While the Western Conference's first-place team would appear to have an edge over lowly Columbus, the Crew have made things difficult on Real Salt lake over the years.
Looking to continue its quest for the Supporters' Shield, RSL tries to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to the visiting Crew on Saturday night.
RSL (12-8-6) hasn't enjoyed much success against Columbus (8-11-5), going 4-10-1 for its worst regular-season record against any MLS team. The Crew have held Salt Lake to one goal in taking the past three matchups, winning 2-0 at home in the last meeting June 30, 2012.
Despite its recent domination in the series, Columbus isn't taking this showdown lightly.
"They're a possession-based team, so we need to throw them off their game a little bit," defender Josh Williams said of slowing down RSL, which leads MLS with 44 goals.
"We've got to communicate, we've got to keep the back line tight and pressure the ball. We can't let guys like (Kyle) Beckerman, (Javier) Morales, (Alvaro) Saborio and (Joao) Plata find space. If they find space, they become a very dangerous team."
RSL has followed a 6-0-2 stretch by going 1-3-2 in its last six MLS matches. After falling 4-2 at Los Angeles last Saturday, RSL played to a 3-all draw at Portland on Wednesday thanks to Cole Grossman's goal in stoppage time with the club down a man.
"I think when you enter this time of the season, you're always thinking that you want to go places for wins, but if you walk out places with a draw at this time of the season, that has to be success," coach Jason Kreis said.
"I think every single game is being like (tonight), with that intensity, and I think that's fantastic because it should put us in a really good place for the playoffs."
RSL now returns home, where it has gone 11-2-3 in all games. Kreis' club is one of many battling for the league's best record.
"It's a great race," defender Tony Beltran said. "It should be interesting coming into these last eight games. It's going to be fun, it's going to be a battle, and I'm happy we're right in it."
Sitting in eighth place in the East, the Crew are coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season. After providing all the offense in a 2-0 win over New York on Aug. 10, Federico Higuain scored two more goals last Saturday as Columbus got past Toronto 2-0.
"It just happens," said Higuain, whose nine goals are tied with Dominic Oduro for the team lead. "I've had a lot of good chances. They just hit the post or they've been close and haven't gone in. Right now it feels like things are happening for this team."
The Crew could be hard-pressed to keep things going on the road, where they have allowed 13 goals during a five-game losing streak. It's their longest since a six-game skid in 2003.
- Sports & Recreation