A loss in Saturday night's home match against the Columbus Crew could leave the New England Revolution out of the postseason if other results don't go their way over the weekend.
If that isn't enough pressure, they'll have to earn the much-needed win without two of their key players.
New England (12-11-9) is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with two games remaining - both against Columbus - with the top five advancing to the playoffs. After a 1-0 win over Montreal last Saturday, it is one point behind the Impact, Chicago and Philadelphia while trailing third-place Houston by three.
Montreal plays Philadelphia and Chicago faces Toronto on Saturday before Houston takes on New York on Sunday. A Revolution loss and victories by three of those four teams ahead of them would eliminate the club from the playoff race.
New England playing to a draw could further complicate its situation, depending on the other results.
"It's a must-win game," midfielder Kelyn Rowe said. "If we lose, we've got a worse chance of being in the playoffs. We obviously want to be there, so like that fight you saw the past two games, we're going to fight no matter what's going on and no matter what's happening. We're going forward to get goals."
Those goals may be tougher to come by without forward Saer Sene and midfielder Lee Nguyen, who have combined to score four times and add four assists over the last six matches.
Sene will be out 4-6 months after having surgery to repair a dislocated left ankle and broken fibula suffered against Montreal, and Nguyen will be serving a one-game suspension for caution accumulation.
"It's obviously difficult to lose two key players for us," coach Jay Heaps told the team's official website. "In the same breath, we feel we've built a pretty deep team, and the players feel that it's a deep team and they want time. So we've got guys that are just ready to step up."
Heaps was noncommittal on who would take those spots.
"It will be a player that probably has experience coming into the lineup," Heaps said. "But the way I look at it is that we'll have time to train this week and the opportunity's huge for the players that will step in. I think they'll be ready."
Columbus (12-15-5), four points behind New England in eighth place, will need a victory Saturday and some help to keep its faint postseason hopes alive heading into the regular-season finale against the Revolution on Oct. 27.
A loss or draw would eliminate the Crew from contention, and they may have to play this match without midfielder Federico Higuain, who is second on the team with 11 goals.
Higuain suffered a hip contusion in the club's most recent match, a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 5 that ended its three-game winning streak. He hasn't participated in contact drills this week and will be a last-minute decision to make the trip.
"The doctors said it's kind of his own personal threshold type of thing," interim coach Brian Bliss told the team's official website. "(The team doctor) isn't saying he can play, he's not saying he can't play.'"
Nguyen had two assists in New England's 2-0 win over Columbus in the first meeting July 20.
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