The Columbus Crew know they will not be able to take expansion Nashville SC lightly, despite the disparity in points, when they play at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.
The Crew (7-1-3, 24 points) have a four-game unbeaten streak and own the best record in MLS, while Nashville (3-4-3, 12 points) also has not lost its past four games. That streak moved Nashville to ninth in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus extended its 2-0-2 stretch thanks to a second-half rally from a multiple-goal deficit to tie Chicago 2-2 last Saturday.
"It was the first time this year that we were just flat for whatever reason," Crew coach Caleb Porter said.
It might have had something to do with the Crew overlooking the Fire, who entered that game with the fewest points in the conference. It is a mistake the Crew does not want to repeat.
"I think it now allows us to really have the attention of everybody," Crew forward Gyasi Zardes said. "We have a reference point now to say, 'Listen, we're playing this team, and yeah, they're not maybe as good as you think on the table, but they're capable still. In MLS, every team is."
Nashville is confident after a 4-2 win vs. Atlanta United FC that same Saturday to extend its run to 2-0-2.
"We're on a good run, unbeaten in four," Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman said. "I think we can take a lot of positives from the game, but there's still a lot of room to improve as well."
The Crew hopes to have midfielders Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe back from injuries, but Nashville must contain Zardes, who has three goals in the past two games to rank second in MLS with eight goals.
"I've gotten to play against him many times in training and in MLS," Zimmerman said of Zardes, a fellow U.S. Men's National Team member. "I'm looking forward to that challenge of keeping awareness of his high-level movements, especially when the ball gets wide, he makes great runs into the box."
--Field Level Media