Coach Ben Olsen has D.C. United on the verge of their first playoff berth since 2007 - a year in which Olsen helped the team reach the postseason as a player.
United can clinch a trip to the playoffs with a win or draw against the visiting Columbus Crew on Saturday night.
Olsen, in his second year at the helm, recorded seven goals and seven assists in 2007 as United made the postseason. Now, a 4-0-1 surge has D.C. (16-10-6) on the verge of a return to the playoffs with two games remaining.
“It’s a great opportunity for a young coach,” said Olsen, whose club closes the regular season at Chicago next Saturday. “It’s a great opportunity for a young team to be in a game that really means something.”
Columbus also harbors playoff hopes, though its situation isn’t nearly as favorable as it tries to qualify for its fifth consecutive postseason. The Crew (14-11-7), one point behind Houston for the final Eastern Conference berth, would be eliminated from contention with a loss and a Dynamo win.
“It’s do or die,” said Andy Gruenebaum, who leads MLS with 117 saves. “We’ve got to handle our business. We’re going out there to win, not get a draw or anything else.”
Columbus is in a precarious position after going 2-3-1 in its last six games - all three losses coming on the road. The Crew will face a United team that has allowed two goals during its five-game unbeaten run, and is on a club-record 11-0-4 home unbeaten streak since losing its season opener March 10.
United, which have allowed 15 goals at home all season, have won the last two matchups with the Crew at RFK Stadium. Columbus has dropped its last three road games.
“They’ve only lost one game there and here’s a reason for that: It’s tough, their fans get behind them,” Gruenebaum said. “It will be a big crowd for this game. It’s just a tough place historically to go in and get a win, but that’s what we need to do.”
Each team earned a 1-0 home victory in the two meetings this season.