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Crossing the Touchline: Talking Columbus Crew SC at Philadelphia Union with Eugene Rupinski of Brotherly Game

It's a big match as both teams get closer to the end of the season. Three points are on the line that could help either side establish itself as a true playoff contender. Let's discuss how this one might play out.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC has looked forward to this game since the minute the team's 3-0 loss to FC Dallas ended last Sunday. It was a match where the Black & Gold were without several key players (so was Dallas) and felt they were the better side despite the loss.

Even with that lopsided loss, Crew SC still sits in a good position. Columbus is currently third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points, three back of leaders D.C. United and seven back of Supporter's Shield leading Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Black & Gold will be boosted by the return of both outside backs, Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis, winger Justin Meram, and perhaps most importantly league leading goal scorer Kei Kamara as they look to avenge a 3-0 loss at the Philadelphia Union from early June.

The Union are also desperate for points. Philly is just outside the playoff race, one point behind the Montreal Impact but have played four more games than the side above them. If the club is going to make a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs, the push needs to start now with another result against Crew SC after last week's road win against the San Jose Earthquakes.

To get a sense of everything Philly, we spoke with Brotherly Game's Managing Editor, Eugene Rupinski.

Questions for Brotherly Game

Massive Report: There are a lot of big MLS names on the Union. Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux, C.J. Sapong, Cristian Maidana, to name a few. How have these guys performed this season. Are these the players Crew SC will need to be aware of heading into Saturday's match?

Brotherly Game: Conor has had a bit of a quiet year prior to last week's match against the San Jose Earthquakes. He was injured for a big portion of the season, and until last weekend he was probably best remembered for getting a red card early in the U.S. Open Cup match against the New York Red Bulls.

Sebastien Le Toux struggled a bit in the early part of he season, but as if on cue he's started to heat up as the season has gone on, getting four goals over his past six games. Sapong was hot earlier in the season, but even though he's cooled off a bit he's still a dangerous presence up top for the Union. Cristian Maidana was having a phenomenal year until an ugly incident against the New England Revolution where he was shown a red card and suspended for spitting. He'll miss the match against Columbus, which is lucky for the Crew.

MR: It hasn't been the best season for Philadelphia, but the club sits just one point outside of the playoff race. Obviously Montreal has multiple games in hand, but where are the expectations for this team going forward?

BG: In the words of the immortal Jim Mora, "Playoffs?" The fans here know that the playoffs are a reality only mathematically. All focus is on the U.S. Open Cup match against Sporting Kansas City on the 30th, however don't think that the Union are just going to roll over and make it easy. There are still things to play for - especially for some guys like Steven Vitoria and Fernando Aristeguieta who are on loan and aren't guaranteed to be back in 2016.

MR: Typically the Union tend to sit back and try and counterattack. This style worked last week against the San Jose Earthquakes on the road, but Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter believes Philly will need to open up and attack more at home. What style do you expect from the side on Saturday? Will it be a more open, free-flowing type of game?

I don't think that's the case at all. Jim Curtin said in this week's press conference that the teams that press against Columbus get picked apart and that he would look to sit back and allow the Crew to make the first move. I look for the match to be a real chess match, where the first team to make a mistake will be the one who loses.

Check back for Massive Report's answers to Brotherly Game's question.