongo is the top candidate to take Sene's place, while Clyde Simms could fill the open spot in central midfield.
Columbus, on the other hand, might have to make due without playmaker Federico Higuain, who is dealing with a hip injury. If he can't go, Dominic Oduro seems likely to shift from the right flank to a role up top.
After this match, the teams will reconvene at Crew Stadium a week later as they finish this season-ending home-and-home series.