This year's series began with the third week of the season when the Black and Gold went up 2-0 at home and had to hang on for a 2-1 win. Then, two weeks ago in Philadelphia, the Union had a 2-0 lead with 12 minutes remaining and found a way to lose 3-2. Tonight's game fit the bill, with the Black and Gold stealing a late winner in controversial fashion to win 2-1.
This match meant little to Philadelphia, who were eliminated from playoff contention in their collapse against Columbus, but it was a different story for the Crew. The Black and Gold can finish as high as third if results go their way and a win on Sunday gave them the best chance to do so.
The game started quickly with both teams creating chances. Both Cristian Maidana and Justin Meram tested the opposition's goalkeepers in the opening 10 minutes, but neither could convert.
Jairo Arrieta however put the Crew up 1-0 after 10 minutes. The striker took advantage of bad bounce over the Philadelphia back line, going one on one with Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. He got MacMath to the ground and dribbled around him before slotting the ball into the open net.
After going down by one, Philadelphia responded positively, controlling the majority of the half. Despite their dominance, the Union were unable to create a dangerous chance in order to level the score.
A person watching without knowledge of the standings likely wouldn't have known Philadelphia had little to play for just based on their play. At the start of the second half, forward Sebastien Le Toux got in behind the Columbus defense, but Clark saved the ensuing shot before Le Toux was flagged for offside.
The Crew almost doubled their lead two minutes later when left back Waylon Francis sent a cross into the box. Arrieta got on the end of it, but his half volley was blocked by Maurice Edu.
In the closing stages of the match, the Union pulled level through midfielder Zach Pfeffer. A long throw was tapped back across the box and Amobi Okugo helped it on before Pfeffer dispatched it in the net for his first professional goal.
The Black and Gold knew that while a tie helped them get to third, a win would put the pressure on Sporting Kansas City to get a win later tonight. Second half substitute Bernardo Anor became the hero in dramatic fashion to give the club a win.
Francis sent a low cross into the Columbus box and midfielder Tony Tchani fired a shot. His effort deflected off Edu and Anor was in the right place to tap it in.
The Crew now will wait and see what happens between Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. If New York wins or ties, the Black and Gold would finish third and would not have to play Thursday in a knockout game. Either way the win guarantees a home playoff game for the Crew, who head to the post season for the first time since 2011.