Columbus (11-14-5) at FC Dallas (10-9-10), 8:30 p.m. A pair of clubs with playoff aspirations clash on Sunday when FC Dallas welcomes a resurgent Columbus Crew to FC Dallas Stadium.
FC Dallas stormed out of the gate to lead the Western Conference early in the season, but has slumped over the past few months to find itself five points out of a playoff spot with five games to play.
FCD suffered its second consecutive road loss last week after a 1-0 setback against the East-leading New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
The game's lone goal came in the 76th minute when Jonny Steele put in a cross from the left and as both Erick and Matt Hedges were trying to clear the loose ball, Erick put the ball into the back of his own net.
FC Dallas have won just twice in their last 16 league contests since the start of June and have shut out for the first time since going five consecutive games without scoring, from July 4-Aug. 3.
"I mean, it was a nothing ball, it was a nothing ball," FCD manager Schellas Hyndman said. "I think we had probably three guys on a straight that could've taken it, except for the guy that did in the middle and he put it right in. It's unfortunate, the guys feel terrible."
"I'm sad because we put together a great effort, we knew this was a very tough match but we came with every intention of getting three points," midfielder David Ferreira added. "Unfortunately we didn't get them and now we have to focus on our next match and be aware that we can't make mistakes to win and try to get a playoff spot."
Columbus, meanwhile, has been on a surge toward the playoffs since interim head coach Brian Bliss took over for Robert Warzycha on September 2. Since Bliss assumed the post, the Crew have responded by going 3-1-0, including a comfortable 3-0 win over Chicago last week.
Columbus struck first 15 minutes in through Dominic Oduro and added a second goal 20 minutes from time when Jairo Arrieta beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to a perfect through ball from Tony Tchani and was taken down in the box. Federico Higuain sent Johnson the wrong way on the ensuing penalty kick.
The Crew made it 3-0 seven minutes when Tchani found Bernardo Anor on a diagonal ball into the right side of the area that he slotted under Johnson and into the net.
"We're right behind them right now, in terms of making the playoffs, so that put pressure on them, and that's good for us," Oduro said. "We're going to go to Dallas [next Sunday] and try to get a result. If we take care of business, hopefully other teams will help us out. As long as there are games, there's always hope. But we're right there."