The visiting New England Revolution can ruin the Columbus Crew's hopes of hosting the MLS Cup when the Major League Soccer originals meet Sunday in the Eastern Conference final.
As the No. 8 seed, the Revolution know a victory against the No. 3 Crew would keep them on the road for the Dec. 12 title match against either Seattle or Minnesota, the Western Conference finalists who play Monday.
"I think a one-off can favor the underdog," said New England coach Bruce Arena. "Obviously, we have to get past Columbus before you can even think about winning a championship, but I think our team can do that."
It's a different perspective for the Crew, who needed a series of upsets to entertain the possibility of hosting the MLS Cup for the second time.
They got them when New England defeated league overall points leader Philadelphia, Eastern Conference No. 2 Toronto FC lost to No. 7 Nashville, and Minnesota knocked off the Western Conference top seed Sporting Kansas City, leaving the Crew with the most regular season points among the remaining teams.
The Crew are 11-1-0 at Mapfre Stadium this season compared to 0-5-5 on the road, not including neutral site games in the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando, Fla.
Unfortunately for the Crew, home field didn't help in the 2015 MLS Cup when they lost to the Portland Timbers, who were coached by the Crew's current coach, Caleb Porter.
He said the Crew, winners of three straight and four of five, are playing with confidence.
"I think we're a hot team," Porter said. "You want to be peaking at the right time in the postseason and that's exactly what's happened."
Porter said Saturday it is unlikely any of the eight players who tested positive for COVID-19 last week and missed the semifinal vs. Nashville would be available Sunday.
The Crew are allowing 1,500 spectators despite Franklin County's stay-at-home advisory. The team limited the first two playoff games to family members of the players and staff.
--Field Level Media