Desperate times

Union look to thwart Columbus' perennial playoff berth

MacMath vs. Crew

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The Union won’t just be facing a talented Columbus Crew side on Saturday night at Crew Stadium.

They’ll be facing a desperate club, too.

Columbus (13-11-6, 45 points) sits one point behind the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

And the Crew have been ultra tough at home with a 5-0-1 mark in their last six matches there.

Beginning with Saturday’s match (7:30 p.m., The Comcast Network), Columbus has four regular season matches remaining in its quest for a fifth consecutive playoff berth.

“I think Columbus is a team that hasn’t lost at home in a long time, they are a good team and they showed that when they came here,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “So for us, we feel like we need to go back there and do the job against a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot and for us, the only way we can stave off elimination is to get a result – a ‘W’ and that’s what we plan to do.”

The Union came away with a win in their last match, a resounding 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo last Sunday.

Once again, the Union will be facing a desperate team. But this time, the task is earning three points on the road against one of the hottest home clubs in the league.

“It is a very good experience for me, knowing that they are fighting for a spot to make it to the playoffs,” Philadelphia forward Josue Martinez said via translator. “The fact that they beat us at home makes us want to win this game even more. We are very motivated and ready to finish the season very strong.”

Philadelphia (8-14-6, 30 points) has never won in two previous visits to Columbus.

That doesn’t matter in 2012 because so many of the names and faces have changed over the past two seasons.

All the Union can focus on is this group of players against Columbus’ current group of players. Sounds cliché, but it’s true.

“I think everyone is working hard to finish strong,” Martinez added. “We know that this has been a really tough season, coming from behind, but I know that fans are always there to support us, so that will motivate us to finish strong. We know that the upcoming matches are going to be very difficult, but we want them to feel respect for us as well. I want them to know that the Philadelphia Union still alive and we will fight until the end.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@hotmail.com