The Columbus Crew will enter the Eastern Conference semifinals versus the New York Red Bulls as the underdog, but that's nothing new.
Columbus, the fifth seed, hosts the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Mapfre Stadium in the first leg of the aggregate-goals series with the return match Nov. 11 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
New York set MLS records for wins (22-7-5) and points (71) in earning the Supporters' Shield as the league's best team for the third time in six seasons, although coach Chris Armas said that's not enough.
"It's nice to see the shield," he said. "Let's get rid of it for now and go for the next one."
The Crew (14-11-9, 51 points in the regular season) stand in their way after beating No. 4 seed D.C. United on the road in a knockout round match on Thursday. Columbus won on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw through 120 minutes.
It was the same as last season's knockout stage when the lower-seeded Crew defeated Atlanta United on penalties to disappoint an MLS playoff record crowd of 67,221. The Crew advanced to the conference final where they lost to eventual MLS Cup champion Toronto FC.
"We're not the oldest team, but the guys have experience," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. "When you look at man for man, guys are used to playing on the big stage."
One of them is midfielder Federico Higuain, who scored both goals and made his penalty kick against D.C.
"He's a winner, not just a competitor, but a winner," Armas said. "He's contagious on that team. We'll obviously have to pay attention to where he shows up on the field."
Columbus is 11-2-4 at Mapfre Stadium this season and has six wins and a draw in the past seven games there.