Things won't get any easier for the Philadelphia Union as they face the improved Columbus Crew on Wednesday at PPL Park.
Bolstered by two new acquisitions, Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain, the Crew are unbeaten in their last four games, winning two, drawing two; all while averaging better than two goals per game.
Arrieta, a Costa Rican striker, was signed earlier this summer but couldn't play for the Crew until the transfer window re-opened. In just eight games, the small forward has five goals and two assists.
At this rate he will soon overtake top scorer Eddie Gaven, who has six goals, playing in all 24 games.
The latest addition, Federico Higuain, has three goals and two assists in his first three games, with the last two as a starter.
He scored on two free kicks Saturday vs New England. Not since Guillermo Barros Schelotto, has the Crew had a player who could take free kicks with the skill of Higuain. Wait till he gets to know his teammates better.
Currently, the Crew stand in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 36 points. They are just four points out of the fifth and final playoff spot, with a game in hand over D.C United.
With Arrieta's play and the recent addition of Higuain, this group is poised to now make a real playoff run.
On the Philadelphia Union side, the road to a playoff spot may be more hopeful than realistic at the present moment. They currently trail D.C. United by 15 points, with two games in hand. The mathematics show that the possibility is certainly still there, but at some point – without a solid win streak – the math will no longer be in the team's favor.
Before they get to D.C. United, the Union need to jump over Columbus and Montreal first. They trail Columbus by 11 points with one game in hand, and trail Montreal by 14 points – but with a very healthy five games in hand.
From a defensive standpoint, the club continues to perform well. Giving up just one goal in their last two games could have translated into two wins, but instead, it was two draws.
In their last four games, the Union have managed two goals. Whether it's the final pass or final shot, it's the area where the offense gets bogged down. Let's call it the last decision in the offensive third. Whether it's a pass or a shot, it has to result in at least a good scoring chance, if not a goal.
On the plus side, the Union get Sheanon Williams back from his one game suspension which will be a boost to the team both defensively and in attack given his propensity to get forward and overlap on the right side.
Expect a good one as Wednesday as the game has meaning to both teams.
For the Union to be successful, they must contain Arrieta and Higuain. That's something that the recent opponents of the Columbus Crew have failed to do.